When it comes to Florida Business Laws, it’s important to examine everything from getting proper financing for your business, to hiring employees, and selecting the right insurance policies. You also must be aware of filing taxes, as well as what legal structure to choose when forming your Florida business (between a partnership, limited liability company, or corporation). So, let’s keep reading and get started!
Understanding Florida Business Laws
Florida Antitrust Laws
The intention of antitrust laws are to encourage competition, and what follows is a basic understanding of antitrust laws in the state of Florida.
Florida Civil Statute of Limitations
Statutes of limitations refers to the time limits for filing a complaint or civil lawsuit in Florida, including for personal injury, false imprisonment, defamation, fraud, damage to personal property, professional malpractice, and trespassing.
Florida Deceptive Trade Practice Laws
This topic describes the way in which Florida laws prohibit deceptive trade practices like false advertising, bait and switch, or tampering with a car odometer.
Florida Interest Rate Laws
These Florida laws regulate interest rates that creditors can charge, and include the legal maximum interest rate a creditor may charge and penalties for unlawful interest rates.
Florida Antitrust Laws
As consumers, everyone enjoys low prices, but as a business owner, you often wish to charge as much as possible. However, When doesn’t have any competition, or when several businesses agree to artificially set prices and supply, they risk running afoul of Florida’s antitrust laws. We will now briefly summarize antitrust laws in the state of Florida.
To maintain fair competition and business practices, states and the federal government is antitrust laws to discourage certain mergers and acquisitions that produce an unfair advantage. Antitrust laws in the state of Florida allow plaintiffs to bring private lawsuits against companies, while also making it possible to recover attorneys’ fees.
The main goal of antitrust laws is to protect free trade and commerce from unfair restraints, such as price fixing or monopolies. Two federal laws – the Clayton Act and the Sherman Act, assist the states in antitrust cases.
The majority of antitrust statutes are enforced in two ways:
- In most scenarios, a state attorney general can sue on behalf of the state. If the case succeeds, The court then can order an injunction that prohibits the practice, or punishes the unfair practice by ordering fines pay to consumers.
- Competing businesses or consumers can file a private right of action. if the suit is successful, the plaintiff can recover damages for injuries that resulted from these unfair practices.
Florida Civil Statute of Limitations Laws
Although you were involved in an accident and the other driver was at fault, it happened a couple of months ago. However, your back still aches from the accident. Or, maybe it’s been a year since your car was repaired, but you’re only now realizing they didn’t do the job right the first time. Are you able to file a suit against the other driver or car repair shop? If the answer is yes, is there a deadline to file the lawsuit? All states happen to have their own individual laws limiting the amount of time between when an injury occurs and when you can file a civil suit. With that, lets take a brief look at the civil statute of limitation laws in the state of Florida.
Civil Statutes of Limitation
Florida’s civil statute of limitation laws are very similar to many other states. Depending on the type of case, Florida statutes of limitations range from two to four years. This begins from the date of the incident or the discovery of the problem.
Statutes of Limitation in Florida
The purpose of statue of limitation laws are develop fairness and predictability when it comes to filing lawsuits. This means that defendants can be put on notice that they may have committed harm against another party, without having a legal matter hanging over their heads indefinitely. This also means that plaintiffs must decide whether or not to press a lawsuit within a given timeframe.
Learn More About Florida Civil Court Procedures: Contact An Attorney
Florida civil statute of limitation in many cases depends on the type of injury involved. keep in mind that your claim may be barred if you do not file your lawsuit within the required statutory limit in Florida. If you’re facing a personal injury or contract dispute, we encourage you to contact A.K. Esquire PLLC for more helpful information and assistance.
Florida Corporations Laws
Running a business successfully requires important decision making, from selecting an attractive name to choosing the right business entity. Many times, these decisions have an direct influence on how successful the business will become. There are numerous pros and cons to forming a corporation under Florida corporations laws, therefore, it’s important to be fully informed before taking the rest step. The next section is a general overview and sunmany of Florida’s corporate laws.
Incorporating a Business under Florida Corporate Laws
When a company decides it’s time to incorporate, step is to learn how the incorporation process works. Although many steps are involved in the incorporation process within the state of Florida, checking to see whether or not your business name is available is among the top priorities. If your business name happens to be taken, any paperwork attempting to file for the new corporation with the existing business name will be denied.
For qualified legal assistance comes to forming your corporation, please contact your Florida business organization attorney at A.K. Esquire PLLC today. We will be happy to make the process as simple and straightforward as possible.
