Earlier this week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed S.B. 72 into law, which grants some civil immunity to business entities against plaintiffs bringing COVID-19 injury and wrongful death claims. A review of the impact S.B. 72 has on business entities and civil claims is provided by my colleague and litigation attorney Heath Gelman here. The bill applies to “certain business entities,” in recognition of the public interest as a whole served by

providing relief to these business … so that they may remain viable and continue to contribute to this state.”

Among other types of businesses included in the definition of “business entities” are corporations not-for-profit under Sec. 617.01401, Fla. Stat. Based on a plain reading of the law, this would include condominium and homeowners’ associations, although it remains to be seen how the application of the law will be interpreted as it percolates in Florida courts.

Sigh of relief

Continue Reading New COVID-19 Civil Immunity Law Provides Relief to Florida Condo and HOAs

Henderson Franklin was honored to sponsor 2021 Market Trends, which took place on March 9, 2021, with speakers Randy Thibaut, founder of Land Solutions, Inc., Denny Grimes, President of Denny Grimes & Team at Keller Williams Realty, and Stan Stouder, founding partner of CRE Consultants, LLC. The presentation discussed the real estate market over the last year in Southwest Florida. The following provides a summary of the event and what the speakers forecast the market to look like in the coming year. The report focused on three areas of the market: new construction, the resale sector, and commercial real estate.

Overall, 2020 saw sluggish growth in the first part of the year, as the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic injected fear into the market. The second half of the year saw tremendous rebounds in the residential sector. These rebounds were largely due to increasingly stringent and long-lasting shutdowns in Northern states, which brought thousands of new homebuyers to Southwest Florida.

New Construction Residential Market

In terms of the new construction market, 2020 saw an initial dip in the early part of the year, but, overall, the total number of new building permits amongst Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties increased an average of 16% across the board. Charlotte County saw the most growth with a 28% increase in new building permits.

Individual communities are also seeing tremendous growth. Leading the way in Southwest Florida was Babcock Ranch with 533 new building permits issued to various builders in 2020. However, prices for new construction, along with rent prices, rose throughout 2020, indicating that supply cannot match demand.

Continue Reading The State of Southwest Florida Real Estate – A Recap of 2021 Market Trends

It is hardly a secret that one of the many draws of Southwest Florida is the accessibility of owning property along the beaches, rivers, and canals that make the area paradise for residents and visitors alike. Waterfront ownership, or littoral ownership, comes with a unique set of rights, such as the right to access and construct improvements on the water. These rights however are not absolute, as various other stakeholders and environmental interests possess similar rights.

What Regulations Apply to Construction of Waterfront Structures?

In terms of constructing improvements such as docks, boatlifts, piers and other artificial structures, the State and County governments have developed legal regimes designed to balance these competing interests and effectively manage the aquatic resources of the State. These statutes and regulations are often difficult to navigate for homeowners and developers unfamiliar with the specific characteristics of waterfront ownership. Careful attention to these statutes and regulations must be paid in order to avoid fines, construction delays, or even being required to remove non-conforming structures.

What Laws Apply to My Property?

Continue Reading Construction of Docks, Piers, and Other Waterfront Structures in Southwest Florida

Our team previously wrote about pet restrictions in a 2014 article located here. Nearly six years later, pet restrictions continue to be a breeding ground for confusion, particularly with respect to fair housing and discrimination laws and as those laws relate to recent legislation which took effect in July 2020.

According to statistics provided by The Humane Society of the United States, approximately 67% of all households throughout the United States had a pet based on data collected from 2019-2020. While pets have become a mainstay in most American households, they are not necessarily as common in condominium and homeowners association. The governing documents of many community associations impose limits on the types and number of pets a member or tenant may keep in a unit or home.

These pet restrictions take varying forms; sometimes, the goal is to curtail what are deemed to be aggressive or dangerous breeds as defined by the governing documents. In other instances, a restriction may limit the number of pets a single owner may keep, or may define what types of animals are deemed domesticated and permitted to be kept as a pet at all.

Proceed with caution

Continue Reading Pet restrictions revisited: Community associations continue to navigate pet restrictions as new Florida law addresses fraudulent emotional support animal claims and documentation

The mortgage business is booming in many parts of the country. Historically low interest rates have created an almost frenzied environment with homeowners scrambling to refinance their home loans at these low interest rates. Even a few tenths of a percentage point of interest, over thirty years, can make a massive difference in the amount of interest that is ultimately paid on a loan.

For many, it makes perfect sense to take advantage of these interest rates. Besides the associated transaction fees of refinancing, there is frequently little to no downside to refinancing in times like these. However, one often overlooked consideration is the impact that refinancing your home could have on your estate plan.

When You Own Your Property In Your Name

Whether you own your real estate solely in your name or jointly with a spouse or other family member, refinancing your property has little impact on determining who will receive your interest in the property upon your death.

Continue Reading How Refinancing a Property Can Affect Your Estate Plan

You may recall that we blogged about a rare trial court victory for property owners back on May 23, 2018.  Since then, that case has been to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, yet again. The most recent opinion from the Fourth District upheld the trial court’s jury verdict awarding the land owner $2,000,000, plus pre-judgment interest in the amount of $1,302,577.

