A Guide to Florida Adverse Possession Law for Property Owners

Although adverse possession may sound like a shady squatting scheme, it's actually a legitimate legal concept under Florida's adverse possession laws. Learn the specifics of when someone can legally claim ownership, both with and without "color of title" documentation. Plus, you'll get tips for protecting your property from trespassers looking to make claims.

Nichole Stohler
Last Updated
May 9, 2024
A Guide to Florida Adverse Possession Law for Property Owners

As a Florida property owner, the last thing you want is for someone to swoop in and try to claim your land as their own — consider this guide your protection against such bold attempts.

You'll discover exactly what it involves and learn about the two main types of claims that can be made: with "color of title" and without. Find practical, actionable strategies for protecting yourself from adverse possession claims as a Floridian property owner. From monitoring your land regularly to clearly marking those all-important boundaries, you'll get tips on how to be proactive.

If, despite your best efforts, a claim does arise against your property, don't panic! This guide will walk you through addressing it effectively step-by-step. We'll cover everything from responding quickly to gathering ownership evidence to considering negotiation and legal options.

By the end, you'll have gained a solid understanding of this unique area of Florida real estate law. Consider this your comprehensive resource for protecting your property rights.

What adverse possession might look like

Adverse possession is a legal concept wherein someone who is trespassing on another person's land has the ability to gain ownership of that land through actual continued possession. Though this can happen in many different ways, you might encounter adverse possession in the form of:

  • A boundary dispute: Suppose a homeowner built a fence that encroached 10 feet onto their neighbor's property. For over 20 years, the homeowner maintained and used the land on their side of the fence as if it were their own.
  • Abandoned property: An abandoned house stayed vacant for decades after the previous owners passed away. After 15 years, a squatter moved in, made repairs, and maintained the property as their own.
  • Continuous trespassing: A hiking trail runs through a privately owned forest. For decades, hikers regularly used the trail, believing it to be public land. If the hikers can prove their continuous, open, and notorious use for the statutory period, they may be able to claim a public easement or ownership of the trail through adverse possession.

In these examples, the true owners neglected the land for years while the trespassers actively maintained and used it. Under Florida law, forcing these trespassers to leave could be seen as unfair, recognizing that they have given the land fair and just value through their use and maintenance.

Florida's adverse possession law

Florida statutes and court rulings establish the framework for adverse possession. The individual trespassing must demonstrate a valid claim to ownership. Under the law, the person holding the legal title deed is presumed to be the rightful owner. However, a trespasser can challenge this presumption by persuading a judge to transfer legal ownership to them based on their long-term, consistent possession and use of the property.

There are two primary types of adverse possession claims in Florida:

  • With color of title: The trespasser possesses a document that gives them a plausible reason to believe they own the property.
  • Without color of title: The trespasser has no such document but meets the statutory requirements through their actions alone.

Adverse possession with color of title

If the trespasser possesses a document suggesting ownership, their adverse possession claim may be more straightforward. However, they must still fulfill certain conditions to succeed, including:

  • Cultivating the land or making improvements, such as farming or renovations.
  • Enclosing the property with a substantial fence or barrier.
  • Utilizing natural resources from the land, such as harvesting timber or collecting firewood.

Adverse possession without color of title

Claiming adverse possession without any supporting documentation elevates the requirements under Florida's law. The individual must demonstrate possession of the property in the following ways:


The possession must be without the true owner's permission, meaning the adverse possessor uses the property contrary to the true owner’s rights. For instance, if the person claiming adverse possession occupies a vacant lot without any legal claim, it is considered hostile possession.


The adverse possessor must physically occupy and control the property, showing continuous, visible, and exclusive use akin to that of a true owner. Building and residing in a permanent structure on the property year-round is a clear demonstration of this.


The adverse possessor cannot share the property with the true owner or others. For example, renting out any part of the property undermines the exclusivity requirement.

Open and notorious

The true owner must clearly see the property's use, showing that the adverse possession isn't hidden.

Continuous for seven years

The adverse possessor must maintain uninterrupted possession for seven years. They have to restart the process if their property occupancy stops during this period.

Substantial enclosure or improvement

The adverse possessor should make their intent clear by doing one or more of the following:

  • Enclosing the property substantially.
  • Cultivating it through planting crops or gardens.
  • Maintaining it via regular mowing or landscaping.
  • Improving it by building structures.

For a successful claim, the trespasser must have also paid all property taxes and special improvement liens levied within one year of taking possession.

How to protect your property from adverse possession

If you own property in Florida, you can take proactive measures to protect your rights. Here are some practical tips to help prevent adverse possession claims against your property:

Regular property monitoring

Conduct regular inspections of your property to make sure that no one is occupying or using it without your permission. You can drive by the property every few weeks or hire a property management company to keep an eye on it.

