MIAMI – Property owners are complaining about the advantages that squatters, who don’t have a valid lease or pay rent, seem to be enjoying in Miami-Dade County.
Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Jose “Pepe” Diaz said it’s a problem that needs to be handled immediately. Miami Commissioner Raquel Regalado agrees.
“This is about property rights,” Regalado said. “Every Friday, we bring this up, and every Friday we are told that ‘There are no squatters!’ that ‘Squatters are being removed!’ and then ... we hear another story. We get another e-mail, another constituent that says that isn’t the case.”
The property owners in Miami-Dade County are pointing to Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who critics say continues to prohibit police from executing judges’ orders through her eviction moratorium.
“We are not preventing the removal of squatters. Squatters are removed by police if they have no legal right to be present, so it’s not a matter for the courts,” Levine Cava said. “It’s really a matter for the police.”
In many cases, police officers show up after a property owner reports a squatter and tell the homeowner it’s a civil matter that needs to be taken to court.
Kevin Harris did just that. He said he spent thousands to get the judge’s order back in December, and despite this, officers said they can’t remove Anthony Stewart, a squatter living in his Miami Beach apartment. Stewart doesn’t have a lease and he has never paid rent.
Attorney Derek Griffith said the mayor is taking an approach that places a blanket moratorium on the judge’s orders to remove squatters from his clients’ properties. Griffith is asking Levine Cava to let the judges and police officers do their jobs.
“The mayor should not be sitting in the ultimate appellate capacity — essentially overruling,” Griffith said.
Levine Cava released a statement saying her top priority is to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic, and that’s why there is a $60 million emergency rental assistance program to provide critical relief to landlords and tenants.
“Beginning with landlords who have writs of possession, while the federal evictions moratorium continues,” she said in a statement. “Criminal squatters’ cases are not covered under the evictions moratorium.”
Levine Cava also said the Miami-Dade Police Department is actively investigating squatter cases.