Florida Real Estate Hijacking Victim Wins Back Home

Finders keepers, losers weepers: That may as well be the name of a Florida law on "adverse possession" that says anyone can move into an abandoned Florida home without the owner's permission and eventually obtain the title. That is, provided seven years has passed since the squatters barged their way in, and that they paid the property taxes each year.

When Tampa Bay area homeowner Danuta Brown (pictured above) discovered in December that people she didn't know were living in her four-bedroom, three-bath investment property she wanted to sell in Dover, Fla., she launched a legal battle that ended in a judgment in her favor this month when the occupant, a 41-year-old mother, failed to appear at the court hearing on time.

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Brown is one of the lucky ones, as only months had passed, not years. Florida's law may only give original title holders seven years to assert their rights, but in Arizona two years of uninterrupted possession is sufficient for squatters to claim real estate by adverse possession. In New Hampshire it is 20 years. Although other circumstances vary per state, to see where your state falls in the mix, check out this page at Lawchek.