On Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the newly passed legislation bolstering the ability of property owners and law enforcement to deal with squatters, individuals who illegally occupy the homes of others.

House Bill 182 by State Rep. Craig Lipscomb (R-Gadsden) increases penalties for individuals who enter a residence that is not theirs. It also increases the penalty for anyone who presents a falsified document claiming it to be a lease, deed or other instrument authorizing ownership or occupancy.

The bill sailed through the legislative process, garnering bipartisan support throughout. The new law will become enforceable on June 1.

“It has been said that a person’s home is their castle, yet after a national rise in illegal occupations of homeowner’s private property, it is apparent that more must be done to halt criminals from commandeering people’s homes,” Ivey said.

“In Alabama, private property rights are paramount. This new law puts would-be squatters on notice that any attempt to hijack and take over someone’s home will be met with swift action by law enforcement. The best dwelling for an illegal squatter is a jail cell, and we in state government should never rest easy until all Alabama homeowners’ rights are fully protected.”

The law makes it easier to remove squatters from illegally inhabited dwellings. It adds a definition of the state’s classification of third-degree burglary if an individual remains unlawfully in a property and intentionally causes $1,000 or more in damage.

During the legislative process, Lipscomb stated that the bill’s purpose was to be preventative since Alabama has thus far been free of the mass squatting that has negatively affected other states.

"Large cities and metropolitan areas across the county have recently experienced an epidemic of squatters who seek to live rent-free in properties they do not own and to which they have no legal rights or access," Lipscomb said. “This legislation provides Alabama property owners with a strong measure of protection that helps inoculate them from this epidemic and ensures they do not fall victim to this unfortunate national trend."

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email craig.monger@1819news.com.

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