Squatters’ rights are a form of adverse possession in Florida. They allow a squatter to acquire full legal rights to a property without consent from the rightful owner. Squatters’ rights are utilized to dissuade the disuse of land.
However, squatters making an adverse possession claim must meet a number of requirements. For example, in Florida, one must occupy the property for 7 years continuously, and this period must have not been interrupted at any one point.
As a Florida property owner, understanding what rights squatters have and landlord-tenants laws is key. That’s because it can help you know how to address the issue should it happen.
Below is a basic overview of the Florida Squatters rights.
Who is Considered a Squatter?
Who exactly is a squatter? A squatter is considered to be someone that occupies a property without the knowledge of the property owner. As such, they neither pay rent or property taxes.
If a squatter stays on your property long enough, they may claim it legally through adverse possession rights. Usually, a squatter occupies a foreclosed or abandoned building, or a piece of land.
Is Squatting and Trespassing the Same Thing?
Not necessarily. Trespassing is usually considered a criminal offense.
Squatting, on the other hand, is often seen as a civil matter and is only seen as trespassing if the property owner states that the squatters are no longer welcome.
Is a Holdover Tenant a Squatter or a Trespasser?
A holdover tenant is one who chooses to continue staying at their rented units even after their lease has expired. As a landlord, you’ll have two options before you.
One option is to continue renting to the tenant. In this case, the tenant will continue renting your property under the existing terms and rate. However, the tenant will be living ‘at your will’. In other words, you may be able to evict them even without notice at any time.
The second option is asking the tenant to leave. If they don’t leave, you can go to court and file for unlawful detainer.
Holdover tenants who’ve been asked to move lose the right to make an adverse possession claim. Consequently, the tenant becomes a criminal trespasser.
What Requirements Must a Squatter Meet to Make a Legal Claim on Your Property?
Make a ‘Hostile’ Claim
In a legal sense, the term hostile takes on three definitions.
The first definition is ‘Simple Occupation’. It defines ‘hostile’ as a mere occupation of a property by a trespasser. The majority of states in the country go with this definition.
Hostile can also be defined as ‘Awareness of Trespassing’. Unlike the first definition, this definition requires the trespasser to know that their actions amount to trespassing. Furthermore, the trespasser must be aware that they possess zero legal rights to occupy the property.
The final definition of hostile is ‘Good Faith Mistake’. Only a handful of states go by this definition. Here, the assumption is that the trespasser has made an honest mistake when occupying the property. They may have been referencing an incorrect or invalid deed, or have other reasons to believe the property was legally theirs.
Trespasser Must be Physically Present
To make an adverse possession claim, the squatter must actually possess the property. In addition, they must treat the property just like the actual owner would. An example of this would be by maintaining or improving the property.
The Occupation Must be Obvious to Anyone
Even the property owner investigating the property should be able to tell that there is a squatter in their home. If the squatter is attempting to hide that they are living there, that would invalidate their adverse possession claim.
The Squatter Must Not Occupy the Property with Someone Else
The trespasser must be the only one occupying or possessing the land. This means that they can’t share the property with other people, including the owner or other tenants.
Squatters Must Reside on a Property for 7 Years Minimum
In order for a squatter to make a claim for possession of the property they must live on the premises for a minimum of 7 years. This entire period of time must also be uninterrupted.
Do Squatters Have to Pay Property Taxes in Florida?
Yes. Paying property taxes is one of the alternative additional requirements to claim adverse possession.
Do Squatters in Florida Require Color of Title?
Color of Title is one of two alternate additional requirements for squatters seeking to make an adverse possession claim.
So, if the squatter hasn’t been paying property taxes, then they would need Color of Title to claim adverse possession.
How do You Stop Squatters from Entering Your Property?
There are several steps you can take to protect your property from both squatters and trespassers. Some of these steps include:
- Making sure you lock your property whenever it’s vacant
- Putting lights on a timer to make it look occupied to passers by
- Inspecting the property on a regular basis
- Hiring a competent and trusted property management company
Dealing with a squatter problem can be a stressful, costly and lengthy process. Furthermore, staying up-to-date on the changing laws can also take up a lot of your time. Luckily for you, hiring an experienced property management company can help alleviate that risk and stress!
The Listing Real Estate Management can help ensure your Florida property is taken care of in your absence. In addition, we can help you find a responsible tenant to rent to. Get in touch with us today!
Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for professional legal advice. If you would like more information, seek the advice of an attorney or a professional property management company