Florida Debtors’ Rights
Failing to pay a person or company what is owed can result a lawsuit to collect the remaining outstanding debt. If the court finds that you are liable, a judge may enter a judgement that designates you to be a “judgement debtor”. Although you cannot go to jail for failing to pay a judgment, this data can be reported to the credit bureau, and included as part of your credit history for up to seven years. Also, it’s possible that a portion of your income, property, or remaining assets may be seized in order to repay the outstanding debt. With this understood, let’s now examine your right to claim certain exemptions to your home, personal property, and wages in order to keep them from being seized after such a judgment.
Can the Court or Creditor Take my Home?
If you own the home that you live in, it is safe from all creditors, except those with a mortgage or lien on the home. These would mostly include people or companies who loaned you money in order to purchase the home. If you happen to live in an incorporated area such as a planned community or subdivision, your home can be exempt up to one half acre of land from any forced sales. If you live in an incorporated area, you may exempt your home and up to 160 acres as a “homestead property”. This rule falls under the homestead protection law. In order to qualify for the homestead exemption, you can file a Notice of Homestead with the court that describes your home and the surrounding land to claim it as your homestead.
What About my Personal Property?
Even if you don’t qualify for or claim the homestead exemption, you still have the right to claim a personal property exemption up to $4,000 per person. Limitations do apply however, such as you cannot exempt the property from a creditor or security interest in the property. An example would be if you took a loan out to buy a car, you will not be able to exempt the car from the lender, if they happen to be the creditor.
There is an exemption that exists for up to $1,000 of the value of your vehicle under Florida state law. You are allowed to combine the vehicle exemption and the personal property exemption. For example, it may be possible you can claim a total exemption of $5,000 for your vehicle. It should be noted that the personal property exemption does not apply to any child support support debts or spousal support debts that are owed.
Can the Court or Creditors Seize Jointly Owned Property?
In cases where a judgment is made against your spouse but not yourself, you are entitled to claim an exemption of your interest in the property. Under Florida law, property held by a husband and wife is called “tenancy by entirety”, meaning that it may not be divided in order to repay debts. As a result, jointly-held marital properties (including real estate) is exempt from creditors of the husband or wife as individuals. To obtain this exemption and protect the joint property, you or your spouse must file an affidavit with the court. Florida law states clearly that fraudulent transfers of property, or transfers made only to protect the property from creditors may cause the property to lose its exemption.
Can the Court Garnish my Wages?
The answer is yes, with only a few exceptions. Under Florida law, there is a “head of family” exemption. If you earn $500 or less per week in net income and are the head of a family, these wages may be exempt. In order to qualify as head of the family, you must provide more than one half of support for a child or another dependent person. As with other exemptions, you must file an affidavit with the court in order to declare your head of family status and make your wages exempt from being garnished. federal law also limits wage garnishes to 25% of your net wages, or the amount that you take home that is more than 30 times the federal minimum wage per week, whichever is less.
Other forms of income that are generally exempt from garnishment include:
- 401K plans
- Disability benefits
- Unemployment benefits
- Workers compensation
- College and medical savings accounts
- Social Security benefits
- Life insurance proceeds
- Veterans benefits
- Earned income credits from your taxes
As with the joint property exemption, you must file an affidavit claiming income exemptions, and the creditor may also challenge the claim.
Get Help With Florida Debtors Rights by Speaking to an Attorney
It’s important to begin by understanding that you have rights as a debtor. If you feel that you’re in debt and need help understanding how these laws have an impact on you, the best way forward is to speak with one of our experienced debtor-creditor attorneys. A.K. Esquire PLLC is ready and waiting to assist you.
Florida Deceptive Trade Practices Laws
In cases were manufacturers or retailers make false claims, use misleading tactics to increase sales, or spread disinformation, they are engaging in one or more deceptive trade practices. Examples of this can include tampering with odometers by car dealers or making highly inaccurate claims regarding a given product. Under Florida law, deceptive trade practices law adheres to the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, allowing both the enforcing of authority for a specific industry and consumers to file suit.
Deceptive practices restrictions in Florida can be found in Chapter 501 of the Florida Statutes, recognized as the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. These laws regulate behavior from a wide range of industries, from food and supplements, to real estate, consumer products (like cars), and credit cards. Banned activity varies based upon the industry involved, but generally speaking, manufacturers and retailers may not use deceptive labeling and advertising, or otherwise tamper with a product being sold.
Who May Bring a Suit
Private citizens who are victims of these deceptive practices and the government authority charged with enforcing the conduct of a particular industry may bring suit against the manufacturer or seller.
