Florida law currently caps taxes assessed on commercial and rental property, but that may end come January 1, 2019.

You might be thinking “why do I care because I rent my home or apartment and don’t own either commercial or rental property?” Consider this: if your landlord has to pay higher taxes, guess whose rent is going to increase to offset your landlord’s cost?

For more information, please see a recent article in the Business Observer by Kevin McQuaid, “Commercial landlords could face big tax hike.”

Summer is a busy season for moving in Florida. This time of year is a popular time for families to move because it follows the spring real estate season and because school is out, parents won’t have to deal with enrolling their children in a new school mid-year. Landlords should ensure that they are aware of and in compliance with Florida law prior to renting.

Before signing a rental agreement or lease, landlords are encouraged to seek legal counsel to ensure that their lease complies with Florida law and that they are aware of the laws governing the landlord tenant relationship.

Landlord’s Responsibilities

In Florida, landlords are responsible for maintaining the dwelling. At all times during tenancy, the landlord shall (1) comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes; (2) maintain the roofs; (3) doors; (4) floors; (5) steps; (6) porches; (7) exterior walls; (8) foundations; (9) and all other structural components in good repair. The landlord must also maintain the plumbing in reasonable working condition.

Continue Reading Florida Rentals: What is the Landlord’s Responsibility?

Unlike certain “unalienable rights” granted to citizens under the United States Constitution, property interests are traditionally understood to have been created by a number of independent sources such as statutes, ordinances, or contracts. The general concept of property itself is construed as the group of rights inhering in the citizen’s relation to the physical thing, such as the right to possess, use and dispose of it.

Modern courts, however, acknowledge that the traditional notion of property interests encompass a variety of other valuable interests, such as intangible and incorporeal rights (e.g., leases, easements, right-of-ways, and mortgages) or other uses which extend well beyond the historic norms of property to establish an entirely legitimate claim to certain additional land use entitlements as well.

What is an “Exaction”?

The term “exaction” is when a condition for development is imposed on a parcel of land which requires the developer to mitigate anticipated negative impacts of the development. An exaction may include some sort of mandatory dedication of real property for impact fee payments, sewer or water utility connection fees, or public use of land for a park, school, or transportation facility or expansion anticipated for certain related infrastructure improvements.

The Doctrine of “Unconstitutional Conditions”

Continue Reading What Are My Private Property Rights in Florida Against Unlawful Land Development Exactions?

In something of a rarity, an appellate court has written an opinion in favor of a property owner bringing a claim under The Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act.

In Ocean Concrete, Inc. v. Indian River County, Board of County Commissioners, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court order denying relief to a property owner under the Bert Harris Act. As the Fourth District explained, in order to obtain relief under the Bert Harris Act, a plaintiff has to show

a specific action of a governmental entity has inordinately burdened an existing use of real property or a vested right to a specific use of real property.”

Bert Harris Act in a Nutshell

Continue Reading Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Florida Property Owner Under Bert Harris Act

In most cases, agreements between landlord and tenant are memorialized in writing that provides a specific procedure for both landlord and tenant default. However, not everyone hires an attorney to draft a lease. So what happens when the tenant stops paying the landlord and there is no written lease? The following is a summary of the process for evicting a commercial tenant and recovering money damages for past due rent.

No Written Lease = Tenancy at Will

In Florida, an unwritten lease is considered a tenancy at will. If rent is paid monthly, then the tenancy at will is regarded as a monthly lease. Either party can terminate a monthly tenancy at will by giving 15 days’ notice before the end of any monthly period.

Continue Reading My Commercial Tenant Quit Paying Rent, Now What?

Last year, the Florida Supreme Court issued an important opinion on property rights that you need to know about if you own real estate in Florida. I had written a blog post right after the decision, but a case I was handling at the time involved some issues related to the post, so I delayed the post until after my case resolved. In any event, the Florida Supreme Court opinion updates my blog posts of July 8, 2015 and August 20, 2015 about the Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act topic.

Land Use Designations in Hardee County

As mentioned in my earlier post, this case originates from a land purchase in Hardee County in 1996. The purchaser, FINR, bought land that held an “agriculture and public institutional purpose” future land use designation. In 2007, FINR successfully applied to amend the Hardee County Comprehensive Plan and change FINR’s future land use designation to rural center. The “rural center” designation provided FINR with a quarter-mile setback that applied to the adjacent properties and prohibited phosphate mining activities in the setback.

Continue Reading Not Your Property? Then You’ve Got No Claim Under the Bert Harris Act

Due to the growing use by local governments of certain quasi-judicial code enforcement proceedings to obtain compliance with their local land use and zoning regulations, it is important for Florida property owners and business operators to have a thorough understanding of administrative enforcement proceedings.

