Arizona Governor Vetoes Bipartisan Anti-Squatting Bill

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs last week vetoed legislation that would have made it easier for property owners to remove squatters from their properties.

Senate Bill 1129 was passed in the state Senate in early April in a bipartisan 18-2 vote.

Under current state law, Arizona law enforcement has no authority to remove squatters. Homeowners instead must take civil action against trespassing occupants, a process that is time-consuming and expensive, and allows the squatters to remain in place while the complaint makes its way through the court.

The legislation, sponsored by Flagstaff Senator Wendy Rogers, is similar to a recent law enacted in Florida. It would have empowered law enforcement to immediately remove alleged squatters or arrest them on trespassing charges if they refused.

Like the Florida law, SB-1129 enabled property owners to submit an affidavit to law enforcement that attested that the squatters did not own the property, had no lease to occupy it, and were not paying rent. Police could then order the occupants to vacate the property. If the occupants refused, police would have the authority to arrest them for trespassing.

Some Democrat lawmakers opposed the measure, arguing that the law could be exploited by abusers to force their partners to vacate a property they share. Democrats also noted that SB-1129 had no mechanism in place to protect occupants who were wrongfully removed.

In her veto letter, Governor Hobbs said the legislation failed to “leverage existing legal mechanisms.” She said the bill did not “respect the due process rights of lawful tenants” and did nothing to “minimize unintended consequences,” like exploitation by domestic abusers.

Republican lawmakers objected to the veto, arguing that the bill was necessary to safeguard the rights of Arizona property owners, particularly so-called “snowbirds” whose Arizona homes stand vacant for several months each year.

Senator Rogers defended her legislation, saying lawmakers had an obligation to protect the property rights of Arizona residents.