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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Georgia to strengthen property owners' rights against squatters

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Friday, April 5, 2024   

Georgia lawmakers appear to be taking a major step toward safeguarding property owners against people who occupy homes or apartments illegally, with what's known as the Squatters Reform Act.

House Bill 1017 passed unanimously in both the Georgia House and Senate. It would make illegally occupying personal property a criminal matter, rather than a civil case. This means the rightful owners can get people out of their homes sooner who don't belong there.

The move is expected to bring relief to such residents as Dan Rodgers, who said he once felt squatters had more legal protection than property owners.

"I think the new three-day process is going to benefit a lot of homeowners," Rodgers said. "It seemed like previous squatters' rights were giving them the opportunity to hide behind process."

Under the Squatters Reform Act, people would have to provide valid documentation of their right to occupy the property within three business days or face arrest for criminal trespass. Those who present documents would have their case reviewed within seven days to establish its legitimacy.

Georgia law has required homeowners to file an "Affidavit of Intruder" in the court system to remove squatters from their property, which can take weeks or months. Rodgers, who owns property in Muscogee County, said he hopes the new legislation will serve as a deterrent to those who previously sought to take advantage.

"I don't think that there's very many circumstances we could think of with a normal trespasser having as many protected rights as squatters do, and ending up being able to really affect people's livelihood," he said. "So, I really feel like it's a really good incentive for people to do the right thing."

The bill was sent to Gov. Brian Kemp this week and is pending his signature to become law.


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