Dear Juris Doctor;
I have been hearing for months the stories from around Florida in which squatters are moving into properties. Is it true that criminals are taking possession of unoccupied homes that are for sale? I read a man was arrested for renting 30 homes which he did not own to tenants.
Kate in Loxahatchee
Posted : October 6, 2010
A few weeks ago I was introduced to such a situation in Loxahatchee. The property was listed for short sale at the beginning of August and the owner moved out of the property. One day the listing agent stopped by the house to find the locks changed and a woman living in the house. The owners met a deputy sheriff at the property and the occupant produced a document showing she was entitled Ask The Juris Doctor to occupy the residence. The deputy sheriff advised the owners it is a civil matter since he could not make an independent determination if the document is valid.
The owners contacted me and there is a possession issue. The owners have filed a lawsuit for ejectment of the occupant. The document in the woman’s possession is not legitimate. She is not a tenant so the eviction remedy is not available.
When individuals experience financial difficulties, they sometimes make hasty decisions without the benefit of professionals or they run from their challenges. As revealed by the fact situation above, it is imperative that homes are not left unoccupied if at all possible. When some people cannot pay their mortgage or they are served with foreclosure papers, they flee. They do not realize the process could take six months to several years to complete a foreclosure. They do not have to leave their residence immediately. If you meet homeowners who are experiencing financial distress, please caution them about the complications of an unoccupied residence. The ejectment lawsuit could take six months or longer to resolve if the squatter defends the action. Chances are good she may disappear at some point since criminal charges will be brought against her.
Please recommend to homeowners with financial challenges to consult a real estate attorney to review their alternatives. There are usually several available which might avoid a complication such as a squatter.