Helpless homeowner finds squatters broke into his home, changed locks as he was caring for his sick wife

It could take months for a Georgia homeowner to see justice if he waits for an eviction order to work its way through the court system.

And Paul Callins from DeKalb County is frustrated, to say the least.

After spending thousands of dollars refurbishing the property, Callins was away to care for his sick wife only to return and find squatters had broken in and changed the locks. The home near Atlanta, which was left to Callins by his late father who died in 2021, was vacant and had been listed as a rental property before the squatters saw an opportunity.

“Basically, these people came in Friday, broke into my house and had a U-Haul move all their stuff in. It’s frustrating. It’s very frustrating. I can’t even sleep,” Callins told WSB-TV.

“He spent thousands renovating the home by himself. He planned to rent the house to a government-subsidized tenant. He posted an ad online,” WSB’s Tom Regan reported. “He believes the squatters saw the ad, the address and took advantage of the vacant house. He believes two men and a woman are now living in his house illegally.”

“I guess they have done this before, because when I called the police, they said since they have a fake lease, that they can’t do anything. That it’s a civil matter,” Callins said.

Georgia law does not allow police to remove squatters from the premises as squatting is a civil issue in the Peach State. Callins explained that he needs to file an “Affidavit of Intruder” in court which will then need to be signed by a judge. After these steps, Callins would then be able to appeal to the county sheriff’s office to have the squatters removed.

“I have to go through the court system, and I understand it could take sixty to ninety days,” he told WSB.

According to the local news report, “While Channel 2 Action News was at the home, two cars were in the driveway but no one answered the door. Later, two men entered the home but did not any questions from Regan.”

According to the National Rental Home Council, squatters currently occupy about 1,200 homes across DeKalb County, Fox News reported.

The Georgia General Assembly is hoping to pass a new law, the Georgia Squatter Reform Act (HB 1017), that would make it a felony to use a fake lease and will allow police to arrest trespassing squatters.

“We have to do something about this,” Rep. Devan Seabaugh, a Republican co-sponsor of the bill, told Fox News Digital last month.

“We’re dealing with criminals. … These are people that know exactly what they’re 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,” he said.

The legislation is now headed to the Senate after it unanimously passed the State House last week.

“What we’ve done is create new code in the Georgia law that says, if you’re squatting in a home, and you do not have the consent or legal authority to be in it, you’ll be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor of a highly aggravated nature,” Seabaugh added. “You’ll be fined, and you may spend up to a year behind bars.”

 

Frieda Powers

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