What are Florida's Adverse Possession Laws?

by Diane Michael Koughan 05/03/2020

Image by bjessica092 from Pixabay

If someone uses your property for a set number of years and that person does not have your permission, he or she could end up owning your property. The doctrine of adverse possession allows a squatter to take possession of a property that he or she has been living on after 7 years by color of title, payment of taxes or by making improvements over 7 years. If you have a title from the tax assessor, the time is 4 years.

Requirements for a Valid Adverse Possession Claim

Florida requires you to meet four elements to make an adverse possession claim:

  • Hostility: The owner of the property must know that you are trespassing, you must occupy the land, regardless of whether you know it’s private property, or you rely on a deed that is not correct. If the person claiming to be the owner states that the deed is incorrect, you should have the deed checked by an attorney.

  • Possession: You can’t just go across the land once in a while. You might put a driveway that encroaches on the other person’s land or erect a fence a few feet over the border.

  • The possession must be “open and notorious.” You can’t hide the fact that you are using the other person’s land. The owner doesn’t necessarily have to see you, but you can’t hide your use from the owner.

  • The possession must be “exclusive and continuous.” You can’t share the possession with someone else, and you must constantly use the land, such as a driveway that you use frequently, or a fence. The use must also be significant — you have to make an improvement on the land, cultivate it or build on it.

If you use only part of the other person’s land, or a mistake in a deed only pertains to a part of the land, your claim should only include that part of the land used or described in the deed.

Winning an Adverse Possession Case

Because of the strict requirements of having a valid adverse possession case, these cases are very difficult to win. However, if the trespasser meets all the elements, he or she will get title of your property.

If you are the original owner and notice someone using your land, you should protect your interest by having that person remove his fence, driveway or other building, and notify that person that he or she is trespassing.

Because you will need documentation showing that you asked the trespasser to leave, it is best to present your objections verbally, and then via a certified letter. When you have trouble getting someone to stop using your property, you should contact a real estate lawyer regarding your situation.

About the Author

Diane Michael Koughan

Diane & Michael Koughan, your number one source for Burnt Store Marina Real Estate, Punta Gorda Real Estate, and surrounding towns.