DeSantis Signs New Bill Targeting ‘Squatter Scam’

By: Alex Trent | Published: Mar 28, 2024

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill called HB 621 on Wednesday. This legislation takes aim at a seemingly growing problem of squatters in the country taking over the homes of Americans through what Desantis calls a “squatting scam.”

DeSantis hopes that this bill, which empowers homeowners in Florida with an additional avenue to remove squatters from their property, can end the problem.

HB 621

House Bill 621 was drafted to combat so-called squatting scams seen in viral online videos where squatters would take over a person’s home, and the police would be powerless to stop them.

Many cars parked on a Florida street by a building with graffiti.

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“We are in the state of Florida ending this squatters scam once and for all. And momentarily I’ll be signing HB 621, which will give the homeowner the ability to quickly and legally remove a squatter from a property and which will increase criminal penalties for squatting,” DeSantis said in a press conference.


New Protection

This new legislation will allow a property owner in Florida to file a complaint with a sheriff’s office to expedite the process of having a squatter removed. 

A police officer walking through a glass door.

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If an unauthorized person has entered and remained on the individual’s property, police will remove them as long as the owner can provide proof of their ownership.

Sheriffs Standing By

HB 621 will take effect starting July 1 this year and will call upon the state’s sheriffs to help address the problem.

A sheriff stands while on his cellphone.

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“Sheriffs from across the state will be able to provide the adequate resources and support for victims of these crimes and homeowners to preserve their property,” said Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma.

Property Owner Pays the Sherriff

In the Florida bill summary, the Florida Senate describes compensation for sheriffs who are summoned through the mechanism described in HB 621. 

Person handing a stack of cash over a desk to another person

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“The property owner must pay the sheriff the civil eviction fee plus an hourly rate if a deputy must stand by and keep the peace while the unauthorized person is removed,” the bill says.

Squatting Scams

The process squatters use to become a thorn in homeowners’ sides has been receiving recent viral attention. Videos on social media instruct potential squatters on the legal ways they can take over somebody else’s home.

A TikTok video describes how to take advantage of laws to invade a house in the United States.

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“I found out that there is a law that says that if a house is not inhabited, we can seize it,” A TikToker named Leonel Moreno said in a viral video.


Increasing Penalties

In addition to providing Florida homeowners additional tools for dealing with squatters, the bill is also increasing penalties for those found guilty of squatting activities.

A person raises their hands who are bound by handcuffs.

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Squatters can be charged with a first-degree felony for trying to sell or rent property they don’t own. Staying or trespassing in a home one doesn’t own and causing over $1,000 in damage to the property can earn a squatter a second-degree felony charge. It is now also a first-degree misdemeanor to make a false claim to steal a property in writing.


Nationwide Problem

The squatting problem isn’t just contained to a few states, it is a nationwide problem with recent viral stories coming out of places like Seattle, New York, Georgia, and Chicago.

A house with lights turned one

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The Daily Mail reported in March that a “serial squatter” cost landlords in Seattle nearly $300,000 after the man moved from wealthy home to wealthy home squatting and freeloading for two years.


How Does the Scam Work?

Squatters are able to take advantage of “squatters’ rights” laws intended to make it hard for landlords to remove tenants easily. A scammer may draft a fake lease to trick a utility company into believing they are the property owner now. Then the scammer may invade a home or even rent out the home to another party in an attempt to make money.

A group of similar-looking houses.

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Because of squatter rights protection in many places in the country, law enforcement can’t remove the squatter easily and the problem must be resolved in court, which can take months.



Because of the expensive costs of going to court, many property owners choose to skip the headache and time waste of the legal process and offer squatters a cash buyout to get them to leave.

A vacuum cleaner sucking up dollar bills on a wood floor.

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A squatter in Georgia recently demanded $190,000 from a homeowner to leave after repeatedly denying the homeowner’s attempts to evict them.


Florida Leading the Way

Some in Florida see the state as a trendsetter, as in the past some of the initiatives they take credit for have become trending legislation in other states. Ashley Moody, the state of Florida’s Attorney General, was proud of HB 621 and remarked how Florida is always leading the fight on the nation’s issues.

Ron DeSantis wearing a microphone attached to his ear amid a black background.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

“Florida is once again leading the nation, this time in securing our state against squatters,” Moody said.


Biden Blamed

Moody praised DeSantis for signing the legislation and took aim at President Biden for contributing to the problem.

Joe Biden signs an executive order at a desk.

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“Biden has allowed millions of illegal immigrants to flood across the border. After video evidence of their plan to take over homes emerged, we’re ensuring Floridians are protected from this egregious and brazen scheme. I’m grateful to Governor DeSantis for signing this important legislation into law, and to Representative Kevin Steele for carrying this bill through Session,” said Moody.