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What does adverse possession mean for Florida property owners?

For some Miami residents, the idea of moving into an abandoned property and being able to legally claim it as their own is appealing. However, is it legal? Depending on the circumstances surrounding someone’s possession of an empty residence, law enforcement may be unable to do anything about removing them from the property. If you are an out-of-state owner of an empty home or residential complex, it could be a challenge to evict unwanted squatters from the place.

According to The Florida Legislature, squatters may have the right to legally take possession of an empty property if they have lived full-time in the residence for seven years, while improving the property and paying property taxes. This is known as adverse possession. Some may appreciate this right, especially neighbors who have had to deal with the eyesore of an empty home and premises that have fallen into disrepair. They might argue that when squatters begin fixing up the yard and making renovations to an abandoned home, it improves the property value of the entire neighborhood.

However, adverse possession may prove to be a problem if you are not in the state and someone starts living rent-free on your property. For example, you might own a rental home that nobody has lived in for several months – until a family moves in without your permission and claims adverse possession. You might be the landlord of an apartment complex that is uninhabited while you plan to make some necessary repairs, but someone else changes the locks and begins unlawfully renting out units to others.

Adverse possession laws in Florida are complex and may be difficult to enforce. This blog entry should serve as general information on the subject, but should not replace the advice of a lawyer.

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