Georgia Has Passed a New Squatter Reform Act Bill - Excalibur

Georgia Has Passed a New Squatter Reform Act Bill

Excalibur Homes
Excalibur Homes

Georgia Squatter Reform Act Bill
The good news for landlords is that Georgia’s General Assembly has passed House Bill 1017 “Georgia Squatter Reform Act”. This enhances and strengthens O.C.G.A. 44-11-30 thru 44-11-33 which deals with ejecting a trespasser – not exactly the same as evicting a tenant.

This new law will make “squatting” a misdemeanor crime punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and/or one year in jail. The law requires the landlord, their attorney, or agent, to submit an affidavit through a law enforcement officer, then that law enforcement officers duty is to serve the alleged unauthorized occupant with the affidavit and advise the unauthorized occupant that they have 3 days to vacate the property or be subject to arrest. If this unauthorized occupant provides some paperwork or documentation claiming that they have a legal right to the property, then the law enforcement officer will “leave both parties in their respective positions” and refer the matter to the Magistrate Court.

If the Magistrate Court determines that the documents presented by the unauthorized occupant are false, then the judge can issue to the landlord a writ of possession effective immediately, a judgement for monetary damages, and “shall be authorized to present the final order to law enforcement for investigation and prosecution.”

Here is the bad news. Magistrate Courts have established forms and procedures for dealing with evictions. The courts are not set up to process these “ejectment” actions. If a landlord tries to file an ejectment action today it is likely to move at the same pace as an eviction action does. Some counties are still taking a long time to process evictions.

Excalibur’s Initial Plan of Action

One of our attorneys is drafting a new demand letter for squatters, a brief summary of the new law and its penalties for the police & the squatter, and an affidavit form which can be filled in by our representatives by hand at the property.

We are working with the Georgia Association of Realtors to encourage the Governor to request the different county Magistrate judges to move quickly to establish procedures for dealing with ejectment actions so that those courts are complying with the law’s requirements for prompt hearings.

Our initial implementation of the new procedures will be:

1) An Excalibur representative finds a property has an unauthorized occupant.
2) Our representative calls the police.
3) When the police respond our representative will present the officer(s) with a one-page description of the new law and a copy of an affidavit alleging that the occupant(s) are residing in the property illegally. Our representative will ask the officer to present the occupants with the affidavit.
4) If the occupants can’t provide any proof that they do have a legal right to occupy the property, then the officer warns them that they must be out within 3 days or they are subject to arrest.
5) If the occupants DO provide some document alleging that they have the right to live in the property, our Excalibur representative will ask the officer to allow us to take a photo of the documents presented and will advise the officer that they may be called to testify that the occupant did present documents in order to remain in possession. This is where the illegal occupants become subject to a claim of criminal fraud when the judge later determines that the documents presented are not valid.
6) Then Excalibur will follow up with the local court using one of our attorneys to initiate the ejectment action.

It’s our hope that news of this new law will discourage a lot of people from trying to illegally take possession of other people’s houses. When we do find a new squatter, it’s our hope that this meeting with the responding police office and the squatter, and the explanation of the new law and it’s penalties, more squatters will choose to vacate promptly rather than face possible criminal charges.

Understand that this a brand new law, and the police and court systems are developing their own policies and procedures, so our procedures will change as dictated by the court system.

Excalibur Homes is an Atlanta property management company that specializes in helping our clients buy, sell, lease, and manage single-family rental homes across the Metro Atlanta area.

Similar Articles