For the most part, title to real property passes by conveyance, from one person or entity to another in a document called a deed. But title in real property may also be acquired through adverse possession.
Acquiring title to real property by adverse possession occurs from the operation of the statute of limitations for ejectment or from the recovery of real property. If an owner to real property does not, within the statutory period, bring an action to eject a possessor who is on the land adversely to the interest of the real owner, then the owner is subsequently barred from bringing a suit for ejectment. The result is that title to the property passes to the adverse possessor.
Acquiring title by adverse possession requires a showing of: (a) actual entry giving exclusive possession; (b) open and notorious possession; (c) adverse (hostile) possession; and (d) continuous possession throughout the statutory period. In Florida, the statutory period for adverse possession is seven years’ continuous possession of the premises. This means that there must be an actual entry into the premises (not just claim title to it); the occupation of the land must not be concealed or secretive; and there must be possession adverse (hostile) to that of the real owner. A grant or permission to remain on the premises defeats the element of hostility and, consequently, defeats adverse possession. Lastly, the occupation must be continuous. A period of dispossession will reset the clock on the adverse possession period.
Easements acquired through adverse possession—so-called easements by prescription—require many of the same statutory requirements of obtaining title to real estate by adverse possession. To acquire an easement by prescription, the use must be: (a) open and notorious, (b) adverse, and (c) continuous and uninterrupted for the statutory period. Because the element of exclusivity is not required for easements by prescription, even the public at large can acquire an easement in private land if members of the public use the land in a way that meets the requirements of prescription.
If you need assistance determining whether there has been adverse possession, or with litigating some kind of other real estate dispute, contact a Fort Lauderdale real estate litigation lawyer at (954) 440-0901 for assistance. The Fort Lauderdale real estate lawyers at The Carlin Law Firm, PLLC represent property owners with litigating property and adverse possession disputes in state and federal courts.