Do squatters have rights in Florida?
While it may come as a surprise to some, squatters do have rights. Also known as Adverse Possession rights, a squatter can use them to make a legal claim to your Florida property. If successful, the squatter will have legal rights to your property.
As a Florida landlord, understanding squatters’ rights in Florida can help you keep your property safe.
The following is a basic overview of Squatters’ rights in the state of Florida.
A squatter is a person who chooses to occupy a property without lawful permission. In spite of this fact, squatting is commonplace in the U.S. and can be legal.
If a stranger is living in your house, they may have taken residence through trespassing or through squatting. There is a difference, however. A trespasser uses force to enter a property, while a squatter does not. Usually, squatters access a property through unlocked entrances, such as a broken window.
Being a crime, a trespasser can be arrested and charged in court. However, the same cannot be said of squatters. To remove a squatter in Florida, you must go through the formal eviction process.
Color of Title is a term that you’ll inevitably come across when researching information about squatters’ rights.
So, what exactly does it mean? Well, it simply means that ownership of a property isn’t regular. In other words, it means that the legal documents to a property are irregular.
Different states have different requirements in regards to Color of Title in Adverse Possession claims. In the state of Florida, Color of Title is one of two alternate requirements a squatter must fulfill in order to make an Adverse Possession claim.
The other requirement is the payment of property taxes. If the squatter lacks Color of Title, then they must have been paying property taxes.
A squatter can make a legal claim to your property after living there for a certain period of time. In the state of Florida, that period of time is 7 years. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 95.19).
The squatter’s stay must be continuous for the entire 7 years. This means that for their claim to be successful, they must not have left the property at any point.
Besides having lived on the property for 7 continuous years, a squatter must also be able to meet the following additional requirements:
1. Has been physically living on the property for 7 years.
In order to make a valid adverse possession claim, a squatter must prove actual possession of the property. This, a squatter can do, by showing their improvement or maintenance efforts.
2. Have been occupying the property exclusively for 7 years.
The squatter making the Adverse Possession claim must occupy or possess the property exclusively. Sharing it with someone else, such as a stranger, a tenant, or even the owner would invalidate their claim.
3. The squatters’ occupation must have been obvious to anyone.
The squatter seeking to own the property adversely must also not hide the fact that they are occupying the property. They must make their occupation obvious to anyone, including the owner investigating them.
4. Their claim to the property must be “hostile”.
In a legal sense, “hostile” doesn’t mean the squatter made forceful entry to your home. Instead, it takes on three definitions.
The first definition of the term “hostile” is “Simple Occupation.” The majority of states, including Florida, go by this definition. It defines “hostile” as a mere land occupation. The individual trespassing need not know who owns the land.
The second definition of “hostile” is “Awareness of Trespassing.” Here, the trespasser must know the land on which they are trespassing belongs to someone else. They ought to know they have no legal right to occupy it.
Lastly, “hostile” takes on the definition of “Good Faith Mistake.” This is a special definition that’s only active in a handful of states. Here, the trespasser is assumed to have occupied the property through an honest mistake. The trespasser may, for example, be relying on a fake title deed.
Of course, prevention is better than cure. The following are some of the things you can do to help you in this regard:
No specific laws exist in regards to how squatters should be removed from a property. So, to get rid of squatters from your property, you’ll need to go through the formal eviction process.
Serve the squatter an eviction notice as soon as you realize their existence. There are three types of eviction notices in Florida:
Do you still need more help? Or do you think we missed something out? If so, Innovative Property Solutions can help. Get in touch with us!