What are Squatter’s Rights in Florida?
Just like every other person in the country, squatters have rights. Squatters’ rights are a form of Adverse Possession. Florida squatter law says that if someone occupies your property for a certain period of time, they may be able to own it.
So, as a homeowner or real estate investor in Florida, it’s paramount that you familiarize yourself with Florida Squatters’ rights in order to prevent this from happening.
Florida Adverse Possession Laws
To file an adverse possession claim in Florida, a squatter must meet certain requirements. In Florida, for example, the minimum period of occupation is 7 years. What’s more, this entire period must be uninterrupted. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 95.19).
A squatter must also occupy your property in a specific way for them to qualify for squatters’ rights.
• They must occupy the property exclusively. In other words, the squatter must not be sharing the property with anyone else. If they do, their adverse possession claim would be void.
• They must be physically living on the property. A squatter can prove this through their improvement efforts. Examples of improvement efforts include fencing off the property, landscaping and gardening.
• Their occupation must be obvious to anyone. The squatter must not try to conceal their occupation of the property; even an observant owner should be able to see that there is someone living there.
• The occupation must be hostile. From a legal perspective, ‘hostile’ doesn’t mean violent. Instead, it takes on different definitions. One such definition that most states go by is ‘Simple Occupation.” It defines ‘hostile’ as mere occupation of land. It makes the assumption that the squatter doesn’t know who the property belongs to.
While this may seem like a long period of time for a squatter to live in a property without the homeowner taking action, it has happened before. Besides, even if you have a squatter who doesn't stay the whole seven years, it's still a huge nuisance!
1. Color of Title
You're bound to come across this term when researching about squatting in Florida. Having 'color of title' means the squatter came in possession of the property with apparent title, while not actually having title to the property.
This means that the person claiming adverse possession doesn't actually have title to the property, because of some kind of defect with one or more documents.
2. Property Taxes
If the Florida squatter doesn't have color of title, they must pay taxes on the property for the 7 years they've occupied it. This is one of the additional requirements of filing for adverse possession in Florida.
How Can You Prevent Squatters in Florida?
As a Florida homeowner, there are certain measures that you can take in order to prevent squatters from occupying your property. The following are some of them.
Keep your property secured, especially if it’s not occupied. It’s no secret that vacant properties are an obvious target for theft, trespassing, and vandalism. So, to prevent a host of problems, take measures to protect it. You can do that by doing things like installing security cameras and blocking entryways.
Insure your vacant property. A typical homeowner's insurance policy won’t cover fire, vandalism, or other types of claims on a vacant property. A good vacant policy will usually cover risks like vandalism and mischief. The amount of time required for a home to be deemed vacant usually depends on the individual insurance company.
Give the impression that the property is occupied. You can do this by, for instance, installing automatic lights, hiring regular landscapers, and having curtains or blinds drawn.
Here are some other things you can do to keep away squatters in Florida:
- Inspect the property from time to time.
- Have a neighbor keep an eye on it.
- Hire a professional property management company to rent out your vacant property to a reliable tenant.
- Contact the police immediately if you notice someone living on your property.
How to Remove a Squatter in Florida?
Unlike some other states, Florida lacks any special laws for removing a squatter from a property. This means that the only available option you have is to follow the state’s normal eviction process.
In the first step, you’ll need to serve the squatter an eviction notice. Florida has different eviction notices, and you’ll need to use the most appropriate one for the process to be effective.
• 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. This is specific for issues to do with nonpayment of rent. In this notice, make sure to include a list of due rent and fees. The squatter will have a maximum of 3 days to either pay all the overdue rent or move out. If they don’t, you can move to the next step and file an eviction lawsuit in court.
• 7-Day Notice to Cure. This works in the case that a tenant violates the terms of the lease agreement. For example, causing negligent property damage. The notices gives them 7 days to either correct the violation or move out. Of course, in the absence of a lease agreement, this notice type doesn't really apply.
• 7-Day Unconditional Quit Notice. This type of notice doesn’t give a tenant any time to fix a violation. It’s mainly applicable in situations where a tenant has repeatedly violated the agreement or created unreasonable disturbances.
You can use the 7-Day notice on a squatter, but chances are, you'd rather get them out in a shorter amount of time.
Therefore, the 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit may be the most suitable when trying to remove a squatter. This notice will give them a maximum of 3 days to either pay all due rent or move out. If they don’t do either, the next step would be to move to court and file an eviction suit.
Please note that you can’t take any self-help eviction actions against a squatter. You must evict them just like an actual tenant; the only person who can carry out an eviction is a sheriff or a constable as ordered by the court.
Squatters are a huge nuisance for property owners in Florida. But don’t despair! Gifford Property Management can help you remove unwanted tenants, as well as find a tenant who will care for your property and pay rent consistently. Get in touch now to learn more!