Squatters Rights Florida & Adverse Possession Laws

A squatter is someone who unlawfully takes up residence on a property. In many states, such as Florida, squatters find a place with the goal of claiming ownership down the line. However, it’s not as cut and dry as that, and squatters have a number of hurdles to clear before they can assume ownership.

Let’s dive into the ins and outs of Florida squatters rights.

Key Takeaways

  • Florida squatters have rights, as do landlords and property owners.
  • Recent Florida law HB 621 makes it much easier for property owners in Florida to remove squatters.
  • Squatters can only claim ownership of a property in Florida if they have continuously lived there for seven years, among other criteria.
  • Understanding squatter rights for landlords and tenants in Florida is vital to protecting your home and ensuring you go through the proper legal channels to remove the squatters. Otherwise, you risk giving up property ownership if the squatter claims adverse possession.
  • If you need help managing squatter situations, TurboTenant is here for you. As one of the best property management software solutions on the market, we screen tenants for you, providing more information about their financial, criminal, and eviction history. We also include a tenant background check as part of the screening. The result is peace of mind, knowing that you’ve found a tenant who can take care of your property and pay rent on time while preventing squatters from identifying your property as a place to live.

Squatters Rights vs Adverse Possession in Florida

To understand what you can do as a landlord if you have someone living on your property without your permission, the first thing to know is that, like landlords, squatters have rights. Under certain conditions, squatting can be legally permissible in Florida.

Note that not everyone who unlawfully moves onto a property has bad intentions. For example, an error on the deed could lead the squatter to genuinely believe they own it (e.g., a typo).

Ultimately, someone could move onto a property for virtually any reason. Although you have the opportunity to evict people unlawfully living on your property, squatters can claim adverse possession.

What is adverse possession? Essentially, this is a way for a squatter to become the legal property owner, provided certain conditions are met, such as living at the property for at least seven years and paying property taxes, among other conditions (more on this later).

Florida Laws on Squatters

As mentioned above, Florida state law permits squatters under certain conditions. If you have a squatter situation, it is important to take action immediately to avoid any adverse possession claims.

Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed a Florida squatter bill, which provides greater protection for property owners by enabling the swift removal of a squatter and enacting “harsh penalties” for those caught squatting, with penalties ranging from a first-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.

The result is a streamlined Florida eviction process where sheriffs immediately remove a squatter rather than property owners being forced into a lengthy judicial process.

How Squatters Can Legally Claim Property in Florida

Squatters must live at the property for at least seven years to claim property rights in Florida; then, they can file an adverse possession claim. To qualify, a squatter must have a color of title or a history of paying property taxes at the location.

Five other conditions must exist, which include:

  • Actual Possession: A squatter must have taken up physical residence at the property.
  • Exclusive and Continuous: Florida requires a squatter to live at a residence for seven years without leaving or sharing the property to claim ownership.
  • Open and Notorious: The squatter should not attempt to hide that they are living there. If they appear to hide their presence, it would not be considered “open and notorious”; thus, they would not qualify to make an adverse possession claim.
  • Hostility: Even though squatter situations can sometimes become hairy, that’s not quite the “hostility” you have to claim here. Showing hostility in an adverse possession claim indicates that the squatter knows they are unlawfully staying at the property or that miscommunication led them to think the property belonged to them (e.g., property line issues, typos on legal documents, etc.).
  • Improvement: The squatter must make apparent efforts to treat the property as if it were their own, such as taking care of the yard, painting the home, and hauling garbage away.

Landlord Rights and Responsibilities

  • As a landlord, you have the right to evict a squatter. There must be no lease agreement in place, or the person living at your property would qualify as a tenant, not a squatter, in which case the process is trickier to navigate.
  • You are responsible for informing the squatter that they are not legally permitted to be on the property to start the eviction process.
  • You can also take pictures of the property, keeping tabs on it to provide evidence against an adverse possession claim. For example, if you notice the yard has not been taken care of for months, and mail is piling up on the porch, that suggests someone may not be at the residence. Thus, the squatter isn’t living at the location continuously, and adverse possession would not apply.

