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Can you lose your property through adverse possession?

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2022 | Commercial Real Estate |

Several years ago, a Brazilian man openly occupied a house worth $2.5 million in Baca Raton. He cited adverse possession rules by openly living on the property and filing paperwork required by the statute. The house had been repossessed and owned by Bank of America, which had plans to sell the house. After several attempts to evict the man over a month, the man peacefully left the property.

Why does it exist?

While the man was attempting to twist laws for his own means, there are valid reasons for adverse possession laws, including transferring property to someone who will use it, rehab it and maintain it rather than leaving it empty or abandoned. If the occupant meets the following requirements, they can assume legal ownership of the land:

  • They entered the property without the owner’s permission.
  • They paid taxes for seven years as if they were the owner.
  • They live openly on the land for seven years.
  • They must use it continuously without sharing it.
  • They must cultivate, improve, or protect the land by a substantial enclosure.

The landowner in possession of the title can challenge an adverse possession claim. The burden of proof in dispute lies with the occupier or trespasser.

It may be a matter of encroachment

Adverse possession may also involve someone who owns adjacent land if the adjoining landowner uses land that is not theirs, perhaps farming, building fences, structures or roads. Perhaps they bought the land thinking this occupation was legally part of the land in their title. A survey will help in disclosing encroachments.  Most lenders will require a survey as a condition to financing.

Disputes can be heated

Land disputes involving adverse possession are often hard-fought and can lead to a court battle between neighbors who once were friends. Those with questions about adverse possession or other land disputes in Florida should discuss their issue with an experienced real estate law attorney to discuss options for addressing the matter.