March 29, 2024

USA: Republican Governor Ron DeSantis Eliminates 'Squatters Rights' In Florida, Gives Power To Police To Remove Offenders; Giving Property Rights Back To The Owners.


Forbes Breaking News published March 27, 2024: BREAKING NEWS DeSantis Signs Into Law Hardline Property Rights Bill To Crack Down On Squatters. Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signs into law a property rights bill to crack down on squatters.
Forbes Breaking News published March 28, 2024: ‘It Is Being Weaponized’: DeSantis Defends Florida's Hard Crack Down On Squatters. During an event on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) answered questions from the press about homelessness encampments in Florida. 
Forbes Breaking News published March 28, 2024: 'I Am The Squatter Hunter': Flash Shelton Praises DeSantis's Anti-Squatting Law. At a press briefing yesterday, Flash Shelton, a "Squatter Hunter," praised a new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to bolster property rights.
John Stossel published March 26, 2024: Trespassers Welcome: How the Law Protects Squatters. If you find someone squatting in your house, it turns out that there’s often very little you can do to get them out. That’s why Flash Shelton started, to help homeowners remove unwanted intruders.

Yahoo News
written by Emma Colton, Fox News
Wednesday March 27, 2024

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed legislation into law that eliminates squatters’ rights in the Sunshine State and increases penalties against offenders.

"You are not going to be able to commandeer somebody's private property and expect to get away with it. We are in the state of Florida ending the squatter scam once and for all," DeSantis said during a press conference on the signing in Orlando.

The law will take effect July 1. DeSantis noted ahead of the signing that he believes Florida is the first state in the nation to take squatting issues head-on.

Lawmakers in the state overwhelmingly voted in support of the bill earlier this month, sending it to DeSantis’ office. The law outlines that squatters will face criminal charges for illegally moving into a home and allows property owners to file an affidavit showing they legally own a property.

Before the bill’s passage, squatters in Florida, as well in states from coast to coast, were considered tenants and required legal property owners to launch lengthy court battles to legally remove inhabitants from a home.

"This is an important bill if you see the stories that happen," Republican state Sen. Keith Perry, who sponsored the bill, said as it made its way through the legislature, according to Wear TV. "It is egregious what people are getting away with under legislation."

Under the new law, property owners can now call on the sheriff’s office to immediately remove squatters from their homes if the suspects are unable to produce documents authorizing their residency by the property owner.

The law "will give the homeowner the ability to quickly and legally remove a squatter from a property and which will increase criminal penalties for squatting. Now, we have not had the same type of issues here, as you've seen in California or New York. Nevertheless, our laws were really geared towards this not necessarily being a fad," DeSantis said while standing in front of a podium with a sign reading, "Ending the Squatters Scam."

DeSantis specifically called out California and New York for rampant squatting issues, saying the blue states protect squatters, while Florida will crack down and consider them criminals.

"They're siding with the squatters," he said of the Democrat-led states. "In fact, we have seen squatters move in and claim residence. This forces a massive, long, drawn-out judicial review before they can even be removed from the property. These are people that never had a right to be in the property to begin with. Earlier this month in New York, a woman returned to a property she inherited to find squatters living there. She changed the locks to get them out, and the state of New York arrested her instead of the squatters."

The law establishes harsher penalties against those who participate in squatting crimes, including leveling a second-degree felony charge against squatters who damage a home, a first-degree felony charge against those who fraudulently sell or lease a property, and a misdemeanor charge against those who purposefully present a fraudulent lease.

Sheriff Dennis M. Lemma celebrated the passage of the bill and the governor's signature, while saying the word "squatter" is too favorable and they should instead be referred to as "criminals and con artists."

"I want to thank our legislative body, both our delegates here in central Florida and abroad, because this received unanimous support, and it's been long too often where we've seen homeowners that have spent their entire life working and earning. Some have inherited homes of parents and to knock on the door and be met with squatters," Lemma said at the press conference.

"Squatters actually is a very, very kind term. These are criminals and con artists that need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," he continued.

Florida, similar to other states across the nation, has seen repeated incidents of squatters fraudulently moving into a home or property, including a squatter in September who moved into a multimillion-dollar home in Bonita Springs and was found wearing the homeowner's clothing. Another homeowner in June, who was on vacation abroad before returning to his Ocala house, was forced to confront a squatter who trashed his property in his absence.

