Georgia Republicans introduce state bill to end Atlanta's squatting problem

Any squatter who enters or remains on the property of a third party, at any time or in any manner, without consent, will be committing a felony, which would give law enforcement the ability to act.

Conservative lawmakers in Georgia are working to address the serious squatting problem that the city of Atlanta has been experiencing. Several state representatives introduced a bill Monday to reform laws regarding squatting, a practice that affects more than 1,200 homes in the city.

"We need to do something about this," said Republican Rep. Devan Seabaugh as he introduced HB 1017 along with Matt Reeves, James Burchett, Clint Crowe, Deborah Silcox and Bill Yearta.

The bill seeks to amend trespassing crimes within state law. The proposed addition expanded criminal trespassing to include people who enter upon "land or premises" without the consent of the "owner, rightful occupant, or authorized representative of the owner" for any period of time.

The amendment will make it a felony for any person to be inside a home, at any time and under any circumstances, without the consent of the homeowner. This will allow law enforcement to act and trespassers will be subject to fines and even imprisonment.

"We are dealing with criminals.... These are people who know exactly what they are doing, and they’re stealing other people's most valuable capital, which is their home. I've heard from a lot of people. This has caused them to file bankruptcy. They’re mentally harmed by it. It’s a tough situation and we have to do something. I don't know how it took us this long to get here...but no more free rides," added Rep. Seabaugh in remarks picked up by Fox.

The group of legislators clarified that in order to pass the law more quickly, it was sent to a non-jury magistrate court trial, which could speed up the process by several months.

"I think this is a quick fix to a problem so that if you are squatting at someone's home, we're going to get you out. We're going to move a 1-2 year process to hopefully less than 30 days and return this property to the rightful owners."