New law could prevent squatters

Adverse possession cases have risen in recent years

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A new law written by a local representative waiting on the governor's signature could keep squatters out of your neighborhood.

Houses all across the River City have been take over by squatters, people who file paperwork with the property appraiser saying the house is vacant and they will maintain it and pay taxes. It's called adverse possession.

People have used this obscure law to take over houses at no cost and rent them out to unsuspecting people. The property appraiser's office says they been using a loophole, and now state Rep. Dan Davis is changing that. He sponsored a law that he hopes will go into effect this July.

"Right now you have a bunch of unscrupulous characters taking over a vacant piece of property and sending in a piece of paper saying they are an adverse possession and they don't have to do anything other than that," Davis said. "This is a way we can stop that. We can make sure if there is any adverse possession, that it's done correctly and the proper authorities are notified and have a part in the process."

In the last month, there have been two people arrested and charged with taking part in renting out properties that police said they did not own. This new law clarifies that and makes it a crime in itself to rent out that property.

"People are basically stealing a piece of property and then renting to unknown renters," Davis said. "That's horrible. You got people living in a house thinking they are doing it right and being told people they are renting from, don't even own the property and being told they have to get out. We are stopping a process that hurts the community, hurts the financial sector. We are stopping that here."

This is one step in trying to address the problem, but Davis said it could have a big impact on squatters.

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