While residents in a neighborhood in Winter Park sounded off in September that squatters had turned the area into a "nightmare" because the police department was "handcuffed" from arresting the suspects as it was considered a civil matter.

The issue has even affected the Sunshine State’s massive boating community, with squatters taking over derelict boats off the coast of Martin County in a phenomenon that began last year, the sheriff’s office previously told Fox News Digital. While other law enforcement agencies near Port Orange last June dismantled structures on an island known for its drug use that was overtaken by squatters.

Flash Shelton, known as the "Squatter Hunter" who removes squatters from people's homes, also spoke during the press conference, explaining how he personally dealt with confronting and removing squatters from his mother's home last year.

"I know what it feels like to feel the helpless, hopeless feeling when dealing with squatters and the law saying it's a civil matter. Fearing that long-drawn-out and costly process, I decided to lift my head up, stand up and fight. I broke the law down to its knees, and figured out that if they could take a house, I could take a house," Shelton recounted of his first run-in with squatters at his mother's home.

"I got my squatters out in less than a day using the same system and their rights against them," he said.

Eyewitness News ABC7NY published March 18, 2024: Squatter standoff captured on camera in Queens. Dan Krauth has the latest on the standoff.

UPDATE 3/29/24 at 7:29pm: Added info below.
I remembered this story after I logged off. This is the worst possible scenario confronting squatters and this was by accident.
Crime Stories with Nancy Grace published March 28, 2024: SQUATTER-NIGHTMARE-TURNS-MURDER: Woman Bludgeoned DEAD, Stuffed in Duffel.

Nadia Vitel spends a couple of days moving personal items into an apartment in Manhattan's Kips Bay, and she is captured on security cameras going in and out several times on March 10. Vitel spends two days on Long Island then on March 12 she heads back to the Kips Bay Apartment. Vitel's son, Michael Medvedev, talks with her on Tuesday the 12th, but after the 12th, she isn't answering calls or returning texts. After 2 days of no contact, Medvedev calls police to do a welfare check on his 52-year-old mother. Waiting for the police, Medvedev convinces the building super to let him into the apartment. Walking through the apartment, nothing seems amiss, except his mother is not there. As they are walking out, Medvedev notices a duffel bag in a closet, with a foot hanging out of it.

The investigation into the death of Nadia Vitel starts with her injuries and the surveillance cameras in the building. Vitel suffered blunt force trauma to the head, multiple facial fractures, a brain blee, and two broken ribs. Her body is found on Thursday March 14th, Investigators look back and find surveillance video showing Vital as she brings her personal items into the building on the 10th. Vital leaves the building just after 11 am on March 10th, and 19-year-old Halley Tejada and 18-year-old Kensly Alston, are seen trying to enter the building around 2 pm the 10th. 1 hour later Tejada and Alston are on camera in the building and seen on elevator surveillance camera entering Nadia Vitel's apartment.

NYPD police chief Joseph Kenny says Halley Tejada and Kensly Alston were squating in Nadia Vitel's apartment. When Vitel returned to the apartment March 12, she confronted the squaters who proceeded to allegedly beat her to death, and cram her body into a duffel bag. Tejada and Alston allegedly through Vitel's personal effects and more in the trash, then left the building in her Lexus SUV. Using Vitel's bank cards, Tejada and Alston charge their way to Pennsylvania where they are involved in a traffic accident on March 13. Alston gives police a fake name, slowing the process of clearing the accident. Once Vitel's body is found on the 14th, her Lexus is reported stolen, and the US Marshal's are able to track Tejada and Alston to Lower Paxton Towship Pennsylvania where they are placed in custody.
CBS 21 News published March 23, 2024: Possible squatters tied to NYC woman's murder arrested in PA after crashing stolen car. A woman police believe was killed by squatters in New York City now has connections with Central Pennsylvania.
The suspects are 18 and 19-years-old. (emphasis mine)
According to court documents obtained by CBS 21, the driver of the Lexus involved in the crash initially provided a false name and claimed to be a York County resident. It was later revealed that the vehicle belonged to the victim, 52-year-old Nadia Vitels.

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