A bill prompted by our News 5 Investigates team has been signed into law.
Wednesday afternoon, the Governor’s Office informed News 5 that Lt. Gov Donna Lynne had signed Senate Bill 18-015. The bill aims to combat a statewide squatting problem we’ve reported on since September 2017.
Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross spent more than six months reviewing cases of squatters breaking into vacant or unoccupied homes and moving their property inside. When the homeowner returns, the squatters refuse to leave. In every case, police are called and tell the homeowner it’s a “civil matter” that has to go through the court system.
Using a loophole in state law, squatters have been able to legally take possession of your property while you spend time and money fighting to get it back.
That’s all about to change. Under the new law, judges will be required to hear squatter cases no later than “the next court date” after a motion is filed.
Once an eviction order is granted, the county sheriff’s office will be responsible for removing squatters from a property no later than 24 hours after receiving the order.
Currently, squatting situations are treated like civil landlord-tenant issues and require homeowners to wait several weeks or even months before law enforcement officials come out to remove them.
In multiple cases we’ve researched, squatters will leave only when police intervene. They also tens of thousands of dollars in damages without any consequences.
News 5 Investigates has not found a single case where law enforcement officials have charged a squatter with trespassing or criminal mischief.
Senate Bill 15 clarifies the law and authorizes police to arrest a squatter for trespassing if they return to the property. The law also clarifies that squatters could face criminal mischief charges if they damage property.
SB 15 goes into effect July 1. You can view a summary of all the bills signed Wednesday by clicking here.