DISCLAIMER: With regard to the article below, it is important to note that each adverse possession case is unique to the set of specific facts associated with each individual client. One should always seek the legal advice of an attorney and not make inferences from this article as written.
Adverse possession is a peculiar concept allowing an individual to acquire title to a property when they put the property to beneficial use for a statutorily prescribed period of time. Florida Statutes §95.18 maintains that when a person publically moves into another’s neglected property and improves such property, they can earn title to it after a period of time has passed.
What it means to hold title to a property
In real estate, a title is a legal document naming you the rightful owner of the property. As the owner of a property, you are allowed to make modifications to the property and transfer ownership to another party.
Real estate law becomes complicated because a person may partially or fully own a property. Limitations to your ownership can also occur, such as when you fail to pay property taxes or your claim lacks “color of title.”
Claiming with “color of title”
Florida Statutes §95.12 specifically requires a possessor to occupy the property for at least seven years. That occupation must be “under a color of title” or via payment of property taxes. Color of title exists when one appears to have acquired title to real estate, but there is a defect in the title that causes it to be ineffective. Thus, ownership is not established.
When claiming without color of title, a person has no reason to believe that they are the rightful owner of the property. This usually occurs when a trespasser who illegally entered the premises tries to claim title to the property.
If a person claims the property with color of title, they must meet certain requirements for the courts to recognize their claim to the property.
The five requirements of Florida’s adverse possession law
There are five key requirements in each adverse possession claim:
- Hostility – The possessor must either be aware that he is trespassing on another’s land or he must have made a reasonable mistake, such as relying on a defective deed.
- Actual possession – The possessor must be physically present on the land and treat the property as their own.
- Open and notorious possession – To satisfy this requirement, the possession of the property cannot be secretive.
- Exclusive and continuous possession – Here, the possessor may not share their possession with others and must be in possession of the property for the statutorily prescribed period of time.
- Improvement – The possessor must be improving, cultivating, or protecting the property claimed from a substantial enclosure on the land.
The law of adverse possession maintains that when a person publically moves into another’s neglected property and improves such property, they can earn title to it after a period of time has passed.
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An example of applying Florida’s adverse possession law
In Florida, a man currently living in a $2.5 million mansion is invoking ownership by “adverse possession.” Even after several attempts, the police are still reportedly unable to remove the man.
He continues to present adverse possession paperwork and related documents. He cites Florida’s adverse possession law that allows a person to acquire title to a property owned by another if they openly occupy the land and pay real property tax for at least seven years.
Bank of America, after a foreclosure, is currently the owner of the house involved in this case. The possessor posted a notice in the house’s front window naming him as a living beneficiary entitled to live in the house. There is nothing the police can do to get this possessor out of the house. Bank of America is required to follow the legal process and file an appropriate eviction action.
If you have questions regarding Florida’s adverse possession law, we can discuss your specific case during a free consultation. Every case is different, and you may have legal options that you have not yet considered.
We can determine how your individual circumstances may affect your right to the property in question, and we can explain how our real estate attorneys can help.
Work with a Florida real estate attorney from our firm
Clearly, there are several complexities involved with Florida’s adverse possession law. If you find yourself in the midst of such a scenario, you have the right to hire a real estate attorney to protect your interests.
The real estate lawyers at Bogin, Munns & Munns are here to help. We are ready to put our years of legal experience to work for you. Contact us today for a consultation on your case.
NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and you should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. You should consult with a duly licensed attorney regarding your Florida legal matter, as every situation is unique. Please know that merely reading this article, subscribing to this blog, or otherwise contacting Bogin, Munns & Munns does not establish an attorney-client relationship with our firm. Should you seek legal representation from Bogin, Munns & Munns, any such representation must first be agreed to by the firm and confirmed in a written agreement.