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Know Your Uninvited Guests

It is not a pleasant surprise to find an uninvited guest on or in your property.  This may result in an even more unpleasant experience for the uninvited guest.  But be careful.  Not all who enter your property without your permission are trespassers, legally speaking.  Bottom line: Ask for identification of your uninvited guest and documentation of their purpose if you are uncertain of who they are and what they are doing, before taking action to eject them. 

Most people are familiar with visits by the friendly neighborhood government employee whose job it is to check in on various regulated profession or activities, which range from “adult day care centers,” Florida Statutes Section 429.927, to “worker’s compensation insurance carriers,” Florida Statutes Chapter 440

Here we focus on some of the more unexpected categories of uninvited guests that are legally allowed to enter your property under various circumstances without your permission.  This is by no means an exhaustive list:

County property appraisers may enter your property without your permission to inspect your property for the purpose of ensuring that the tax roll meets legal requirements. Florida Statutes section 193.023(2).

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission personnel and state wildlife officers “may enter upon any land or waters of the state for performance of their lawful duties.” Florida Statutes section 379.3311 (1), (2)(a).

Hazardous Materials and Hazardous Waste Inspectors are authorized to enter your property without your permission as long as they have obtained an inspection warrant. See Florida Statutes sections 252.942(1)-(2) (Florida Accidental Release Prevention and Risk Management Planning Act); 403.091 (Department of Environmental Protection – hazardous waste generator, transporter, or facility; other air or water contaminant source or discharger into publicly owned treatment works).

Commercial Activity Facility Inspectors are authorized to enter your property to inspect certain activities as long as they have obtained an inspection warrant. See Florida Statutes sections 403.091 (resource recovery and management facility), 381.0065(5)(a) (on-site sewage treatment and disposal systems and contractors), 381.0088 (migrant labor camps), 479.03 (Department of Transportation – outdoor advertising signs). Some commercial activity inspectors are authorized to enter private property without a warrant as part of the regulatory supervision process.  See, Florida Statutes sections 616.242(7) (amusement rides), 562.41 (alcoholic beverage licensed premises when open or occupied).

Outdoor Advertising Inspectors and agents of the Florida Department of Transportation are authorized to enter upon your land if it is located along a highway to enforce Federal and State laws regulating outdoor advertising (billboards). See Florida Statutes section 479.03.

Health Inspectors from the Florida Department of Health are authorized to inspect a broad range of regulated facilities without owner permission such as public swimming pools, tanning salons, and anyplace where tattooing is performed. See Florida Statutes section 514.04 (pools), 381.89(9) (tanning facilities), 381.00779(4)(tattooing locations).

The Governor and his or her agents have broad power to enter your property without permission in “emergency circumstances.”  See Florida Statutes sections 252.36 (ability to “utilize any private property”), 252.36(5)(d); Att’y Gen. Op. 78-167; 252.36(1)(b), (5)(a).

Surveyors and mappers and their agents may go on and over your property without permission to make surveys and maps. See Florida Statutes section 472.029(1).

Professional engineers and their agents are also authorized to go on and over your land without permission when necessary to make engineering surveys. Florida Statutes section 471.027.

Ordinance Enforcers may enter private property without permission to investigate and enforce ordinances that require property owners to maintain their premises according to minimum standards. If, however, the code provision that is being investigated by the inspector involves criminal penalties, a search warrant based upon probable cause is required.  See Camara v. Municipal Court of City & County of San Francisco, 387 U.S. 523, 87 S.Ct. 1727, 18 L.Ed.2d 930 (1967); Heinlein v. Metropolitan Dade County, 239 So.2d 635 (Fla. 3d DCA 1970)(“a certain type of ‘probable cause’ [must] be demonstrated before the issuance of the search warrant in these type of cases.”).

For practitioners, this is a handy list to refer to when you receive an early morning call from a client holding a prospective uninvited guest at bay.  For those that fall into one of the foregoing categories, remember that not everyone knows that you are legally permitted to enter their private property without permission, so please be courteous and offer notice and identification to avoid unpleasant reactions from property owners that may not have recently read the Florida Statutes. 

And for everyone else, keep in mind that some uninvited guests may legally be allowed to enter upon your property without your permission.  Double check if you are uncertain of who your uninvited guest is, and what they are doing, before exercising self-help remedies to the apparent trespass.

The lawyers at Lacey Lyons Rezanka know the law, promptly deliver expert advice that you can trust, and provide effective representation that you can count on.

To learn more about Attorney Aaron Lyons, click here.