If you own rental property, just the thought of dealing with squatters is enough to give you nightmares. No one wants to think about a total stranger taking legal possession of their property! In this post, we discuss the basics of Florida’s laws related to squatter’s rights and how landlords can protect themselves and their property from claims.
What is a Squatter?
A squatter is a person who lives in a building or on land without lawful permission. Squatters do not own the property and do not pay to be there.
Are Squatters Criminals?
Not necessarily. If the property owner never files trespassing charges or an unlawful detainer lawsuit to have the squatter removed, then the squatter is not considered a criminal. Squatting by itself is not a criminal offense in Florida, but rather a civil matter.
Can a Squatter Really Take Legal Possession of My Property?
Yes, if the squatter meets certain conditions, they can make a legal claim on a property that you own. In Florida, these conditions are:
- The squatter must have continuously occupied the property for at least seven years
- The squatter must occupy the property based on a good faith mistake, can know that someone else owns the property, or be unaware that their actions amount to criminal trespass
- The squatter must take actual possession of the property by maintaining and/or beautifying it
- The squatter must not be sharing the property with other squatters
- It must be obvious to outsiders that the property is possessed by the squatter
- The squatter must show proof that they have paid the property’s taxes for the entire time they have occupied it
What Can I Do to Stop Squatters From Claiming My Property?
To stop squatters from claiming your Florida property, it is essential that you keep a frequent eye on all property you own and deal with trespassers expeditiously. Filing the proper criminal and civil charges when someone unlawfully enters and occupies your property is the only way to prevent squatters from having an adverse possession claim.
Don’t Deal with Squatters Alone!
If you own Florida rental property but don’t live in the area, monitoring your property regularly can be challenging. That’s where a reputable property management agency, like Douglas Realty Property Management, can become a valued partner in your business. Our property management experts will make sure your property is frequently checked and clear of any unwanted guests. Better yet, we’ll make sure your property is occupied by paying renters, so there’s no room for squatters to move in! Call us at (239) 542-6906 or contact us online to find out more about our property management services today!