Last Update: 02/10/16
It is not “buyer beware” in Florida for anyone looking to buy residential real estate. Florida home buyers are protected by specific laws passed by the Florida Legislature that force developers, realtors, real estate agents, and real estate brokers to reveal certain conditions about the property they intend to buy.
Of course, these statutes were passed only after so many buyers were harmed by the failure of an unethical real estate professional (and Seller) to let the buyer know about hidden problems with a property. Some real estate agents don’t think they need to tell the home buyer about something like an illegal home addition or conversion, or the fact that the agent is really working on behalf of the seller and not the buyer.
What Are Florida’s Disclosure Laws in Residential Property Transactions?
In Florida, there is no one, overall disclosure law that applies to residential real estate. Instead, there are a series of laws that have been passed over time regarding residential disclosure requirements. We’ve already discussed Florida Statute 689.25, and we will look into Florida Statute 475.278 (realtor disclosing nature of relationship w/ buyer and/or seller) in a future post.
However, here are a few disclosures worth discussing now:
1. Coastal Property Disclosure
Florida Statute 161.57 requires disclosure of things like the possibility of coastal erosion; meaning, that the property is subject to federal, state and local regulations on limitations regarding construction; and there are environmental regulations that apply, such as protections for marine turtles.
2. Radon Gas Warning
Florida Statute 404.056(5) makes it illegal for a real estate professional to fail to disclose in writing of the dangers of radon gas. The law mandates that specific language be included in the purchase documents that states:
“RADON GAS: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that, when it has accumulated in a building in sufficient quantities, may present health risks to persons who are exposed to it over time. Levels of radon that exceed federal and state guidelines have been found in buildings in Florida. Additional information regarding radon and radon testing may be obtained from your county health department.”
3. Mandatory Membership in Homeowner’s Association
Florida Statute 720.401 specifies that anyone buying a home in a community with a homeowner’s association must be notified that they will be required to be a member of the association, and that as a member, they will be asked to pay for things like assessments and fees (at the risk of a lien being placed on their property for failure to pay these sums). The law also provides for voiding the sale if the proper disclosures have not been made.
4. Florida Condo Disclosures
Florida Statute 718.503 (1), (2), and (3) are laws that apply to the purchase of Florida condos and make it illegal for any residential condominium developer or unit seller in Florida to fail to let condo buyers know in advance of purchase of many specifics that apply to the condo lifestyle and the particular condo being purchased. These include things like:
- Their right to see and review bylaws and association documents before closing;
- The details regarding property management, including the management contract;
- Whether or not the condominium includes time shares;
- Details including the right to review any recreational leases of the condominium; and
- Proof of legal ownership of the real estate and its improvements by the developer and/or the unit owner acting as seller.
If these disclosures are not made by the developer, or the unit owner who is selling the condo, in WRITING, and including the specific language found in the statute (there is a 3 day right to rescind a transaction from the date of delivery of these documents) , then the law allows the buyer to void the contract. (718.503 (1)).
Fighting Back Against Failures to Disclose
Even with these laws in place, buyers in Florida are still hoodwinked by real estate agents that fail to disclose information about the residential property. In these instances, the buyer need not suffer buyer’s remorse: there are legal remedies available to him or her under Florida law that may allow for the rescission of the deal (meaning, the unwinding of the transaction) or monetary damages.
An experienced Florida real estate lawyer can be invaluable in helping a Florida home buyer who has been victimized by a failure to disclose a condition (or a misrepresentation of a condition) to get justice.
A good piece of advice if you have a disclosure issue is to at least speak with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to learn about your rights. Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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