Georgia Governor Signs Squatter Reform Act Into Law, Criminalizing Unlawful Occupation of Property

Georgia criminalizes squatting, empowering property owners to swiftly address the growing issue. The new law imposes fines and jail time, aiming to address housing shortages by making occupied properties available.

Mazhar Abbas
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Georgia Governor Signs Squatter Reform Act Into Law, Criminalizing Unlawful Occupation of Property

Georgia Governor Signs Bill Criminalizing Squatting, Calling Practice "Insanity"

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has signed a bill into law that criminalizes squatting in the state. The new law, known as the Georgia Squatter Reform Act, amends state laws related to criminal trespass and property damage. It allows law enforcement to cite those accused of unlawful squatting and gives them three business days to show proof of a valid lease or rental agreement. If they fail to do so, a magistrate judge will hold a hearing within seven days to determine the authenticity of the documents.

Under the new law, squatting becomes a misdemeanor offense, with trespassers facing a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. If squatters forge a fake lease, they could be charged with a felony. Kemp described the problem of squatting as "fairly limited" but said it is a headache for property owners, as "squatters have figured out ways to circumvent the law." He called the practice "insanity" and stated that the legislation is necessary to address the "lawlessness" of squatters taking over people's homes, which has become an issue across the country.

Why this matters: The new law aims to empower property owners in Georgia to more quickly and easily address the growing problem of squatters illegally occupying homes and properties. It reflects a broader trend of states cracking down on squatting and preventing squatters from receiving tenant protections under the law.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Representative Devan Seabaugh, who said it would make it quicker and easier for landlords and homeowners to regain control of their properties. Real estate agents in Georgia have reported incidents of squatters destroying properties and even selling appliances, making it dangerous and difficult for homeowners to remove them. The Atlanta Realtors Association said squatters have been "illegally taking over properties, destroying them, causing havoc, and increasing crime in our neighborhoods."

Squatting Law Debate: However, a housing expert criticized the bill as a "distraction" from more pressing housing issues like rising rents and home prices, suggesting that squatting may be rarer than recent reports suggest. Nonetheless, Kemp and the bill's sponsors believe the new law sends a clear message that squatters are criminals in Georgia and will be treated as such. The measure is intended to address the housing shortage in the state by allowing properties held by squatters to be made available for rent or sale.

Key Takeaways

  • Georgia criminalizes squatting, imposing fines and jail time.
  • New law allows quick eviction of squatters lacking valid lease.
  • Measure aims to address housing shortage by freeing occupied properties.
  • Supporters say law tackles "lawlessness" of squatters, while critics call it a distraction.
  • Law reflects broader trend of states cracking down on squatting.