If you pay taxes on a property you don't own, do you have any rights?

My MIL has been paying taxes on 2 lots of land for 15 to 20 years. She was friends with the owners, they lived out of USA and asked her to look after it for them. Her name is not on the deed, just as a "c/o". They died many years ago and had no children. The tax bills kept coming to her and she still pays them, has kept them current. She did this because she was told by someone if you pay the taxes long enough, the property becomes yours.

She spoke to an attorney who was mystified by the whole thing, not much help, and she’s reluctant to speak to another…does anyone know what, if any, rights she could have to this property? It’s in Florida. Thanks!

17 Responses to “If you pay taxes on a property you don't own, do you have any rights?”

  1. Landlord Says:

    There are lots of rules.

    Her first issue is if the land ever went to probate, it should have. It still needs to if it has not. You do not have to have children to have heirs, if there are any living relatives at all they have a right to the property.

    Now, the rules.

    First, your MIL has to live on the property, openly and with full knowledge of the owner. If their are any heirs who did not know she was there her claim is nullified. If she is not living on the property her claim is also mute.

    Second, she had to improve the property in some way.

    From what you describe, she was contracted to manage the land in the owners absense, and this would not give her any rights to ownership.

    In addition to the US law she also needs to contend with the national law of the owners. It could very well be the case that in the event of no heirs the country in question owns the land.

  2. goz1111 Says:

    Wacky legal limbo situation, what the person may have been talking about is a adverse possession claim element can be paying taxes

    The question becomes can she get the deeds transferred to her name? maybe if you can meet the elements of adverse possession, it may not be today but in the future

  3. rxing Says:

    it’s called an easment by prescription.,

    She has to get an attorney(real estate attorney) to help her file the paperwork with the town to change the deed.

    After 10 years you can file it with the town to change the name onthe property. show all the records of maintenance and taxes paid.

  4. kemperk Says:

    YES, its part of what is called "adverse possession."

    Have mil go to the court and seek a deed
    based on paying the taxes. Simple/as
    complicated as that.

    Make sure she takes with her a certified
    copy of the death cert. If here was a will,
    take that too.

    BE careful too, as the law is interesting
    regarding NO wills; that is called
    escheat. it means the property COULD have gone to the state!!!

    However, that is unlikely since she
    has been paying the taxes CONSECUTIV ELY for the 7 yrs.

    if any more help is needed;
    am a RE broker

  5. Dee Says:

    I’m in Fla. and have never heard of this, but I’m not a lawyer. Was she able to write off these taxes on her income tax? Sounds like she was paying taxes but will not get anything out of it. A Real Estate lawyer would be the person to help her. Sounds like she will have a tough time getting that property without having the people leave it to her in their Will..

  6. frak1a12345 Says:

    Yes, but… I have forgotten what it is called but it requires more than paying the property taxes. I believe you also have to occupy the land or use the land against the wishes of the owner. Any real estate attorney should know what it is. The first poster mentions it correctly–adverse possession. I am not sure if it applies in all states. It started in the land rush days of the 1800’s to make sure that somebody who staked out a claim to free land actually used the land rather than just held title to it. It is not in common use today but it is still on the books.

  7. class member Says:

    Forget those suggestions and call a title company and talk to an underwriter or title attorney.

    You didn’t live on the land, so its not adverse possession.

    You’re not being given the right to walk or put things on a small part of the property, so it’s not an easement.

    You have no one to give you title to the property other than a court of law.

    By paying the taxes for so long, you just assert a right to the property and file an action to quiet title, or have the court declare you the legal owner.

    Unless a diligent search can locate heirs, by paying the taxes, your next in line..but ONLY if you ASSERT you are the owner of the property.

    Paying the taxes has to be accepted as proof unless someone else has better proof…like a will..but it’s been so long, even that would be outlawed now.

    Congratulations !

    You just got yourself a piece of property, and found a couple of people who have no idea what they’re talking about..and my state LICENSED them ???

  8. liberal48 Says:

    Just paying taxes isn’t enough to prove an adverse possession claim, or any other type of claim. A good lawyer might be able to uncover some other facts that would help her, but it sounds like she already tried that.

    She could try to locate the heirs of the people who died. Their estate went to someone, even if they had no children. If she can find them, she might be able to strike a deal.

    But before doing anything else, I would check with title insurance company to see what the title insurance company says about who owns the property. The tax records are not proof of ownership. Ownership is established only by the recorded county deed records, and the best way to get that information is from a title insurance company. They will charge a fee.

  9. Eddie Fernandez Says:

    Can someone help me,please. I have a property that has been seized my state comptrollers office,
    the family of the seized proeprty say they want nothing to do with it and if I can pay the taxes I can have it, the family says they dont have to sign anything cause its been seized, i ttok them a contract to sell to me and they did want to i dnt get it no one wanted to take resposibility?

  10. Eddie Fernandez Says:

    Can someone help me,please. I have a property that has been seized by state comptrollers office,
    the family of the seized proeprty say they want nothing to do with it and if I can pay the taxes I can have it, the family says they dont have to sign anything cause its been seized, I took them a contract to sell to me and they did want to sign I don’t get it no one wanted to take resposibility?

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  14. Victor A. Doucette Says:

    I am paying tax on a piece of property that was owned by my wife’s deceased parents. The property was to be put up for tax sale if it were not payed at a given date. I began paying tax in 2007. The heirs are aware of my paying the tax.

    If I am to acquire this property, what action should I take? The property is located in St. Tammany Parish, the state of Louisiana.

    The property is a vacant lot with no improvement since Katrina, with the exception of the order from the parish remove the blighted house on the property, for which I payed to have it removed.

  15. Victor A. Doucette Says:

    Thanks for the information.

  16. susan jones Says:

    my dad passed has property in florida nothing went to probate no one was paying land tax so I started paying how long do I have to pay before I can get a quit claim deed

  17. Joseph DeSimone Says: