A Brief Guide To The Basics Of Real Estate And Property Law

Florida Property and Real Estate Laws

Florida is a state with unique laws regarding real estate and property, including landlords and tenants. For example, a landlord is limited between 15 and 60 days to return a tenants security deposit based on whether they dispute the deductions. Also, Florida has an extensive history of real estate scams and false sales. For these reasons, it’s recommended to be familiar with Florida’s real estate laws. We will provide an overview of Florida’s real estate laws and helpful tips on what to be aware of. 

Learning More About Florida Property and Real Estate Laws

Florida Homestead Laws 

These laws allow elderly or disabled homeowners threatened with foreclosure or eviction to remain in their homes. 

Florida Lease and Rental Agreements

These laws apply to tenant and landlord relationships, which are built through contracts made in rental or lease agreements. This may include relevant information regarding prohibited forms of discrimination, deposit limits, and more. 

Florida Adverse Possession Laws 

These laws enable individuals who publicly inhabit and make improvements to a home or other residence to gain the title to the property. 

Florida Statute of Limitations Law

Statutes of limitations are the time limits established for filing a complaint pertaining to civil lawsuits within the state of Florida, including for professional malpractice, defamation, trespassing, damage to personal property, fraud, and false imprisonment.

Buying and Selling Homes in Florida: Legal Considerations

It can become complicated when it’s time to buy or sell a home in Florida. For those interested, we’ll provide some helpful tips and information to be aware of.

Florida Homestead Exemptions

Only a few states within the U.S. have homestead exemptions, and Florida is recognized as having some of the most beneficial. Two forms of homestead exemptions are available to Florida property owners: (a) the homestead exemption for real property tax purposes and (b) homestead exemption for asset protection purposes. Having one form of the homestead exemption does not necessarily mean do you have the other also, because each exemption has its own unique requirements.

Homestead Tax Exemption

This exemption for real property tax purposes makes available a $25,000 reduction from the assessed value of the property. This reduces the amount of real property taxes by approximately $650 annually.  Due to the property taxes are paid in arrears in Florida (as with interest on your mortgage), this form of homestead exemption is only available for properties owners who are permanent residents of residential property December 31st of the prior year. Also, the owner must make an application for the exemption at the property appraiser’s office on or before March 1st of the following year. If you are permanently disabled or widowed, additional reduction from the assessed value of the property.

Homestead Exemption for Asset Protection

The homestead exemption for asset protection purposes offers property owners with an additional shield from virtually all non-lien creditors. This type of homestead exemption is only available if the property is your primary residence, and a court determines that the property is within a municipality or outside of a municipality.

If the property is within a municipality, protection is provided for only one-half acre of contiguous land. if it is outside of a municipality protection is provided for 160 acres of contiguous land.

Knowing Your Rights Concerning Real Estate Deposits on New Homes

One of the decisions people face when buying a new home, is whether to place their funds into escrow before releasing them to the builder. According to Florida law, the buyer has a choice, and must indicate in writing which option they prefer. This decision involves many factors, including whether the builder is likely to complete the project, as well as the general risk tolerance of the buyer.

If the buyer places their money into escrow, they have the right according to Florida law to charge the purchaser the builder’s cost of borrowing the amount of money, minus any interest the builders able to obtain on the escrows while the deposits are being held in the bank.

To learn more about your rights and other legal or financial benefits of home ownership in Florida, we encourage you to contact a real estate attorney through A. K. Esquire PLLC will be ready and able to assist you.

Florida Adverse Possession Laws

Many of us have never heard of adverse possession laws. Depending on your point of view, they can seem like a justified transfer of land, or an unfair theft by land squatters. So, how do they work in practice? What are the legal particulars in Florida? Let’s take a look. 

Adverse Possession

The law of adverse possession states that when an individual publicly moves into an otherwise neglected property and improves it, they may be granted title after a period of time. Florida’s adverse possession laws require claimants to occupy a given property for at least 7 years, and under “color of title” or payment of property taxes for 7 years.

There are usually four major requirements for a valid adverse possession claim:

  1. Hostile Claim – the trespasser must either
    1. be aware of his or her trespassing
    2. merely occupy the land (with or without knowledge that is private property);
    3. make an honest mistake (such as relying on an incorrect deed);
  2. Actual Possession:  the trespasser must be physically present on the land, treating it as his or her own.
  3. Open and Notorious Possession:  The act of trespassing cannot be in secret.
  4. Exclusive and Continuous Possession: the trespasser cannot share possession with others, and must remain in possession of the land for an unbroken period of time

In addition, Florida’s adverse possession statutes requires cultivation, improvement, or protection from a substantial enclosure on the land.

