Squatters caused this damage in the home of Patti Peeples in Jacksonville. | Patti PeoplesSquatters caused this damage in the home of Patti Peeples in Jacksonville. | Patti Peoples
Squatters caused this damage in the home of Patti Peeples in Jacksonville. | Patti Peoples

Jacksonville woman finds squatters in her home

Published on April 3, 2024 at 12:55 pm

If someone breaks into unoccupied property you own and begins sleeping there, you might think they’d be subject to arrest.  

It’s called “squatting,” where someone pretends to be a tenant, provides a fake lease, and police can’t intervene.

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It can take months for a squatting case to make its way through the courts. During that time, the homeowner loses their rights and can even be arrested if they accost the squatters.

Patti Peeples is a Jacksonville homeowner who experienced this. She says it took 36 days to evict squatters from her property.  She says most know what they’re doing and work in rings.  

“My experience and the experience of many people who have dealt with squatters — and this is only anecdotal — is that most of these squatters are not in fact unhoused individuals or undocumented immigrants into this country,” Peeples said Wednesday on First Coast Connect. “What they are are people who have studied this system and are taking advantage of it.”

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Peeples’ story helped prompt a tougher squatter’s law that will go into effect July 1. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the law Wednesday. 

Under HB 621, a property owner can request law enforcement to immediately remove a squatter from their property if the following conditions are met:

  • The individual has unlawfully entered and remains on the property.
  • The individual has been directed to leave the property by the owner but has not done so.
  • The individual is not a current or former tenant in a legal dispute.

HB 621 also creates harsher penalties for those engaged in squatting and for those who encourage squatting and teach others the scam. The bill makes it:

  • A first-degree misdemeanor for making a false statement in writing to obtain real property or for knowingly and willfully presenting a falsified document conveying property rights.
  • A second-degree felony for any person who unlawfully occupies or trespasses in a residential dwelling and who intentionally causes $1,000 or more in damages.
  • A first-degree felony for knowingly advertising the sale or rent of a residential property without legal authority or ownership.

You can hear the entire interview with Patti Peeples at wjct.org or when it encores at 8 p.m. Wednesday on WJCT News 89.9. 

author image "Morning Edition" Host and Radio Reading Service Manager email Michelle Corum has been the voice of "Morning Edition" on WJCT since 2012. Her career spans public radio in Kansas and Michigan, and her work has been featured on NPR. She oversees WJCT's Radio Reading Service, and has been acknowledged for her newscasts by Florida AP Broadcasters. Corum also brings corporate communication expertise from D.C. and holds a master's from Central Michigan University and a journalism bachelor's from Troy University.

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