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

  • You can legally live at a property if a rental agreement or deed is in place with the property’s legal owner. If you, as a renter, notice squatters in your rental, you must inform your landlord immediately so they can take action.
  • An essential requirement of adverse possession claims is that a squatter must be living at a place exclusively and continuously. That means if you have a rental agreement in place, and a squatter is living there, they are not living there exclusively. That will prevent them from gaining adverse possession, and the landlord will have a better chance of getting the authorities involved.

How to Evict Squatters in Florida

Taking the proper legal steps is vital to remove squatters from a property. Below is an excerpt from HB 621.

Under HB 621, a property owner can request law enforcement to immediately remove a squatter from their property if the following conditions are met:

  • The individual has unlawfully entered and remains on the property;
  • The individual has been directed to leave the property by the owner but has not done so, and
  • The individual is not a current or former tenant in a legal dispute.

Legal Help for Landlords in Florida

If you need legal help as a landlord in Florida, TurboTenant has compiled a list of resources to help you during this time. Check out our list of Florida landlord-tenant law resources and services at the bottom of the page.

To find the best legal advisor in Florida, contact the Florida Bar statewide service at 800-342-8011. For a managed eviction service, contact our trusted partner, EZ Evict USA, who will handle the process on your behalf.

Disclaimer: TurboTenant does not provide legal advice. We prepared this material for informational purposes only. All users should check applicable local, state, and federal laws and consult legal counsel should questions arise.

Preventing Squatter Situations

Below are some practical tips on how to avoid squatters:

  • Keep your home looking nice. If you’re on top of general maintenance (landscaping, gutters, roofing, fencing, etc.), your home will appear occupied. That is a deterrence for squatters who seek an easy path to ownership — not the conflict that comes with taking over a space with people living in it.
  • Put up a no-trespassing sign. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that to keep squatters at bay. No Trespassing signs are hard to argue with, as it’s clear that the squatters are not legally permitted to visit or reside at the premises.
  • Install an alarm system. Kick things up a notch with a self-monitored or professional security system. Even if a squatter checks out your property, there’s a good chance they’ll depart as soon as they realize cameras are watching their every move.
  • Work with TurboTenant. TurboTenant is focused on bringing quality tenants into your property quickly. That means there’s less time for the property to sit and attract the attention of squatters. At TurboTenant, we can assist in preventing squatter situations in Florida by providing landlords with the means to self-manage rentals. We provide detailed tenant screening to ensure you find the right match for your property and convenient tenant check-ins so that if anything is awry, you can end it.

Conclusion

Now that you understand more about Florida squatters rights, let’s recap them quickly. The most important thing to know about Florida squatter law is that squatting is not trespassing and is not a crime in Florida.

While squatters can claim adverse possession in some instances to gain ownership, many qualifications must be met. The bottom line is this: if you are a landlord, ensure you know squatters rights in Florida to protect yourself and your property.

Florida Squatter Rights FAQs

Can you evict a squatter in Florida?

While you cannot personally remove a squatter, you can evict them in Florida.

Can you turn off utilities on a squatter in Florida?

Yes, you can turn off utilities if they’re not footing the bill. However, it is best to follow the eviction process to remove squatters from a property rather than forcing them out by turning off the water and electricity – especially if they’re paying for utilities. That can land you in legal trouble.

Can you go to jail for squatting in Florida?

Squatting is not inherently illegal in Florida, though jail time could result depending on the actions a squatter takes in violation of HB 621.

What is the HB 621 law in Florida?

HB 621 is a Florida anti-squatter law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on March 27, 2024. This law is designed to end squatting in Florida and to keep property owners in the driver’s seat.

HB 621 features criteria that must be present for the removal to take place. For instance, the property owner must show that the squatter illegally lives at the residence and has not left despite being asked to vacate the premises. The squatter must also not be an existing or past tenant.

HB 621 is a big step forward for property owner rights, and it doesn’t go easy on squatters. It’s a first-degree misdemeanor to create a false document that states you own a property and a first-degree felony for trying to sell a property you don’t own.

Can a squatter claim a house in Florida?

Yes, a squatter can claim a house in Florida under certain conditions, and it falls under adverse possession.

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