The Basics of Florida Property and Real Estate Laws

The Basics of Florida Property and Real Estate Laws

May 19, 2021

Whether you’re buying, selling or inheriting real estate, it’s important to be familiar with Florida real estate laws. Most people don’t realize what a massive impact the law can have on your home or investment properties, which is why it’s always a good idea to work with a lawyer. Two of the most important types of real estate law are the homestead and adverse possession laws in Miami, FL. Here’s how they could affect your property.

Florida homestead laws

Homestead laws are designed to protect people in the event of economic change—you can declare a limited portion of your property as “off limits” to creditors. These laws help ensure that a homeowner won’t become homeless if their income changes or they file for bankruptcy.

Florida Statute §196.031 and Const. Art. X, §4 codify these homestead laws. This is one of the most generous homestead laws in the country: there’s no economic limit to the property you can protect, although there are some acreage limitations. In a municipality, you’re limited to half an acre; in rural areas you’re limited to 160 acres.

However, the homestead laws aren’t a silver bullet against all creditors. There are four ways that creditors can force a sale of real estate to repay them:

  • Property taxes: The state of Florida and its municipalities can force a sale of a property in order to pay past-due property taxes.
  • Mortgage collateral: If you specifically used the property as collateral for a mortgage, the lender can force a sale to repay them.
  • Repairs and improvements: Have you failed to pay contractors, builders or mechanics who performed repairs and improvements on your land? They can force a sale for repayment, too.
  • Pre-existing liens: If you have a pre-existing lien from a creditor, from before you registered your property as a homestead, they can also force a sale.

Ask your attorney how to register your property as a Florida homestead.

Florida adverse possession laws

Adverse possession isn’t just the stuff of first-year law student nightmares: it can be a nightmare for property owners, too. The law basically states that when a person moves on to a property and makes improvements, they can be granted title to that land after a certain period of time—even if it was never legally theirs. In Florida, adverse possession can only happen after seven years, and “under color of title” or with payment of property taxes.

Four elements must be satisfied before someone can claim adverse possession:

  • Hostile possession: The person can either occupy the land (not realizing it’s private property), be aware of the trespass or make an honest mistake, like relying on an incorrect deed.
  • Actual possession: The trespasser must treat the land as their own.
  • Open and notorious: The possession must be obvious to others.
  • Exclusive and continuous: The possession must be for the full seven years, unbroken, and without sharing with other parties.

If you’re dealing with Florida homestead laws or adverse possession in Miami, FL, call Ruben J. Padron, PA for assistance.

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