TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) — It would be harder for people to take possession of land or homes that they don’t own under a bill passed Wednesday by the Senate and sent to the House.

The measure tries to discourage abuse of the “adverse possession” law, which allows people to pay taxes on homes or land they don’t own and eventually get title to the property.

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In recent years the little-known state law has been used more because the proliferation of vacant homes from the collapse of the Florida housing market.

Backers of the legislation say individuals and companies have scouted for vacant homes and taken over paying the taxes with hopes of being awarded the property.

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Sometimes original owners have come back into the picture to find the locks changed.

“The abuse of this antiquated statute is creating tremendous hardships for property owners, tax collectors and property appraisers,” said Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, the sponsor of the Senate bill (SB 1142).

A similar bill (HB 927) is in a House committee.

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