What is adverse possession?
Adverse possession is legally defined as the process by which an individual is able to acquire the title to real property through the means of possession for a sanctioned period of time, and under specific circumstances. Adverse possession can take place either with color of title (showing some evidence in the form of a recorded, legal document that the occupant does in fact own the property) or without color of title.
Adverse possession in Florida
As laid out in existing Florida statutes, an individual cannot acquire the title to a real property (without having a deed or other legally recorded document) unless he or she shows open, continuous and hostile possession of the property, pays all taxes on the property for a period of seven years, files a return for land taxes with the county property appraiser, cultivates the property or protects it through the use of an enclosure, and keeps the property fully maintained while occupying the land itself. A new bill was passed by the Florida Legislature on July 1st, 2013, it changes how adverse possession (without the color of title) works by adding a number of requirements related to the process.
According to the new process any person who wishes to claim a property by adverse possession must:
- Wait for all taxes and liens on the property to accrue over a two year period,
- Have continued control of the property during the required time frame,
- Maintain the property/land itself,
- Take measures to maintain and improve the exterior of any structures located on the property, without entering the structures themselves,
- Pay all outstanding mortgages and liens,
- Only apply for adverse possession of one property at a time,
- Stay out of all structures located on the property until the adverse possession period has ended and a deed has been issued to the possessor, and
- Provide a notarized document, from the owner of record, which gives his or her consent to the adverse possession.
It is important to understand that abuse of the existing statutes could lead to criminal charges of trespassing, theft, burglary and other associated crimes. By contacting Title Partners of South Florida, the company may be able to assist you in preparing a preliminary title report, thoroughly investigating the home’s history of ownership and helping you with other related matters which could protect you and the future of your investment.
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Have more questions about title insurance or adverse possession? Contact us online today or give us a call at 954-566-6000. Our Title Q&A Page is also a great resource for information on real estate closings and title insurance!