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Unlawful Squatting

In 2024, new criminal offenses were enacted in response to the perceived problem of unlawful squatting.  National news articles have highlighted some instances of people using false documents to obtain and retain possession of property that does not legally belong to them or to enter onto property with permission but to remain there after permission has run out or been withdrawn.

The new code section, OCGA 16-7-21.1, defines unlawful squatting to be entering on the land or premises of another and residing there for any period of time knowingly acting without the knowledge or consent of the owner, rightful occupant or an authorized representative of the owner. Resides means to inhabit or live on or within any land or premises.

An officer addressing such a situation would issue a citation which would require the person being cited to present themselves to the head of the issuing law enforcement agency or their designee within three business days of receipt of the citation with documentation demonstrating legal right to be present on the property.  If such documentation is not presented, the person will be subject to arrest for unlawful squatting.  If they do  present documentation, there will be a court hearing within 7 days to determine whether the documentation is properly executed and is meritorious.  Submission of improper documentation can have additional repercussions. The court may order law enforcement to turn the person out of proportion.  

The criminal violation of unlawful squatting is  a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 base fine.  Civil awards may include fair market rent for the period of improper occupancy as well as other damages as may be plead and proven.


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