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Squatter’s Rights? Not in Georgia

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Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation Wednesday aimed at illegal squatting.

House Bill 1017, which the Georgia House and Senate passed unanimously during this year’s legislative session, creates the offense of unlawful squatting when someone enters upon the land or premises of the owner without the owner or rightful occupant’s knowledge or consent.

The bill comes amid an increase nationwide in highly publicized reports of trespassers committing violence against homeowners, landlords, or real estate agents, as well as vandalizing properties.

“For property owners in Georgia, squatters are occupying their property, which presents a very difficult and expensive legal problem,” said state Rep. Devan Seabaugh, R-Marietta, chief sponsor of House Bill 1017.

“We have homeowners tied up in court for eight months to two years in some cases trying to get these squatters removed from their property. House Bill 1017 sends a message to squatters that they are criminals, and they will be treated like criminals.”

Under the measure, violators will receive a citation advising them to present documentation within three business days authorizing their presence on the land or premises. Failure to do so will subject the violator to being charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass.

If the person does present documentation, a hearing would be set within seven days to determine its validity.

If the documentation is found to be improperly executed or fraudulent, the person would be subject to arrest and a fine based on the fair market monthly rental value of the property. A law enforcement official would have to show the person an affidavit regarding his or her claim to the property at least three days before executing an eviction.

The bill had five cosponsors in the House, all Republicans.

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