South Fulton County

This is how police are now enforcing Georgia’s new squatter laws following Channel 2 investigations

ATLANTA — Georgia’s new tougher penalties against squatters are now the law of the land.

The new law comes after a series of Channel 2 Action News investigations exposed the loophole squatters were taking advantage of.

Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray has been reaching out to police departments, solicitor generals, and local magistrates to see if criminal citations are now being written to squatters.

Many of the departments tell us they are still figuring out how this is all going to work.

But the city of South Fulton has already created a special task force just to go after squatters armed with the authority of this new law.

Channel 2 Action News obtained video of when police officers knocked on the door of a South Fulton home this month armed with new powers to cite squatters criminally on the spot.

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The suspected squatters ran out the back door.

“I know everybody thinks you can go in the house and squat and sit there. That all changed the other day,” one of the responding officers said on body cam video.

“We’re basically putting these squatters on notice. The law changed,” said Lt. Jubal Rogers with the South Fulton Police Department.

It was a very different scene earlier this spring when police were called to Paul Callins DeKalb County home.

“They’ll break into your house and then use the law to stay there,” Callins said at the time.

Police body camera video was rolling as officers were handed what they suspected was a fake lease.


“You have the lease ma’am,” the DeKalb officer asked the woman who answered the door in Callins’s home.

“I do,” she told the officer.

“So you got somebody with a fake lease?” a DeKalb police supervisor asked the responding officer.

“Yeah, I think the lease is fake. But you know there’s no way I can prove it,” the responding officer said

So the officers just left.

They told Callins and the suspected squatter it’s not a criminal matter.

“This will take time. We can’t put you out because we’re not here for that. He’ll have to deal with it with courts and all that,” one of the responding officers is heard telling Callins on body cam video.

“They shouldn’t be in there for a minute. They should be, you know, out immediately. You know, they don’t belong in your home,” Callins told Gray.

After an exclusive Channel 2 Action News hidden camera investigation and series of viral Channel 2 Action News squatters stories, Georgia lawmakers rewrote the law on squatters, spelling out that this is a crime and that it must be dealt with in magistrate court in a matter of days, not weeks or months

“This is no longer a civil matter. Once this law was passed, it’s now become a criminal offense to unlawfully squat in a residence where you do not have a lease,” Rogers told Gray.

Gray went by one of the first houses South Fulton police visited under the new law just last week.

“Hi. Yeah, it’s Justin Gray from Channel 2. Are you squatting in this home?” Gray asked the person inside the home.

“I’m not,” she replied through the door.

Police determined the suspected squatter is in the eviction process with the corporate landlord who is looking to recoup $60,000 in unpaid rent.

“You feel like you all can react quicker now?” Gray asked Rogers.

“Absolutely. I think with the current law that is now in effect, we will be able to react more proactively,” Rogers said.

Channel 2 Action News cameras were at Callins’ home the day marshals evicted Takisha Bailey from the house.

A few weeks later, paperwork shows a Jane Doe was evicted from home down the street from Callins’ home.

Gray looked at the belongings that were on the front lawn after being removed from the house.

“We noticed the luggage tag here is Takisha Bailey. That’s the same woman at the other home,” Gray said.

According to court records, the alleged squatters claimed to have been scammed. That’s the same thing Bailey said about Callins’ house

Bailey told Gray through an Instagram message that she’s no squatter and she is a scam victim who was evicted from suspected squatter homes twice in a month.

“This is crazy. I literally just spent half my tax money to move in here. I’m in here with my kids,” Bailey told police the night they initially responded to the home.

“It’s crazy because they’re just going to find the next victim and get out of that one,” Callins said.

Under the new Georgia law, suspected squatters will now immediately be issued a criminal citation and have three days to present a lease.

If that lease is fraudulent, the case goes from a misdemeanor to a felony.

From checking in with local police departments, Gray learned not everyone is up and running with the news laws as quickly as South Fulton.

Another thing with the new law is that it doesn’t have to be the homeowner who can report a squatter. Now neighbors or HOAs can contact police as well and report the suspected squatters.

The governor’s office also released a statement:

“The governor remains proud to have signed critical legislation passed by the General Assembly that immediately empowered local law enforcement with greater authorities to tackle illegal squatting in their communities. Illegal squatting is theft and we look forward to our local partners in law enforcement utilizing their increased authorities in this area and holding criminal offenders accountable.” - Garrison Douglas, Kemp Spokesperson.


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