Squatters Rights in Florida

By PropertyClub Team
May 10th 2024
Squatters' rights in Florida refer to the legal protections a person gains when they occupy a vacant Florida property without owning it. This process, called adverse possession, allows squatters to claim ownership of a property after meeting specific conditions.

In this article, we explore the differences between squatting and trespassing in Florida, the requirements to claim adverse possession, and the steps property owners can take to remove squatters legally. By understanding the criteria and the process, both squatters and property owners can navigate these unique property laws in Florida with greater clarity.

hash-markTable of Contents

What Are Squatter's Right in Florida?
Squatting vs. Trespassing in Florida
How Do Squatters Claim Adverse Possession in Florida?
Do Squatters Need To Pay Property Taxes in Florida?
How To Evict A Squatter in Florida
Florida Squatters Rights Bottom Line

hash-markWhat Are Squatter's Right in Florida?

In Florida, squatter's rights are the legal protections and rights a squatter gains when occupying a property or piece of land that doesn't rightfully belong to them. Squatter's rights are also sometimes known as adverse possession, which is the legal term that refers to the process by which a squatter can become the legal owner of the property they have occuppied. 

hash-markSquatting vs. Trespassing in Florida

Trespassing and squatting both involve illegally using land without the owner's permission, but they differ in terms of time and intent. Trespassers are usually temporary, staying for only a short period and not treating the property as their home. In contrast, squatters live on a vacant property for a long, uninterrupted period. They act like it's their own home and, after enough time, may try to claim it through adverse possession. Remember: all squatters are trespassers, but not all trespassers are squatters.

hash-markHow Do Squatters Claim Adverse Possession in Florida?

  1. Hostile Possession
  2. Actual Possession
  3. Continuous Possession
  4. Exclusive Possession
  5. Open & Notorious

Each state has different requirements that squatters must follow to claim adverse possession. In the state of Florida, a squatter must meet the following five pieces of criteria before applying for legal rights to a vacant property: 

1. Hostile Possession

Hostile possession indicates that a squatter is occupying a property under one of the following assumptions:

  • They had no prior knowledge of a pre-existing property owner
  • They understand that their actions can be considered a criminal offense
  • They operated under “good faith,” a situation where the property has a faulty deed or clouded title.

2. Actual Possession

A squatter must both live in the property and treat it as their own. Performing certain functional maintenance, paying utilities, or renovating the property are all examples of how a squatter can treat a vacant property as their own. However, squatters are not tenants. They do not pay rent and do not have any binding legal contract with the original property owner. Additionally, holdover tenants are not considered squatters in the state of Florida.

3. Continuous Possession

To file for possession, a squatter must possess a property for an uninterrupted period of time. In other words, a squatter cannot leave the vacant property for a consecutive series of weeks, months, or years without losing their ability to claim it as their home. The length of time a squatter must continuously occupy a property in Florida to claim squatter’s rights is seven years. 

4. Exclusive Possession

Only a single squatter can occupy a given vacant property for an uninterrupted period of time. In other words, a squatter cannot share its possession with the owner or another squatter. Moreover, multiple squatters cannot apply for possession of the same property.

5. Open & Notorious

The squatter cannot hide the fact that they are occupying the property; their residence must be both prominent and highly visible. This way, the original property owner cannot claim they didn’t know anyone was living in their vacant property.

hash-markDo Squatters Need To Pay Property Taxes in Florida?

Yes, if a squatter wants to claim adverse possession, they need to pay property taxes. More specifically, if the title is not clouded, Florida laws would require a squatter to pay full property taxes on the vacant property for seven years. But, even if there is a clouded title, paying property taxes is advisable because it is another excellent way to prove actual possession of the vacant space. 

A squatter meeting all of these criteria can legally file for adverse possession in Florida. By doing this, they are able to breathe new life into what is often decades worth of desolate, wasted properties. 

hash-markHow To Evict A Squatter in Florida

The only way to remove a squatter in Florida is to file an “unlawful detainer” lawsuit. This is a type of eviction lawsuit used solely to determine the right to possession of real property; no other legal grievances with the squatter may be tried in this case. The process is similar to any Florida eviction. Before they can file the lawsuit, the property owner must notify the squatter of their intent with an eviction notice. Remember, in a squatter situation, time is of the essence. Therefore, acting quickly to prevent the squatter from claiming uncontested rights to the vacant space is essential. 

hash-markFlorida Squatters Rights Bottom Line

In Florida, squatter's rights, also called adverse possession, enable a squatter to claim ownership of a property after living there openly and continuously for seven years. Throughout this article, we have detailed the key differences between squatting and trespassing, and outlined the five requirements needed to claim adverse possession. These include hostile, actual, continuous, and exclusive possession, along with being open and notorious about occupying the property.

We also explained that paying property taxes is crucial for squatters seeking legal ownership of a vacant space. To address a squatter situation, property owners must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit after providing an eviction notice. Taking swift action is vital to prevent squatters from gaining legal rights to a property. While Florida's adverse possession laws are strict, they can help bring new life to abandoned properties when used properly.

Wondering what squatter rights look like in other states? Check out our article on squatter rights in New York.