What are Squatters Rights in Florida?
As an investment property owner, your goal is to make rental income and build equity. However, there are certain pitfalls, such as having squatters who don’t have any ownership of your property. However, they can successfully gain full ownership by making a valid adverse possession claim.
While squatting is against the law, it’s been upheld by some Florida courts. Thus, it’s important for property owners to understand squatter’s rights in Florida to protect their properties. The last thing you’d want is a squatter to lay claim to your house.
What is a Squatter in Florida?
Squatting is when someone discovers an abandoned or vacant property and moves in without telling the property owner.
This means the squatter is living on someone else’s property without lawful permission. Believe it or not, there are legal rights that squatters have in Florida.
Squatting vs. Trespassing in Florida
Squatting and trespassing aren’t the same. Trespassing is considered a criminal offense while squatting is a civil matter.
However, if the property owner or landlord establishes that the squatter is unwelcome, it can be treated as a criminal offense and, in a legal sense, deal with serious consequences.
Under Florida laws, here are things to know about squatters:
- A squatter may be charged with trespassing if they try to claim legal ownership through adverse possession. However, they’ll need to be paying property taxes or have a color of title.
- While there are squatter’s rights in Florida, they must fulfill the specific requirements of any adverse possession claim. If they don’t, they’ll be arrested as criminal trespassers under the Florida squatter law.
- If squatters present false legal documents or fraudulent papers, it’s illegal, and they can be arrested.
However, there are exceptions to the rule, such as:
- For squatters to even begin to claim adverse possession, the property must be abandoned, unoccupied, and unused.
- If there is an emergency, the squatter who’s gained access to the property without lawful permission may be exempt from trespassing.
- If the squatter beautifies the Florida property, such as cultivating or improving it, they can avoid prosecution as a criminal trespasser.
How Do Squatters Claim Adverse Possession in Florida?
Hostile doesn’t mean the squatter violently broke into your property. Instead, there are three possible definitions that hostile possession can fall under:
- Good Faith Mistake: This provision applied when the squatter made an honest mistake in occupying the property, like relying on an incorrect deed.
- Awareness of Trespassing: The squatter understands that their actions may be considered a criminal offense.
- Simple Occupation: This means they didn’t have any prior knowledge, specifically to who the property belongs.
In Florida, the squatter must live on the real property for at least 7 years continuously without interruption. They can’t leave the property vacant and return weeks or years later.
The squatter must be occupying and possessing the property exclusively. They can’t share the land with other tenants, owners, or strangers.
Open & Notorious
The Open and Notorious Possession means that the squatter can’t hide that they’re living there. Their presence on should be known to anyone, including the legal owners.
What is Color of Title?
In Florida, specific laws provide alternate additional adverse possession requirements. This means the squatter has irregular property ownership, including not having one or more legal documents, such as proper registration.
However, a squatter must claim adverse possession before claiming color of title.
How to Evict a Squatter in Florida?
There is an eviction process you must follow to get rid of squatters. With a proper eviction notice, you can kick them out as soon as possible. Here are the types of notices in Florida:
- 3-Day Notice: This notice provides the squatter three days to complete rent payments or leave. If the tenant refuses, an eviction lawsuit may be filed against them.
- 7- Day Unconditional Quit Notice: Unlike the other notice, the squatter can’t fix the violation. This typically applies to severe lease violations like causing excessive property damage.
How to Prevent Squatters from Invading Your Home
You can take many steps to prevent squatters from entering your property, which avoids the legal claim altogether.
Here are some tips to follow:
- You should always be paying taxes, especially property taxes.
- Block all entrances like windows and fence openings to prevent a squatter from invading your property.
- Inspect your property regularly, even if it’s vacant.
- Place no-trespassing signs on the premises.
- Call the sheriff to remove squatters if they refuse to leave.
- Offer to rent your property to the squatters.
- Send them written notices immediately before it becomes a larger problem.
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*Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not represent legal advice.