The punishments associated with deceptive trade practices depends upon the industry for which the organization at fault is involved in. Usually, false advertising is a second-degree misdemeanor and car odometer tampering is a third degree felony.
As with all cases, damages will depend on the injuries suffered and the conduct alleged to have taken place. Potential remedies include:
- Actual damages if the at-fault party acted in bad faith
- Injunction, which is a court order directing the defendant to either complete a determined action or stop certain behavior
- Declaratory Judgment, which is a court determination ot the rights or duties of parties involved in a civil dispute
- Willful or intentional unfair trade practices in any industry can result in a $10,000 civil fine, along with reasonable attorneys fees and costs paid to the party bringing the lawsuit.
If you feel that you’ve been injured or misled by false information from a seller or manufacturer of a product, legal remedies could be available to you. Contact a qualified and capable Florida consumer protection attorney from A.K. Esquire PLLC to discuss the terms of your case and receive helpful legal assistance for your situation.
In cases where someone needs a loan fast, lenders have an opportunity to charge high interest rates because they know the borrower may not have another place to go for a quick loan. To guard consumers from unfair lending practices, Florida has laws limiting interest rates, although consumers can still waive these protections if they see fit. Very high interest rates are still illegal and subject to criminal prosecution.
Florida Interest Rates Laws
Florida Maximum Interest Rate
Florida has laws putting limits on interest rates. As with many other states, Florida has a set interest rate instead of an interest calculation. Loans that are $500,000 or less have interest rates capped at 18% annually. For loans over $500,000, interest rate is capped at 25%.
Exceptions to the Interest Rate
Many people in Florida could be paying interest on car payments or credit cards that are higher than the stated maximum interest rate. However, this does not mean that the lender is necessarily violating the law. The maximum interest rate does not apply to national banks. Also, people with pawnbroker licenses or small loan companies have specific rules that apply only to them. In general, the maximum interest rate applies to loans between people or corporations, and not to banks.
Penalties for Violating Usury Laws
The types of laws discussed generally fall under consumer protection law. in all such cases, interest is forfeited by the lender and repaid double. Charging interest rates of 25% to 45% is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine. Charging an interest rate of greater than 45% is a class 3 felony. Maintaining books on a loan with an interest rate higher than 25% is a first degree misdemeanor. This implies that record keepers are responsible for reporting high interest rates also.
Get Legal Help Understanding Florida Interest Rate Laws
Florida’s interest rate laws are made to protect consumers when they need loans. If you have suffered as a result of unfair lending practices, or would like to learn more about usury rates in Florida, we encourage you to reach out to our experienced banking and finance lawyer team at A.K. Esquire PLLC for more information and assistance.
How to Form a Florida LLC
If you have decided that a limited liability company (LLC) is the right legal structure for your Florida business, we will show you the steps involved to prepare one. Included are six easy steps to create your Florida LLC.
What is an LLC?
LLC stands for limited liability company. An LLC is a business entity with characteristics of a corporation, along with elements of a partnership. It also carries the potential for pass-through taxation based upon the way it is structured, which is normally reserved for independent contractors.
LLCs are very popular for the limited personal liability they provide for their members. Liability protection can help to shield members’ personal assets, and separate them from their business’s obligations.
As an example, if a business were to become insolvent or bankrupt, if it is an LLC, creditors cannot go after the owners’ personal home, vehicles, or bank accounts in order to pay the business’s debts. Rather, they may only seize business assets in order to cover the company’s obligations. This significant protection and advantage is one of the main reasons companies choose LLC as a popular business entity option. In addition, Forming an LLC is simple, and can usually be accomplished online within a few easy steps. Incorporation is a more in-depth and complex process, which is usually unnecessary for most small businesses.
Step 1: Choose a Name for Your LLC
One of the first steps in creating an LLC, is selecting an appropriate name that represents your business you prefer. Perhaps you have a name in mind already, but it’s recommended to check for availability before committing to one. There are also some naming rules that Florida LLCs must follow.
First, it’s important to run a name search on the Division of Corporations Business Name Database. This can provide the results of registered businesses within the state of Florida. If the name you have chosen does not match any on the database, you can also do a quick screening by searching on the internet. Simply type your name into your favorite search engine to see if the company name is already being used. Also, it may be wise to check with the US Patent and Trademark Office to be thorough and certain. The USPTO has a searchable database of registered trademarks.
Finally, it’s smart to do a domain name check to view availability. While you may not be planning to launch a website right away, securing your domain name for future use is good practice.
