The first thing to understand about squatters, is that they’re pests who disrupt your property from running smoothly and properly. A squatter taking over your property is very real, and it can become increasingly difficult to remove them if you can’t stay a step ahead.
In Florida, squatters have the right to file for adverse possession to gain rights to your property. If the property owner doesn’t take immediate action, the illegal tenant gains rights to the property over time. The time limit that the property must be in the possession of the squatter is seven years with full visibility by the legal owner and community. After that seven years has passed, and the owner has not taken the correct legal action to remove the illegal tenant, eminent domain expires, and the squatter can file for adverse possession. Lastly, only one squatter can file for rights to a single property.
What’s the difference between trespassing and squatting
The difference is this: a trespasser illegally and knowingly enters your property without permission, but leaves; a squatter doesn’t.
A squatter could be someone who breaks in or enters an unused property and makes it their own – or a tenant who stops paying rent and won’t – or a roommate that won’t leave once their lease period ends – or someone who believes they have rights to a property but hasn’t gone through the correct legal steps to claim ownership.
Squatters do damage
In addition to causing property damage, squatters supply far worse consequences – including potential ownership. These consequences could include: lost rent, a drawn-out eviction process, stolen or broken valuables and added property debt due to unpaid bills.
Steps to evict a squatter
Below are four steps to take swift action against an illegal tenant and give yourself the upper hand.
- Call the police, provide them with your details of the situation and let them determine if the person is a squatter or a trespasser.
- If they are a squatter, file and serve them an eviction notice.
- If the squatter doesn’t leave, file a civil lawsuit.
- If you win your eviction case, the squatter will likely still have to be removed. The police will handle the removal of the squatter and you may have to pay a fee for the service, but it’s the safest route to take.
- Check local laws or consult an attorney on how to disperse of the left behind belongings at your property.
The most manageable way to avoid squatters is to do your research and fully vet potential tenants before accepting them into your property. To do this, verify income and employment, check eviction history databases, call references, perform background checks and be very upfront and direct about your property rules.