If you notice any unauthorized activity, address it promptly and in writing. Contact the trespasser, informing them that their presence is not permitted and requesting that they vacate the premises.

Clearly marked boundaries

Make sure that your property boundaries are clearly marked and visible to potential trespassers. Start with a proper legal description describing the property lines, preventing accidental encroachment or claims of ignorance. You can install fences, walls, or other physical barriers to deter unauthorized access and occupation. You can also consider hiring a professional surveyor to mark the boundaries with visible markers or signs.

Maintain records

Keep a log or journal detailing any communication or interactions with adverse possessors. Note when you noticed unauthorized use, the actions you took, and any responses from the trespasser.

Save copies of letters, emails, and other relevant documentation to support your case in the event of an adverse possession claim.

Post "No Trespassing" signs

Clearly visible "No Trespassing" signs can serve as evidence that any unauthorized use of your property is known and not permitted. This reduces the efficacy of an adverse possessor's claim of open and notorious possession. 

Place these signs at strategic locations around the property, such as entry points or areas visible from public areas. Refresh or replace the signs periodically to make sure that they remain legible and prominent.

Seek legal assistance

If you suspect an adverse possession claim or have concerns about protecting your property rights, consult with a qualified real estate attorney. They can advise you on the best course of action while protecting your interests. 

Pay your property taxes

Regularly pay your property taxes on time to avoid any delinquencies. This will reinforce your status as the active, responsible property owner.

Addressing adverse possession claims

Sometimes, even with your best preventative efforts, a trespasser could still try to pursue a claim against you. If that situation arises, here are the steps you'll need to take:

  • Respond promptly: If you receive notice of a claim of adverse possession against your property, respond quickly. Ignoring the claim or delaying your response can be interpreted as agreement to the situation, potentially strengthening the adverse possessor's case.
  • Gather evidence of ownership: Collect and organize all documentation that establishes your legal ownership of the property, such as the deed, title insurance policy, property tax records, and any other relevant paperwork.
  • Investigate the adverse possessor's claim: Look into the adverse possessor's claim, including the duration of their possession, the nature of their use, and any improvements they have made to the property.
  • Consider a negotiated resolution: In some cases, it may be more practical to negotiate a resolution with the adverse possessor rather than engage in a lengthy and costly legal battle. Depending on the circumstances, this could involve offering to purchase the disputed portion of the property or granting an easement or lease agreement.
  • File a quiet title action: If negotiation is unsuccessful, you may need to take legal action by filing a quiet title suit in court. This process involves submitting evidence like the deed, tax payment, and title report and asking the court to review everything and issue a judgment confirming your rightful ownership, thereby "quieting" any adverse claims on the property title.
  • Explore alternative legal remedies: Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, you may have other legal remedies available, such as trespass actions, injunctions, or claims for damages. Consult with an experienced real estate lawyer to explore all available options.

Adverse possession law in Florida

The adverse possession Florida law aims to promote efficient land use while protecting property owners' interests. Dealing with claims under this law can be stressful, but having the right knowledge and taking proactive measures can help protect your interests.

Monitoring your property, establishing clear boundaries, and maintaining documentation can go a long way in preventing claims from ever happening. Should you find yourself facing such a claim, remain calm and act swiftly. Consult with a qualified real estate attorney who can guide you through the necessary steps to keep your property rights intact.

Adverse possession is a complex area of law that demands ongoing attention from property owners. By educating yourself and taking proactive steps, you can protect your investment and make sure your property remains firmly in your possession for the long haul.

Florida adverse possession law FAQs

How do you claim squatters' rights in Florida?

To claim squatters' rights or adverse possession in Florida, a person must openly occupy the property without the owner's permission for at least seven continuous years. They'll also need to meet specific conditions, such as enclosing or improving the land.

How long does adverse possession take in Florida?

In Florida, the statutory period for adverse possession is 7 years for properties with color of title and 20 years for properties without color of title. 

What is the shortest time for adverse possession?

The shortest time for adverse possession varies by state, but it is generally around 5 years for properties with color of title and 10-20 years for properties without color of title.

Important Note: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal, accounting, or tax advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for such services. Always consult your own legal, accounting, or tax counsel before taking any action based on this information.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of NicsGuide.com, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

Other related articles

Rental rundown background image
Rental rundown hero image

Whether you’re a property owner, renter, property manager, or real estate agent, gain valuable insights, advice, and updates by joining our newsletter.

Subscriber Identity

I am a

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Lease Agreements Made Easy:
Custom, eSigned,
and Organized!

Start Now
White Azibo logo
Manage, draft, and save lease agreements all in one place with Azibo