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What is 'adverse possession?'

The term "adverse possession" refers to the right of a person to be granted title to a piece of property after occupying and cultivating it for a specified period. If you're the person whose property is being occupied, you might consider that trespassing. However, if certain conditions are met, a "trespasser" may be able to file an adverse possession claim.

Florida law allows those who have occupied a property for a minimum of 7 years to stake a claim under our adverse possession statutes. Florida has four key requirements for a "trespasser" to file a valid claim:

  1. People must be physically present on the property and use it as their own. That's called "actual possession."
  2. Their presence on the property must be "open and notorious." They can't be hiding from the property owner.
  3. They must have been present on the land continuously for the designated period and not have shared it with anyone else.
  4. They must have been improving and protecting the land during their occupation of it.

To file a "hostile claim," a trespasser must either have been aware that the property belonged to someone else or made an honest error in being on the property. For example, the information on a deed may be incorrect.

Whether you're the titled property owner who's dealing with someone filing an adverse possession claim or you're the person who wants to make that claim on a piece of land that you've been occupying, it's essential to have legal guidance. Florida real estate property laws are complex and can be confusing. An experienced real estate attorney can help you work to protect your rights.

Source: FindLaw, "Florida Adverse Possession Laws," accessed June 07, 2018

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