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Lee County 50% Rule Changes To follow-up on my previous post, on November 8, the Lee County Commissioners considered several changes to facilitate repairs to buildings damaged by Hurricane Ian. The most significant changes involve how the “50% Rule” will be calculated.

The calculations for the 50% Rule along with other guidelines relating to the 50% rule are based on local regulation. Lee County Board of Commissioners were presented with and approved the following changes:

  • Allowing for a “permit-by-permit” valuation of the cost of repairs. The past County regulations required a cumulative consideration of improvements made over the previous 5 years. This change would not apply to “repetitive loss” properties that have received two or more NFIP payouts in excess of $1000 over a 10-year period.
  • Amending cumulative period for “repetitive loss” properties from 5 years to 1 year for 50% calculation.
  • Updating elevation requirements for manufactured homes in special flood hazard areas and coastal high hazard areas.
  • Amendment reflecting that the newest version of FEMA flood insurance rate maps for Lee County take effect November, 17, 2022.

Continue Reading Outcome of November 8 Lee County’s Meeting Regarding 50% Rule for Hurricane Ian Repairs

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At its upcoming Special Meeting on November 8, the Lee County Commission will consider several changes to facilitate repairs to buildings damaged by Hurricane Ian.  The Local Planning Agency (LPA) will consider and make a recommendation on the proposed changes at its meeting on November 7.

The most significant changes involve how the “50% Rule” will be calculated.  The 50% Rule, required by FEMA as part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), states that repairs to damaged structures cannot exceed 50% of the value of the building unless the structure is brought into full compliance with current flood regulations, including minimum finished floor elevations.

Continue Reading Lee County to Consider Changes to 50% Rule to Facilitate Hurricane Ian Repairs

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contractsOver the last year, I have noticed an alarming trend where residential builders, realtors, and sellers enter into contracts for new construction that utilize the “As Is” Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase (commonly referred to as “FARBAR Contract”), which is a standard form contract published by the Florida Realtors and The Florida Bar. The FARBAR Contract is a valuable tool in most residential real estate transactions; it provides standardized terms governing a transaction as well as provides for the basic outline to get to closing.

While immensely valuable in the resale market, the FARBAR Contract is ill-suited for the new construction context. The primary reason for this seems fairly obvious, as the FARBAR Contract assumes that the home exists at the time the contract is entered into. As a result, the FARBAR Contract fails to address many issues that arise during the construction process.

The most common of these issues are construction delays, increases in the price of material, and financing contingencies. These issues combined with external factors such as supply shortages, labor shortages, governmental delays and increasing interest rates have highlighted the inadequacies of the FARBAR Contract in the new construction context in recent months.

Construction Delays

construction delayConstruction delays are simply not accounted for under the FARBAR Contract; again, the assumption underpinning the FARBAR Contract is that the home exists, and the seller’s performance merely requires delivering clear title, possession of the property at closing, and executing the necessary closing documents. Extensions are certainly common with the FARBAR Contract, but they often do not extend for months on end.

With new construction, supply and labor shortages and delays at the permitting office can mean delays that go on for months. This often leaves buyers frustrated and on the hook for alternate housing and storage throughout the duration of the delay. Rising interest rates also pose an issue with new construction projects. Delays in construction could result in a buyer’s interest rate lock expiring or require per diem payments to preserve the interest rate. Significant delays could mean thousands of dollars in per diem charges to avoid large jumps in interest rates.

Continue Reading Inappropriate Contracting: Using FARBAR Form Contracts for Residential New Construction

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The Extended Deadlines

On October 20, 2022, Governor DeSantis signed Executive Order 22-242 offering relief to Floridians whose property has been completely destroyed or otherwise rendered uninhabitable in the form of extended deadlines for filing ad valorem property taxes and non-ad valorem assessments levied in 2022. Normally, ad valorem property taxes are assessed on each county’s tax rolls and are collected by the county tax collector are due and payable on November 1 and become delinquent April 1. Now, with the signing of this executive order, these taxes will be due and payable on January 1, 2023. In addition, these taxes and assessments will now become delinquent on June 1, 2023 instead of the April 1. Finally, “all dates and time periods, and their associated provisions, relative to the collection of, or administrative procedures regarding, delinquent taxes and non-ad valorem assessments, including but not limited to the sale of tax certificates, are similarly extended based on the June 1, 2023 delinquency date.”

Who Qualifies?

Continue Reading Hurricane Ian Extends Property Tax Deadlines, Governor DeSantis Calls for Special Session to Offer Further Relief

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short term rentalsSouthwest Florida is a prime location for people to bring their family and friends to vacation. Whether it’s the golf, beaches, or just the beautiful weather, Southwest Florida has solidified itself as a great destination for vacations. This has made tourism a major industry, and one of the biggest areas of tourism is hotels and rentals for families staying in the area.

However, in recent years families have been more inclined to try to rent a home for a short period rather than booking a hotel room. According to Section 509.013(4)(a)(1.) of Florida Statutes, a short-term rental is defined as a residence rented for less than thirty days and rented out more than three times a year.

With the rise of the vacation rental industry, local governments and their residents have seen the impacts they have on the community. This led to two major questions – how can local governments regulate these short-term rentals or how can they prohibit them?

