Legislation Protecting Tennessee Property Owners From Squatters Passes

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Legislation passed Monday to protect homeowners in Tennessee from squatters through an established and expedited removal process.

Squatting is the illegal practice of occupying a property without the owner’s lawful permission. Although squatters have no rights in Tennessee, when this happens a property owner must initiate a judicial eviction.

“Home ownership is the American dream for many, the foundation for building wealth and raising a family,” Rudd said. “This is proactive legislation that protects property owners but also deters bad actors who have learned to exploit the law and terrorize homeowners. This creates a streamlined process for Tennesseans to quickly take back control over what is rightfully theirs.”

House Bill 1259 removes much of the burden from legitimate property owners by establishing a clear process for law enforcement to restore possession. It can expedite the removal of illegal occupants in as little as 72 hours. The legislation also clarifies that the sheriff may arrest the trespassers.

It can take up to two years to remove an illegal squatter and can cost a property owner thousands of dollars in legal fees, lost revenue, and property repairs.

A sharp rise in squatting incidents have been reported across the nation. Squatter laws vary from state to state. Dishonest trespassers have learned to exploit the law in places like New York, where a squatter who occupies a home for at least 30 days can be granted tenant rights. Lawful property owners are then forced to go through a court eviction process to reclaim their homes.

Rudd’s bill gives a county sheriff the authority will serve a notice to the squatter and return the property to the lawful owner upon receiving a proper complaint from the owner.

House Bill 1259 will take effect July 1, 2024.

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