What Does Claiming Property by Adverse Possession Mean in Florida?
Adverse Possession is a Real Legal Concept
While many people wonder whether reports about people gaining ownership rights to land under “squatter’s rights” are true, adverse possession is an actual legal doctrine under which a person can acquire valid title to real property owned by someone else. Some of the most common types of adverse possession cases involve encroachments on properties that border one another, such as a fence or garage that goes over the boundary line. However, there are more extreme situations in which a trespasser or squatter can gain title to a piece of property under this same legal theory.
How Is Adverse Possession Established in Florida?
There are several requirements that must be met to establish adverse possession in Florida, including:
- The individual attempting to gain ownership of the land through adverse possession must openly and visibly occupy the land (i.e., the individual cannot hide the fact that he or she is occupying the land).
- The individual must occupy the land in a manner that conflicts with the true owner’s possession of the land and without the owner’s permission.
- The individual must also exercise actual control over the property and the possession must be exclusive to the trespasser.
- The possession must be continuous for a period of at least seven years.
It is important to note that the Florida statutes establish two different types of adverse possession: (1) Adverse possession under “color of law” – the person’s purported claim to ownership is based upon a written document filed with the county’s public records. (Fl. Stat. § 95.16); and (2) Adverse possession without the color of law – no recorded document (Fl. Stat. § 95.18).
While the recorded document does not have to be legally valid, a person claiming adverse possession under the color of law must demonstrate that he or she honestly believed that the written instrument conveyed ownership of the land. In situations involving adverse possession without the color of law, the person asserting the claim must meet several additional statutory requirements, including paying all outstanding taxes on the land, as well as installments of all special improvement liens that have been levied against the land by the city, county or state.
An Experienced Adverse Possession Attorney Can Help
Whether you are claiming ownership of property under the doctrine of adverse possession or are defending against an adverse possession action, it is critical to seek advice from a real estate attorney who is very familiar with these types of cases. The laws addressing real estate rights and property ownership are complex, especially when they involve claims of adverse possession. A knowledgeable attorney can make sure that you are taking the appropriate steps to protect your legal rights and interests in these highly complicated matters.
At McDonald Fleming Moorhead, our Pensacola commercial real estate attorneys have substantial experience handling virtually all types of real estate issues, including matters involving Florida’s adverse possession laws. We recognize that these types of cases can be particularly troublesome for property owners and are committed to doing everything we can to secure fair and favorable outcomes for our clients.