There are now 3 bills going through General Assembly to change laws on squatting

ATLANTA — After a Channel 2 Action News investigation, there are now multiple bills moving through the State Capitol designed to target the problem of squatters.

In a House hearing Wednesday, they put a number to the problem. There are at least 1,200 current squatter homes in metro Atlanta.

It’s been more than three years Karl Johnson has been fighting in the Fulton County courts to get an alleged squatter out of his southwest Atlanta home.

Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray caught up with him as he was back once again Wednesday at the Fulton County courthouse.


“Here I am. I’m back down to square one,” Johnson said.

In the fall, Johnson finally had the squatter evicted with an intruder affidavit. Sheriff’s deputies removed the woman, but then three months later, she showed back up.

“She kicked the side door,” Johnson said. “There’s no lease agreement. She’s no tenant.”

Johnson immediately called the police, who told him to go back to the courts.

“I showed him I had an intruder warrant. And he said, ‘Well, unfortunately, Mr. Johnson, her paperwork is newer, so it kind of supersedes your old intruder’s warrant,’” Johnson said.


Situations like this are why three different bills were discussed in a House committee this week to change Georgia law to better fight squatters.

“Nipping it in the bud and moving from current law to one that is proactive with squatters is what we are trying to do here with this bill,” said state Rep. Matt Reeves.

In a Channel 2 Action News undercover investigation last week, we reported on an Instagram account that for a $1,400 one-time payment, gives you the keys and the lease to a squatter home.

It even spelled out on the account just 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.

Our reporting got the attention of the lawmakers and policymakers at this capitol hearing.

“Often when they go, they’re facing a gun. And that’s been covered in several Channel 2 stories,” one lawmaker said.

“There’s actually a website. I don’t know if you saw the Channel 2 story,” another lawmaker said.

As lawmakers try to work through the specific language, there was agreement on one point: “The act of squatting should be a criminal offense.”

One bill that would allow off-duty sheriff’s deputies and others to help with evictions moved on out of committee.

The big one about making it clear this is a criminal, not a civil matter, there was concern the language was confusing.

They expect to come back next week with some changes to that bill language.