The True Story of the Property Owner Whose Nightmare Inspired Florida's Tough Anti-Squatter Law

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Aside from property destroyed in a natural disaster, there is hardly a worse fate that could befall a real estate investor than having their property occupied by a squatter. A Florida woman named Patti Peeples, who lost thousands of dollars fighting this nightmare, helped inspire her state legislature to pass one of America's toughest anti-squatting laws. This is her story.

Patti Peeples was an ordinary Florida property owner when she decided to sell. She received an offer she liked and accepted it. However, before she could close the deal, a group of squatters moved into the property and claimed that they had the legal right to live there.

The squatters even came up with a fake lease and showed it to the police when Patti tried to have them cleared from the premises. Instead of helping Patti evict them, the police told her it was a "civil matter," and they were powerless to remove the squatters without a court order.

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It took Patti over a month to get the squatters removed, and her original buyers moved on rather than wait. That left her no choice but to begin the entire sales process again, but not before paying an estimated $40,000 to repair the damage the squatters caused.  To her shock and horror, the squatters went so far as to invite friends over to help them damage the property before being evicted.

Adding insult to injury, the market had cooled by the time Patti completed her repairs. The offers she received after putting the property back on the market were all lower than the deal she was set to close before the squatters moved in.  So, Patti lost money on legal fees, repair costs, and the final sale price of her property.

Sadly, Patti's nightmare is becoming a reality for more landlords nationwide. As homelessness increases, people desperate for housing are resorting to squatting to secure living space. Many of them have figured out how to exploit loopholes in state squatter laws and extend unauthorized tenancies for months. For obvious reasons, the situation struck Patti as unfair, and she decided to fight back.


Patti began by sharing her story publicly and including pictures of the incredible amount of damage the squatters did to her home.  Eventually, her story got the attention of the local Fox News affiliate, which ran it as a feature on their broadcast.

State Representative Kevin Steele and State Senator Keith Perry were both moved by Patti's plight. They reached out to her to express their mutual interest in helping her solve the state's growing squatter problem. They crafted legislation, and thanks in part to Patti's powerful testimony to the state senate, Florida passed one of America's toughest anti-squatter laws.

HB621 had strong bi-partisan support (a rarity in almost any legislative body these days) and was eagerly signed by Governor Ron DeSantis. The law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2024, would make several significant changes and tilt the legal process for removing illegal squatters back into the landlord's favor. Some of the most notable provisions of the law include:

·      Streamlining the eviction process

·      Making it illegal for squatters to present phony documentation or leases to law enforcement

·      Making it a felony offense for squatters to intentionally do over $1,000 in damages to property

Now, when a Florida property owner has a squatter who can't present a legitimate lease, the property owner only needs to sign a declaration under penalty of perjury with the county sheriff. Once that declaration is signed, the sheriff can enter the property and clear the squatter without a court hearing. 

Now, several other states are considering their versions of anti-squatter legislation and using HB621 as a blueprint. Many property owners who have dealt with the nightmare of squatting think the change is long overdue. Squatters have cynically abused loopholes in state laws to wreak havoc on property owners for decades. Worse yet, they've done it with a level of impunity that even mafia bosses would admire. Those days may be over thanks to Patti Peeples.

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