Interestingly, the Fourth District Court of Appeal also upheld the trial court ruling that excluded Indian River County’s economist and appraiser. The Fourth District concluded that the trial court “properly excluded the economist’s and the appraiser’s testimony, in part, based upon the Bert Harris Act’s plain meaning.”

Continue Reading Bert J. Harris, Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act Update

Guest post by Gregory Herman-Giddens, Esq.

When it comes to your estate planning, how should you handle your timeshare? If you have a revocable trust, should you transfer ownership of the timeshare to your trust? Should you instead continue to hold it in your name, or jointly with another family member? What if you do not use it very often and, despite your efforts to get your adult children to use it, it mostly just goes unused? Here are a few things to consider.

The Case for Owning Your Timeshare in Your Trust

Suppose you find significant value in timeshare ownership. You may want to consider retitling the timeshare in the name of your living trust. In Florida and most states, and depending on the contract, a timeshare interest is considered real property. This is important to know because in most states if you die owning real property in your sole name, it will be subject to an often timely and perhaps expensive probate proceeding for it to pass to your heirs. In Florida, probate and attorneys’ fees for a proceeding to transfer a time share can exceed $5,000. Owning your timeshare in your revocable trust is one of the best ways to ensure that your named trust beneficiaries can take ownership of your timeshare after you are gone without going through probate.

When you first purchase a timeshare, make sure you understand the requirements to transfer it at your death. If the seller cannot with certainty tell you how you can transfer the timeshare (and show you language in the contract supporting their answer), you should seek the counsel of an experienced timeshare or real estate attorney before signing the contract. This distinction can make a difference of thousands of dollars of probate costs and frustration upon your death or disability. You will also want to check your contract or with the timeshare management company to determine whether there will be a fee assessed for the transfer of your timeshare from your name to the name of your trust.

Ultimately, the decision to title your timeshare into the name of your trust is a very fact-specific decision. Asking questions and reading your timeshare contract carefully can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Reasons Not to Title Your Timeshare in the Name of Your Trust

Continue Reading Should You Own Your Timeshare in Your Trust?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented impacts on the residential real estate market. The warning signs for Phase I were not easily detected, and almost overnight, the parties to such transactions, as well as those essential to closing such transactions, had to re-evaluate their means and methods of conducting business. Below are some tips for those buying or selling real estate in a pandemic:

Tips for Buyers

  • Add a specific contract amendment addressing potential coronavirus-related delays. Many state realtor associations have provided a coronavirus addendum for use by agents. For example, the Florida Association of Realtors has set forth a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Extension Addendum to Contract to address coronavirus-related delays. This particular Addendum may be utilized with all existing Florida Association of Realtors contracts, inclusive of the various FAR/BAR contracts.
  • In Collier County, Florida, the Naples Area Board of Realtors (“NABOR”), have both a coronavirus addendum and amendment for use with its NABOR existing form contracts. Both the State and local coronavirus addenda provide for time period extensions for the closing date, financing period, inspection period, title cure period, and due diligence periods, as well as allowing the Buyer to receive an escrow deposit refund under select circumstances of lender loan disapproval.
  • Notwithstanding the benefit of these new addenda, buyers should seek legal counsel to review and/or customize a coronavirus addendum or amendment to maximize the buyer’s protection.

Tips for Sellers

Continue Reading Tips for Buying and Selling Residential Real Estate in a Pandemic

On April 2, 2020, Governor DeSantis signed Executive Order 20-94, which placed a moratorium on residential eviction actions related to the non-payment of rent. The purpose of the moratorium was to provide targeted, temporary relief to Floridians in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after granting several extensions, Governor DeSantis permitted Florida’s moratorium to expire at midnight on September 30, 2020.

While the expiration on Florida’s moratorium may come as a relief to landlords and a further concern to tenants, there remains a federal moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) that continues to impact Florida rental properties.

Who’s covered under the CDC Moratorium?

Continue Reading How the CDC’s Moratorium Could Impact Florida Landlords’ Right to Evict Despite the Expiration of the Florida Moratorium

Construction warranties seem simple enough but often result in a great deal of confusion, particularly when it comes to understanding the amount of time a project owner has to file a lawsuit alleging the breach of such warranties.

The complication arises because an owner’s right to sue for breach of a warranty does not expire on the date the warranty expires.

A Common But Confusing Scenario

Assume a situation in which a contractor has completed construction of a residence on January 1, 2015. The contractor has been fully paid for the work and the owner appears happy with the work. Further assume that the construction contract included a standard two-year warranty on labor and materials.

Now fast forward five years to the year 2020 and the contractor is served with a lawsuit from the same owner who is alleging breach of construction warranties. How can this be? The warranties expired in 2017, right? It would appear that this should be a simple case for the contractor to defend and win. Unfortunately, it is not so simple.

A common misunderstanding in the construction industry lies in the distinction between the concept of a warranty period and the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit.

Four-Year Statute of Limitations

Continue Reading The Construction Warranty: It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over! When Is It Over?