Get Professional Help With Your Adverse Possession Claim

Laws involving real estate can be complicated, particularly if you are involved in a scenario dealing with adverse possession. If you are interested in learning more about your rights and responsibilities as a landowner or occupier or would like legal advice regarding an existing adverse possession case, please contact a qualified Florida real estate attorney through A. K. Esquire PLLC.

Florida Civil Statute of Limitations Laws

Perhaps you were involved in a traffic accident where the other driver was at fault, but it’s been a number of months since it occurred. Can you still sue the other driver for damages? if so, is there a deadline to file the lawsuit? 

Each state has their own individual laws that limit the amount of time between when an injury occurs and when you can file a civil suit. What follows is a brief summary of civil statute of limitation laws in Florida.

Civil Statutes of Limitation

Florida civil statutes of limitation laws are very similar to those found in other states. Depending on the type of case or procedure, Florida’s statutes of limitations range from two to four years. Usually, the clock starts ticking on the day of the incident involved, or the discovery of a wrong.

Learn More About Florida Civil Court Procedures: Contact an Attorney

It’s important to remember that your claim may be barred if you do not file the lawsuit within these required statutory limits. If you or someone you know is dealing with a personal injury or contract dispute, it’s important to contact an experienced Florida litigation attorney to protect your rights. We encourage you to reach out to A. K. Esquire PLLC for the help and information you need. 

Florida Homestead Laws

Homestead protection laws can prevent people from becoming homeless the disclosure or change in economic stature. In essence, these laws let individuals register a portion of their property as a “homestead” and make it generally off-limits to creditors.

Homestead Laws in Florida

Counter to many other Homestead laws throughout the United States, Florida’s Homestead laws do not state a maximum value that may be designated. Therefore, in accordance with Florida law, you may protect the entire value of your home if you file for bankruptcy, although there remain some limits on total acreage. Homeowners can exempt an unlimited amount of value in their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption. The property, however, may not be larger than half an acre within a municipality, or 160 Acres elsewhere. You’ll find homestead filing forms and additional information from the Florida Department of Revenue.

Even under Florida’s homestead protections, there remains four types of creditors who may still force the sale of a homestead in order to collect debts owed to them:

  • The State of Florida and Florida counties are municipalities, in order to collect past due property taxes 
  • Creditors to whom the homestead property was specifically pledged as credit for a mortgage
  • Builders, mechanics, or contractors who are owed money for work performed in repairing or improving the property
  • Any creditor with a pre-existing lien on the property before the establishment of homestead.

Also, because the homestead exemption is a state law that is subject to the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, federal law can override it. Federal income tax liens are superior to the homestead protection provided by the Florida state law. In general though, the IRS is reluctant to foreclose on a taxpayer’s home in order to enforce these leins, and will only become involved if the property is sold or mortgaged before the tax lien expires.

Florida Leases and Rental Agreement Laws

Lease and rental agreements are governed by state law, which defines the limits on security deposits, the time limits for the return of deposits, and a number of other provisions. It also limits discrimination by landlords. Florida’s leases and rental agreement laws place no limits on the amount of security deposits, however it does prohibit all the same types of discrimination that are laid out in the federal Fair Housing Act. Keep reading for more information about the limits to Lisa’s and rental agreements in Florida.

Florida Deposits and Leases

Florida law establishes whether many lease terms or deposits are enforceable. Paying rent in Florida is not enough to renew an entire lease term. Also, there’s no limit to the amount that a landlord can require as a deposit. Landlords are prohibited from requiring higher deposits from people protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act, or the Florida Fair Housing Act.

Federal Prohibitions on Discrimination

According to the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968, discrimination based upon race, color, national origin, sex, family status, handicap, or religion are prohibited. This means that landlords may not do anything on our following list based upon the previously mentioned factors:

  • Lie about housing availability
  • Deny services for renting or selling dwellings
  • Make a different terms or conditions
  • Refuse to enter into negotiations for housing
  • Refuse to rent housing or sell housing
  • Provide different housing or facilities
  • Persuade owners to leave a home or area

This law prevents many actions that may not be obvious. It means that landlords or sellers cannot refuse to rent an apartment to a couple because they are unmarried, charge extra for a person who needs a wheelchair accessible apartment, or only rent units with old carpeting to families with children.

Florida Fair Housing

Each state has its own fair housing laws in addition to the federal laws. In Florida, the law prohibits discrimination just like with the federal Fair Housing Act. This law is called the Florida Fair Housing Act. 

Florida has small, local branches that assist individuals in defending their right to equal housing. Many of these centers are small, non-profit organizations that help Florida residents in civil court. Also, the Florida Attorney General works in coordination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and smaller advocacy groups to enforce the provisions of the Florida Fair Housing Act.

