Just days after an investigation by Channel 2 Action News uncovered an Instagram account that enabled people in metro Atlanta to squat in homes, a new bill has been introduced at the State Capitol with the purpose of putting an end to this practice of squatters stealing homes.
According to the Georgia Squatter Reform Act, squatting is considered a criminal offense that falls under the jurisdiction of the police.
Over the past year, we have been reporting on a problem that involves squatters moving into properties, like Michael Holmes’ house in DeKalb County. These individuals take advantage of legal protections for renters, allowing them to stay rent-free for months. Now, there is a potential legislative solution to address this issue.
Holmes expressed his concern about the possibility of filing bankruptcy if he fails to find a resolution for the situation at hand.
State Representative Devan Seabaugh expressed his support for the bill, highlighting its objective of criminalizing trespassing and allowing law enforcement to remove offenders from private properties.
In an undercover investigation conducted by Channel 2 Action News, consumer investigator Justin Gray discovered an Instagram account called 1TimePaymentHomes. This account offers individuals the opportunity to obtain the keys and lease to a squatter home for a single payment of $1,400.
According to the account, the owners of the company will emerge, as will the police. The police will then inform you that there is nothing they can do about it, citing squatters rights.
The Georgia Squatter Reform Act, also known as HB 1017, aims to establish that squatting is considered criminal trespassing under Georgia law. This legislation would shift the responsibility of addressing squatting incidents from civil court cases to the jurisdiction of the police.
Engaging in a fake lease also constitutes an additional criminal offense.
“No more fraud on the paperwork,” declared Reeves. “If you are caught falsifying documents, you will face imprisonment. It is simply unacceptable.”
1TimePaymentHomes was in a rush when we arrived, as they were about to hand over the keys for an illegal rental property.
According to the lawmakers behind the Georgia Squatter Reform Act, they expressed their hope that this new law would offer stronger protections that squatters cannot evade.
State Representative Deborah Silcox was asked by Gray if she felt angry when she witnessed the sheer audacity and shamelessness of certain individuals.
Silcox voiced his concern, stating, “This invasion is a blatant violation of someone’s home.”
Next week, the bill will be presented to the judiciary committee.
Gray shared our investigation from Monday with Instagram, and they promptly responded by deactivating the 1TimePaymentHomes Instagram account on Wednesday.