Florida Governor Ron DeSantis enacted legislation on Wednesday eliminating squatters’ rights in the Sunshine State and empowering law enforcement to more easily remove offenders. Under House Bill 621, which will take effect July 1, the “scam” of residential squatting will now carry harsh criminal penalties, making Florida the first state in the nation to tackle the issue so directly.

“We are putting an end to the squatters scam in Florida,” said Governor DeSantis in a statement during the signing ceremony for the bill. “While other states are siding with the squatters, we are protecting property owners and punishing criminals looking to game the system.”

“We don’t want the law to have the thumb on the scale in favor of people that are violating the law,” the governor continued. “We want the law to have the thumb on the scale in favor of law abiding property owners, and that’s what you’re going to see here with this piece of legislation.”

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Under the new legislation, residential squatters who intentionally cause $1,000 in damages could face second-degree felony charges, with further first-degree felony counts for leasing or selling properties they do not own.

The law also allows property owners to immediately contact law enforcement to remove squatters who cannot produce legitimate documents authorizing residency.

“If you are the victim of squatting you can simply fill out a form, give it to your local sheriff and the sheriff is instructed to go and remove the people who are inhabiting your dwelling illegally,” DeSantis said.

An alleged squatter is eligible for removal if:

  • They have unlawfully entered and remain on the property
  • They have been directed to leave the property by the owner but have not done so
  • They are not a current or former tenant in a legal dispute

Related: Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Bill Banning Homeless People from Sleeping in Public

Equally harsh penalties have also been implemented for those who encourage squatting or teach others how to pull off the scam. This particular provision comes as “migrant influencers” have racked up thousands of views on social media showing new arrivals how to illegally take up residence in vacant homes.

One such “influencer,” an illegal Venezuelan immigrant named Leonel Moreno, went viral on TikTok after evading immigration officials and taking advantage of social welfare programs while squatting in various residences.

“Boys, in the US there are a million tricks, a million things to do,” he told his fellow Venezuelans in a video. “I’ve concluded that the American Dream is real.”

After outrage over the video reached the attention of federal law enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that they were actively seeking to apprehend Moreno.

Related: 200,000 Deportation Cases Dismissed After Biden DHS Fails to File Paperwork

After signing the new legislation, Governor DeSantis criticized Democrat-run states for failing to address the ongoing plague of squatters that have taken over residential areas.

“They’re siding with the squatters,” he said of Blue state governments. “In fact, we have seen squatters move in and claim residence. This forces a massive, long, drawn-out judicial review before they can even be removed from the property. These are people that never had a right to be in the property to begin with. Earlier this month in New York, a woman returned to a property she inherited to find squatters living there. She changed the locks to get them out, and the state of New York arrested her instead of the squatters.”

“Now, we have not had the same type of issues here, as you’ve seen in California or New York,” he continued. “Nevertheless, our laws were really geared towards this not necessarily being a fad.”

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Valuetainment.com. Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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