Atlanta

Bill saying squatters should be charged with trespassing passes Ga. Senate, on to governor

ATLANTA — The state Senate unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday to fight back against squatters after a series of Channel 2 Action News investigations exposed the problem.

For months, Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Justin Gray has been reporting on the issues caused by squatters across metro Atlanta.

The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), compared the legislation to a shot clock, saying it creates a clear path to getting squatters out of homes and facing charges.

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The Georgia House of Representatives already unanimously passed the bill, so now it heads to Governor Brian Kemp’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill makes it clear that squatters would be charged with trespassing.

The squatter will be given three days to produce documentation and then a hearing will take place in magistrate court seven days later.

As Gray has reported, squatters are counting on a civil, not criminal, eviction process and have been taking advantage of court backlogs that can stretch out for months.

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In an undercover Channel 2 Action News investigation that has been cited by lawmakers in hearings, Gray showed you how criminals are advertising squatter homes for rent on social media and telling people they can live rent-free until the long eviction process plays out.

“They are weaponizing procedural processes to keep from having accountability. This just streamlines both the landlord’s rights and the ability of the accused to get clarity and justice so it can be adjudicated actively and not be drug out over the course of months in the courts,” Setzler said.

Lawmakers say they hope this will close the loopholes that people have been using to squat in these homes.

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