After selecting a name, you must be sure to follow Florida’s naming laws. According to Florida’s Revised Limited Liability Company Act, your LLC name must:
- Include the words limited liability company or the abbreviation “LLC”, “Ltd., or “Co.”
- Be distinct from the names of existing businesses
- Not imply that the business has a purpose other than the one listed in its articles of organization
- Not contain language that would confuse the LLC with the governmental agency, corporation, or other registered entity
Please note that the name of your company must substantially be different from that of other Florida business names. In other words, you can’t simply add a suffix, punctuation, abbreviate a word, or make slight changes to an existing company name. It must be distinct, and not easily confused with other Florida businesses.
Step 2: Choose a Florida Registered Agent
A registered agent for your LLC is a person who agrees to accept service of process should your LLC get sued. This agent also accepts mail on the LLC’s behalf. The owner or manager can also be your own registered agent, All that is required is to have a physical address within the state of Florida, and a business address that is the same as your company’s registered address. A PO Box cannot be listed as your registered agent mailing address. You may also hire a registered agent if you cannot find someone to act as one. Several services provide this for a small fee. You might also seek to consult with your business attorney to see if they offer this service as well.
Step 3: File Your Florida LLC Articles of Organization
The articles of organization for your business act as a charter that formalizes the existence of your LLC. The document will lay out these essential facts regarding your business:
- The name of the LLC
- The mailing address of the principal office connected with the LLC
- The name of the registered agent, address, and their signature
- The purpose of the LLC, if it is a professional limited liability company
Although it’s not required, you have the option of giving the following information:
- The management structure of your LLC (member-managed or run by managers)
- The names and addresses of the LLC’s managers or members
- Members’ or managers’ rights and responsibilities
It’s generally a good idea to include this optional information. You may be required to fill these details out with the state before any financial institutions will be open to working with your business.
After you or your attorney has written your Articles of Organization, it becomes necessary to file them with the Florida Division of Corporations. the filing fee is $125, which can be paid with a credit card, debit card, or sunbiz account. After that, you must submit your forms and fees through the Florida Division of Corporations website. You may request a certified copy of your filing for an additional fee.
Step 4: Create an Operating Agreement
Your LLC operating agreement is a critical legal document every LLC ought to have. Although you’re not legally required to have an operating agreement in Florida, many financial institutions will ask for one before they open a business bank account. or offer loans for your business. Also, potential investors, accountants, and other professionals may insist on seeing an operating agreement prior to doing business with your company.
In most cases, the operating agreement will include the following:
- Basic company information
- The purpose of your LLC
- The percentage of ownership of each member
- Procedures for bringing in or releasing members
The management structure – this section should include delegated authority and responsibility of each member and manager role.
The details outlined in this agreement form a contract among the members of your LLC. This way, in the case of any future conflict among members, the contract can help to resolve any potential confusion.
Owners of a single member LLC don’t have to worry about conflict among members. However, it is still good practice to have an operating agreement. Many people find that a single-member LLC operating agreement is necessary for banking or other professional services. It also helps to establish the legitimacy of your LLC.
Step 5: Comply with Tax, Regulatory, and Licensing Requirements
The legal requirements of your business will vary depending on what type it is, but all businesses have tax obligations of some kind.
If it sells goods, collect sales tax, and has employees, it will most likely need to register with the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR). Checking whether you’ll need to collect Florida sales tax is simple thanks to the Department of Revenue sales tax guide. Also, you can arrange to pay sales tax using their online business tax application.
To hire Employees, you’ll also need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN). This number is also known as a federal tax identification number. It is a unique number identifying your business for tax purposes. In this way, it is similar to a social security number. You can obtain an EIN quickly and easily using the Internal Revenue Service’s website.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may also require a permit or business license. Learn more about this through the Florida Department of State. If you believe your business may need a federal license, the next step is to consult with a Small Business Administration (SBA) website. This website provides a substantial list of activities that require federal licensing.
Step 6: File an Annual Report for Your Florida LLC
According to Florida law, LLCs must submit an annual report to the Department of State. This report is due May 1st every year. There is a filing fee of $138.75, and it is prudent to avoid a late filing, as this will result in a $400 late fee.
Your report must include this basic identifying information about your LLC:
- Your LLC’s name and address
- Your date of organization
- Your EIN number if you have one
- Contact information of at least one company manager
- Any additional information, such as a change of registered agent
After completed, you may submit your annual report online through the Department of State.
Finding Further Assistance and Taking the Next Steps
If you have specific questions regarding your business, please contact one of our helpful business attorneys at A.K. Esquire PLLC Law Group who are ready and willing to assist you.