Georgia Republicans target Atlanta squatters with hard-hitting bill: 'No more free rides' - Mr-Mehra

Georgia Republicans target Atlanta squatters with hard-hitting bill: 'No more free rides'

The bill would make false leases an additional crime, according to state Rep. Matt Reeves

Georgia lawmakers are taking aim at Atlanta's squatting crisis with a proposed bill that would make the act a clear criminal offense in the Peach State as neighborhoods around the metro area continue to assess the situation with tied hands.

Approximately 1,200 homes have been taken over by squatters, according to the National Rental Home Council trade group, but with local law enforcement bound by tenant rights laws, homeowners have limited options to reclaim their property.

HB 1017, the Georgia Squatter Reform Act, aims to make that process easier.

"We have to do something about this," Rep. Devan Seabaugh, a Republican co-sponsoring the bill, told Fox News Digital on Monday.

SQUATTER CRISIS HITS ATLANTA AS PROPERTY OWNERS SEE HOMES MORPH INTO DRUG AND PROSTITUTION DENS

Georgia State Capitol

Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta. (iStock)

"We're dealing with criminals… These are people that know exactly what they're doing, and they're stealing other people's most valuable capital, which is their home. I've heard from a lot of people. This has caused them to file bankruptcy. They're mentally harmed by it. It's a tough situation, and we have to do something. I don't know how it took us this long to get here… but no more free rides," he continued.

Seabaugh, a representative from Georgia's 34th district which houses a region northwest of Atlanta, is co-sponsoring the bill alongside fellow Republican State Reps. Matt Reeves, Deborah Silcox, Bill Yearta, James Burchett and Clint Crowe.

Despite all co-signers aligning with the GOP, Seabaugh said Democrats are on board with the measure as well.

The proposed bill initially sought to amend the state's official code relating to criminal trespassing. The proposed addition expanded criminal trespassing to include persons who enter upon "land or premises" without the consent of the "owner, rightful occupant or authorized representative of the owner" for any period of time.

Seabaugh explained Monday, however, that the lawmakers elected to forego manipulating the current code and will instead focus on creating new code to address the situation.

"What we've done is create new code in the Georgia law that, in a nutshell, says, if you're squatting in a home, and you do not have the consent or legal authority to be in it, you'll be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor of a highly aggravated nature. You'll be fined, and you may spend up to a year behind bars," he said.

STATE OF SQUATTING: AMERICA IS AT A ‘TURNING POINT,’ SAYS HANDYMAN WHO HELPS PEOPLE RECLAIM THEIR HOMES

Atlanta struggling with squatting crisisVideo

"To speed up the process, we've moved the proceedings, which now require a superior court jury trial that could take months to years to adjudicate, through a non-jury magistrate court trial that can be heard much sooner and hopefully significantly decrease the time it takes to remove these squatters from a property," he added.

Rep. Matt Reeves, a co-sponsor representing the Suwanee, Duluth and Sugar Hill areas, told Atlanta's WSB-TV the bill would also make fake leases an additional crime. 

"No more fraud on the paperwork. If you falsify documents, and you get caught, you’re going to serve jail time on that. That’s wrong," he told the outlet.

Justin Gray, a consumer investigator for WSB-TV, recently uncovered some unsettling developments concerning an Instagram account called 1TimePaymentHomes, which, for a one-time payment of $1,400, reportedly handed squatters the lease and keys to properties in the area.

Instagram removed the account following the report.

‘SERIAL SQUATTER’ FRESH OUT OF JAIL UP TO HER OLD TRICKS AS FORMER RESIDENTS PAY THE PRICE: OWNER

Atlanta squatter crisis

An Atlanta property owner says squatters ripped wires out of the walls and caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.  (Fox News)

Earlier this month, Fox News' Lawrence Jones spent some time in the Atlanta area where he spoke with squatting victims who said their properties had been damaged in the ordeal.

"The last incident that I had, there was a squatter there who totally destroyed the place," Kesha Chedeaux, a real estate agent, said on "Fox & Friends."

"One has went to jail. They sold the appliances from the property and received money for them. Selling appliances, [there's] feces everywhere, [they're] sleeping in the beds because these properties are staged on the market."

Chedeaux spoke about how difficult it is to remove the trespassers, telling Jones the process can be "dangerous.

Atlanta squatting situation a 'multi-faceted' problem fueled by lack of housing, security: Quentin FontenoVideo

Another Georgia property owner who remained unidentified told Jones damages left behind by squatters left her to shell out approximately $30,000 to cover repairs.

"It also hurts me because it deters buyers," she said, pointing to lock systems she was forced to install on windows inside the property. "They want to know, ‘Why do you have to have these on the windows?’" 

Seabaugh believes HB 1017 will successfully make its way through the Georgia General Assembly in time and will eventually end up on Republican Gov. Brian Kemp's desk.

"I think this is a quick fix to a problem so that if you are squatting at someone's home, we're going to get you out. We're going to move a 1-2 year process to hopefully less than 30 days and return this property back to the rightful owners," he said.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.