Confusion regarding deposits, renewing leases, and lease terms are common. Illegal discrimination occurs and can go unnoticed if nobody speaks up. Getting in touch with a qualified Florida attorney that understands landlord-tenant laws may be able to assist. If you may be involved in a discrimination case, please contact A. K. Esquire PLLC.

Florida Security Deposit Laws

When it becomes time to rent, the security deposit each landlord requires can rule out some possible 

living spaces. Florida security deposit laws do not offer set limits on what landlords can charge for this initial money advance. Sometimes, the sticker shock is considerable. This is why it’s important to understand what the law allows and prohibits with regard to security deposits.

Talk to an Attorney About Florida Security Deposit Laws

If you have questions regarding your security deposit rights or believe they may have been violated, it may be time to seek the help of an attorney. We encourage you to contact A. K. Esquire PLLC with any questions or requests for information.

Golf Ball Hazards in Florida: Legal Overview

Florida is home to numerous golf courses, and many residents are lucky enough to live within view.  Sometimes however, golf balls maybe hit onto the resident property, or even golfers entering the residence to go after their golf balls. This raises the question as to what the law says regarding this issue.

Golfers or Golf Balls Trespassing on Florida Property

Anyone entering another person’s property without pemission is engaged in trespassing. Trespass is one of the oldest civil law claims. however, in order to claim trespassing, warned the trespasser and already asked them to stop. There cannot be a valid reason for the trespasser’s presents on your property.

Florida Property Law and Golfers

According to Florida property and real estate laws, golf course communities nearly always have a section in their deed restrictions, easements, and covenants, that allow golfers to retrieve their errant balls on residents’ properties. This provision allows golfers a legal opportunity to find and recover their errant shots when it is reasonable to do so. If the area is fenced-off or walled, it may be required for them to ask permission first.

It is likely that a golfer may enter your property in order to retrieve items such as golf balls they do so in a reasonable way. Damaging property or tearing your fence down would obviously not be considered reasonable. If your property is located on or adjacent to a golf course, you should becomes familiar with the applicable sections of any deed restrictions, easements, or covenants that apply to your property.

Who is Liable if a Golf Ball Causes Damage?

Also at issue, is who is held liable should a golf ball do damage to a property. Usually, the golf club, the builder, and the course designer are protected from liability due to golf ball damage within the same documents as described previously. A golfer’s liability clause may read, “All owners, by acceptance and delivery of a deed to a lot, assume all risks associated with errant golf balls, and all Owners agree not to make any claim or institute any action against the community developer, the club, the golf course designer, the builder or any other party other than the golfer who caused the property damage or personal injury, arising or resulting from any errant golf balls or golf clubs.” This is a long way of saying that a homeowner assumes the risk of damage, and though golfers could be responsible for damage, collecting can be difficult and impractical. Instead, many homeowners choose to purchase homeowners insurance to deal with such an event.

Property Line and Fence Laws in Florida

Many times in Florida, neighbors do not see eye-to-eye unimportant property issues. this may include disagreements about boundary lines, fences, or trees, Keep reading to learn more about fence laws in Florida.

Fence and Property Line Laws in Florida: Overview

Many property owners have questions about boundary fences, which are fences that are built on or near the property line. According to Florida law, adjoining landowners are under no legal obligation to erect fences that divide their land. If one landowner does decide to build a boundary fence, the adjoining landowner is not obligated to share in this expense, unless it was agreed to in advance.

Florida case law also makes it illegal to build a “spite fence,” which is a fence that is constructed for no other purpose other than to interfere with a neighbor’s property rights.

A fence will be considered a nuisance in Florida if it is constructed with the motivation of malice rather than a legitimate purpose. 

Tree Trimming Laws

It can be common for branches from a tree to reach over a property line and hang over a neighbor’s land. There are Florida laws that govern these encroaching branches. Your legal right to trim the branches that hang over your property line will depend upon the health of the tree. If the tree is healthy, you may at your own expense trim back branches up to the property line. Your neighbor will not necessarily be liable for healthy branches falling upon your land. However, if the branches are dead, it is your neighbor’s responsibility to maintain them or possibly face liability for damages that are caused to your land by falling branches.

Consider Speaking With a Florida Real Estate Attorney

Nobody enjoys disagreeing with their neighbors. If you’re dealing with conflict due to a disagreement over property lines, trees, or fences, it always helps to have a qualified Florida real estate lawyer by your side. That’s why we encourage you to reach out to A. K. Esquire PLLC if you are involved in any of these situations. We can help guide you to the best solution.

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