Local Government Enforcement Authority

Florida’s statutory scheme governing local code enforcement procedures is divided into two separate parts under Chapter 162 of Florida Statutes. There is no statutory provision prohibiting local governments from enforcing their land use development and zoning regulations by other means. Section 162.13 provides that the provisions of Chapter 162 are supplemental procedures for local governments to achieve code compliance and are therefore intended “to provide an additional or supplemental means of obtaining compliance with local [government] codes.”

Penalties and Fines

Continue Reading How Can Local Governments in Florida Enforce Compliance With Their Land Use & Zoning Regulations?

Florida’s State Constitution & Amendments Proposed by the Constitutional Revision Commission (“CRC”)

Once every twenty years the Florida Constitution provides for the creation of a thirty-seven member revision commission (hereinafter referred to as the “CRC”) which is appointed for the specific purpose of reviewing the Florida Constitution and proposing changes to be considered for voter consideration.

As such, the CRC has been uniquely vested with the duty to examine the Constitution of the State of Florida, as revised in 1968 and subsequently amended, hold public hearings, and file with the Secretary of State its proposed changes, if any.

Florida Constitution Article XI, Section 2

Continue Reading What All Florida Voters Need to Know About the 2017-2018 Constitutional Revision Commission

Victorville West Limited Partnership (“Victorville”) purchased the Inverrary Golf Course and Clubhouse within the Inverrary community in Lauderhill, Florida, in 2006. Victorville acquired the property subject to a restrictive covenant that became the subject of a lawsuit that the Fourth DCA recently ruled could not be canceled because it remained a substantial benefit to the surrounding homeowners.

Restrictive Covenants

When a person or entity purchases property, the property may be subject to a restrictive covenant that limits the purchaser’s use. The most common example is the restrictions provided by the declaration of covenants, restrictions, and easements that a homeowner’s association enforces within a residential neighborhood.

Continue Reading Appeals Court Hands Down a Win for Florida HOA

On December 20th, 2017, President Trump stood outside the White House and announced that Congress had passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“Tax Act”), the most thorough overhaul of the federal tax code since the Reagan administration. Like American taxpayers everywhere, most Floridians are wondering:

How will this tax legislation affect me?”

Because the most significant investment for most Americans is their home, this blog post explores how the legislation will affect home-owning taxpayers.

Capital Gains Tax on Primary Residences

One of the main concerns of home-owning taxpayers regarding the tax overhaul was whether Congress would alter the current tax treatment of capital gains taxes on the sale of primary residences. In many instances, the IRS treats the gain from real estate transactions, such as the sale of a vacation home, as taxable capital gains income. However, § 121 of the Internal Revenue Code provides an exception that exempts from taxable income up to $250,000 in capital gains for homeowners selling their primary residence. Much to the relief of homeowners and the homebuilders’ lobby, Congress did not change this provision.

Mortgage Interest and Property Tax Deduction

While Congress did not change the capital gains treatment of the sale of primary residences, Congress did make two notable changes affecting popular deductions for property taxes and mortgage interest. First, with respect to the mortgage interest deduction, Congress amended § 163(h)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to reduce the amount of borrowed money used to purchase a home (mortgage debt or “acquisition indebtedness”) on which homeowners can deduct the interest from income.

Under the previous tax rules, homeowners could deduct from income the interest paid on the first $1,000,000 in acquisition indebtedness ($500,000 if married filing separately). The Tax Act lowered to $750,000 the amount of acquisition indebtedness on which interest deductions are allowed ($375,000 if married filing separately). It is important to note that mortgage debt incurred before December 15, 2017, is grandfathered in under the older $1,000,000 limitation. Also grandfathered in under the $1,000,000 limitation are taxpayers who had signed contracts on or before December 15, 2017, to close on the purchase of a primary residence before January 1, 2018, so long as the purchase is actually closed before April 1, 2018.

Second, Congress placed a cap on the amount of state and local income taxes and property taxes that taxpayers can deduct on their federal tax returns. Under the previous tax rules, taxpayers could deduct from their income unlimited amounts of state and local income taxes, state and local real property taxes, and state and local personal property taxes paid in the taxable year. The Tax Act amends § 164 of the Internal Revenue Code by reducing the amount of state and local taxes taxpayers can deduct from income to the first $10,000 in state and local income and property taxes ($5,000 if married filing separately). This change represents a significant adjustment and most significantly affects taxpayers in high income-tax states. Fortunately, we have no state income taxes in Florida. However, the $10,000 limitation on deduction of property taxes will still affect Florida homeowners paying property taxes above that amount.

Takeaway

Beginning in 2018, many taxpayers, but not all, will start to see federal income tax relief and lower federal income tax bills. However, while the Tax Act changes provisions that benefit some taxpayers, some changes in the Tax Act will be detrimental to other taxpayers. To know more about how the Tax Act will affect you, you should consult with a tax professional. If you have any questions regarding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and its effects, please contact Caleb Hinton at caleb.hinton@henlaw.com or Paul Shuman at paul.shuman@henlaw.com.