Adverse Possession in Florida
For you to lose your land, you would have to sell it or have the bank foreclose on it. Or so you think. The truth is that an uncommon area of law enables others to take over your land and eventually legally claim it as their own. This is known as adverse possession. If you are not careful and you do not keep a close eye on your property over the years, squatters on your land could seek legal title. If someone is already claiming that your land is theirs through adverse possession, call an experienced Florida real estate attorney today.
Florida’s Adverse Possession Law
For adverse possession to occur, there must be:
Actual use. The trespasser must exercise control over the property. This could mean they use it regularly, build property on it, and/or live on it.
The trespasser must be the only person using the property. There cannot be a group of trespassers, though there may be a couple.
The trespasser is living on or using the land contrary to the legal owner’s rights and without consent.
Open and notorious. The trespasser’s use of the land must be open and obvious to others. The trespasser cannot be secretly using the land.
Continuity. The trespasser must have exclusively and openly used the land without permission for at least 7 years. The use must have been continuous, not off and on and inconsistent.
Claim to title or taxes. The trespasser must have a claim on which they base their right to the title or they must have paid the property taxes on the land.
Proving Adverse Possession
If you are fighting to retain your land, it is not up to you to prove that adverse possession did not occur. Instead, it is up to the person who has been trespassing on your land to establish that they have fulfilled every element of adverse possession. It is the trespasser’s burden to prove that they should have legal title to the land.
What Adverse Possession Does Not Require
Adverse possession does not have to be intentional or the result of an honest mistake. Florida law does not concern itself with the trespasser’s intent. This means changes in legal title over land can occur when a trespasser intentionally uses or resides on another person’s land or when someone utilizes land thinking it is already theirs.
Adverse Possession Can be a Crime
If you have discovered another person is using or living on your land and claiming it is their own and has either defied your order to leave or has destroyed your property in any way, then they may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor crime. If the other person is armed with a gun or other dangerous weapon while trespassing on your land, then they may be charged with a third-degree felony.
Contact a Florida Real Estate Lawyer Today
When dealing with a trespasser, you should contact a real estate attorney right away. There are many avenues you can take to remedy the situation. You may choose to bring a quiet title action to proactively establish that you are the rightful legal owner of the land and to squash any potential adverse possession action. You may also need to contact the authorities regarding the trespasser to get them to leave.