ATLANTA — Just days after a Channel 2 Action News investigation exposed an Instagram account that was allowing people across metro Atlanta to squat in homes, we’ve learned that a new bill has been introduced at the State Capitol designed to stop squatters from stealing homes.
The Georgia Squatter Reform Act makes it clear that squatting is a crime to be handled by police.
“House Bill 1017 says to squatters, ‘No more freeloading, no more free rides,” state Rep. Matt Reeves said.
It’s a potential legislative solution to a problem that we have been reporting on over the past year in a series of Channel 2 Action News stories – squatters moving into properties like Michael Holmes’ DeKalb County house and taking advantage of legal protections for renters to stay rent free for months.
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“If I can’t bring this to some type of resolution, I’ll be in jeopardy of filing bankruptcy,” Holmes told Gray.
“This bill will make it criminal trespassing so the police can come and take them out of the house,” state. Rep. Devan Seabaugh said.
In a Channel 2 Action News undercover investigation on Monday, Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray reported on an Instagram account called 1TimePaymentHomes that gives people the keys and the lease to a squatter home for a one-time payment of $1,400.
They even spelled out on the site how squatting works.
“The company’s owners will come out, so will the police. The police will tell you there’s nothing they can do about it -- squatters rights,” the account said.
But HB 1017, the Georgia Squatter Reform Act, would make it clear in Georgia law that squatting is criminal trespassing, making it a police matter, not a civil court case.
It also makes any fake lease an additional crime.
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- GA Attorney General sues realty company for trying to enforce illegal 40-year listing agreements
- ‘It’s the wild, wild west:’ Woman whose home was bulldozed rejoices bill that may protect homeowners
- More drivers report getting bad gas from metro Atlanta Costco locations
“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,” Reeves said
1TimePaymentHomes took off running when we showed up as they were planning to hand over the keys for an illegal rental.
The lawmakers behind the Georgia Squatter Reform Act told Gray that they are hoping this new law would provide stiffer protections squatters can’t run from.
“Does it make you angry when you see just how blatant, how brazen they are?” Gray asked State Representative Deborah Silcox
“Well, this is an invasion of someone’s home,” Silcox said.
“These squatters are stealing the American dream,” Reeves said.
The bill goes to the judiciary committee next week.
Gray sent Instagram a link to our investigation from Monday. They called him on Wednesday to tell him they have deactivated that 1TimePaymentHomes Instagram account.
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