Arizona Governor Blocks Legislation Tackling Squatter Issue

Squatters’ rights have been a hot-button topic around the country, but one Democratic governor has squashed a bill designed to protect the rights of property owners.

Katie Hobbs Says No to Anti-Squatter Bill

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Katie Hobbs, the current governor and former Secretary of State of Arizona, has drawn ire from property owners in her state after declining to pass an anti-squatters bill that received support from both sides of the aisle.

The Bill’s Purpose

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SB 1129 intended to provide property owners with the legal ammunition they needed to remove squatters immediately rather than having to wait on a drawn-out process within the courts.

Hobbs’ Concerns

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However, Governor Hobbs shut down SB 1129 due to issues with its verbiage. Hobbs said that the bill “fails to leverage existing legal mechanisms, respect the due process rights of lawful tenants, and minimize unintended consequences such as for victims of domestic violence.”

The State of Squatters’ Rights

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Nationwide, squatters’ rights vary, with some states coming down harder on the unlawful practice than others. Several high-profile stories have garnered global attention as homeowners fight to remove intruders from their homes but face legal challenges in doing so.

Republicans Criticize Hobbs’ Decision

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Hobbs’ decision has garnered attention from Republican colleagues in other states. Ron DeSantis, Florida governor and former presidential hopeful, spoke out about the decision in a scathing criticism.

“What Kind of Message Does That Send?”

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“The governor of Arizona just vetoed a bill we signed here in Florida so these squatters could be evicted,” he said. “What kind of message does that send? You’re saying you can squat in someone’s house and then they basically have to go through a six-month process.”

Sponsor Explains Bill’s Design

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While Hobbs cited problems with the bill’s wording, the bill’s sponsor suggested that there was a misunderstanding. Wendy Rogers, an Arizona state senator, clarified that there were some exemptions included in the bill designed to protect people in vulnerable situations.

Testimonies of Personal Experience

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The bill’s veto came after another Arizona state senator detailed her own personal experience with a squatter. A former real estate agent, Justine Wadsack claimed that she ran into a squatter while showing a home once and felt that she was in danger.

“It Was a Terrifying Threat”

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“It was a terrifying threat to my safety, the safety of my clients, as well as to the homeowners,” she said. “When I called the police, I was told there was not much they could do. It’s a shame Governor Katie Hobbs has vetoed yet another piece of bipartisan legislation.”

Record-Breaking Vetoes

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Hobbs has broken records with her veto history, squashing a whopping 143 bills last year alone. In this same session, she also vetoed an anti-transgender bill that would have required transgender students to shower in facilities that align with their sex assigned at birth.

Other Bills Hobbs Shut Down

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She also vetoed bills that dealt with voter restrictions, punishments for repeat criminals who steal from stores, and allowing police who moonlight in traffic control to put lights on their personal vehicles. 

How It Would Have Worked

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Under the squatter bill, homeowners would present a signed affidavit confirming that the squatter has no legal right to be in the home and never has. 

The Role of Police

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Then, once the police have confirmed the homeowner’s identity, they would legally be allowed to forcibly remove the squatter from the home.

Risk of Domestic Violence and Abuse

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Hobbs and other critics worry that domestic violence situations are overlooked in bills like these and could have serious unintended consequences for victims. 

Republicans Focus on Property Rights

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But the Republicans in support of the bill said the priority was the safety of the homeowner and their property. Wendy Rogers reiterated her position on squatters.

“We Must Protect Our Property Owners and Property Rights”

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“We must have safety, we must protect our residents, we must protect property owners and property rights,” she said. 

Seasonal Residents Worry About Their Homes

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Among those most concerned are the Arizona residents who leave their homes vacant for the hot summers and move to cooler climates. Those residents say they worry about their homes being commandeered in their absence.

Protecting Your Property

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Experts suggest staying vigilant, investing in security systems and cameras, and asking a friend or neighbor to regularly check on the property.

Removing Squatters

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Currently, going through the eviction process to remove a squatter is extremely expensive and time-consuming. Plus, there is no way to recover lost rent for the time the home was legally considered vacant.

The Role of Legislation

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Anti-squatters bills aim to make that removal process a little easier for homeowners as well as deter criminals from taking up residence in your home in the first place. 

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