New Bill to End Squatters

From PressEnterprise 9/30/14

A bill that deters illegal squatting in residential properties was signed into law Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The legislation, which sets up a pilot program in Palmdale, Lancaster and Ukiah, was spawned in part by homeowner horror stories that played out across Southern California and the Inland communities of Corona, Hemet and Moreno Valley.

Homes have been trashed, lost to foreclosure and kept off the market because of illegal squatting.

“Homeowners should have the right to move a trespasser before that person damages their property,” said Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, who sponsored the bill. “This is a common-sense solution.”

The legislation, which takes effect Jan. 1, sets up a framework for homeowners to file a Declaration of Ownership with law agencies to identify a property as vacant. The homeowner then posts a notice on the home; and inspects it to make sure it is vacant.

If someone is found inside, law officers can take quick action to remove the trespassers.

Currently, there is no state law that provides local government officials with specific tools to combat the illegal occupancy of residences. Police have been stymied by trespassers who produce a fake lease or claim they were duped in a rental scam.

It can take two months to evict a squatter, Fox said.

“Homeowners who have had a squatter in their house have had to bear the cost of not being able to lease or sell their home, and they have no immediate legal remedy,” he said. “This pilot program will give homeowners an affordable, local solution.”

AB1513 was set up initially as a statewide measure. When it met resistance, Fox trimmed the measure to create pilot programs.

“If this is successful, and we believe it will be, then it’s likely other cities that want to be included in a similar program can be added later,” said Sandra Kramer, a spokeswoman in Fox’s office. The pilot program will sunset on Jan. 1, 2018.

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