History of Short-Term Rentals

Vacation rentals have always been popular but were not always readily available or easy to find. A revolution occurred in the early 2000s with the rise of the internet and along with that came online rental platforms. Now there are many different platforms, such as Airbnb and VRBO, which made short-term rentals much more available. Further, this led to an overall increase in the number of rentals available.

This increase in rentals led to issues amongst local governments and their citizens because of the impacts short-term rentals had on the community, both positive and negative. Local governments began to ban or create regulations around these short-term rentals. Because of the divide and lack of consistency in regulation by local governments, the Florida legislature created a law that prohibited any local government from banning short-term rentals and limited how they may be regulated.

Effect of the New Legislation

Continue Reading Can Your Local Government Ban Short Term Vacation Rentals?

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unlicensed contractors Hurricane Ian made direct landfall in Southwest Florida, destroying thousands of homes and buildings. The destruction will now require the mobilization of hundreds of contractors in the construction industry. Unfortunately, a tragedy like Hurricane Ian will also attract a number of unlicensed contractors who will try and take advantage of desperate victims trying to rebuild their homes and businesses.

As Southwest Florida starts the rebuilding phase, here are a few things residents should be aware of:

Before you hire a contractor, ask to see their state-issued license

Whether you need roof repairs or mold-related services, you want to ensure the person you hire is licensed and insured. The definition of “contractor” under Section 489.105, Florida Statutes, requires that any person who seeks to

construct, repair, alter, remodel, add to, demolish, subtract from, or improve any building or structure” must have a license.

Allowing an unlicensed contractor to perform work on your property puts you at risk of liability and could cost you more in the end. Generally, unlicensed contractors do not have workers’ compensation and liability insurance. As a result, the property owner may be liable for any injuries that occur on site.

You may check your contractor’s license by going to www.myfloridalicense.com.

Unlicensed contracting is a felony

In Florida, unlicensed contracting is generally charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to one year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000.00 fine.

Continue Reading Unlicensed Contractors: What You Need to Know

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As a result of Hurricane Ian, permits and development orders may qualify for an extension. According to Florida Statute § 252.363, when a governor declares a state of emergency permits can be extended for the duration of the state of emergency. Additionally, permits will be extended six months after the state of emergency expires.

Executive Order 22-218, which declared a state of emergency, was made effective on September 23rd, 2022, and if it is not extended, it will expire 60 days after its announcement, which is November 22nd, 2022.

First, it is important to note which counties are affected by this state of emergency. Initially, Executive Order 22-218 declared a state of emergency for a list of specific counties. But, on September 24th, 2022 Governor Desantis issued Executive Order 22-219 expanding the state of emergency from the specific counties originally listed to the entire state of Florida.

Continue Reading Due to Hurricane Ian, Florida development orders and permits qualify for extensions

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A large part of my law practice deals with “takings”—a situation where a government authority with the power to condemn, or a private entity with the power to condemn, has taken private property. Takings falls primarily into one of two large categories:

  1. “Direct takings,” which is when a government or private entity, like a utility, files a lawsuit to acquire private property through the court system; and
  2. “Inverse” or indirect condemnation, which is when a government or private entity has taken private property without using the court system.

In the case, Orlando Bar Group, LLC d/b/a The Basement, The Attic and the Treehouse v. DeSantis, the Fifth District Court of Appeal decided that Governor DeSantis’s executive orders from March 2020 did not amount to a taking of private property. Even though Governor DeSantis’s executive orders:

  • suspended all sales of alcoholic beverages by entities deriving more than fifty percent of their gross revenue;
  • suspended the sale of such beverages for on-premises consumption;
  • limited the operation of bars to seated service; and
  • restricted operational capacity to half of the typical occupancy previously permitted,

the Fifth DCA determined that those executive orders did not amount to a taking of private property.

Continue Reading Governor DeSantis’s COVID-19 Closings Not a Taking of Private Property

vacation propertyAccording to the National Association of Home Builders, in 2018 there were approximately 7.5 million second homes, making up 5.5 percent of the total number of homes. These homes are not only real estate that must be planned for, managed, and maintained. They are also the birthplace of happy memories for you and your loved ones. Following are some important estate planning questions to consider to ensure that your place of happy memories is protected.

What Will Happen to the Property at Your Death?

The fate of your vacation property at your death largely depends on how it is currently owned. If you are the property’s sole owner or if you own it as a tenant in common with one or more other people, you need to decide what will happen to your interest in the property. If you own the property with another person as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or with a spouse as tenants by the entirety, your interest will automatically transfer to the remaining owner without court involvement. If a trust or limited liability company owns your vacation property, the entity will continue to own the property after your death. The trust instrument or operating agreement may lay out additional instructions about what will happen at your death.

What Do You Want to Happen to the Property at Your Death?

Continue Reading Important Questions to Ask When Investing in a Vacation Property

ConsiderWhether you are involved in rezoning land or obtaining a special exception, conditional use, variance, development order, or other entitlement to land in Florida, you will likely need approval from the local government where the property is located. But what if your request is denied? This article explores some of the common remedies available to an applicant in the event their application is denied.

If your application is denied, it’s important to know your options. While some jurisdictions have administrative remedies available for an applicant to exhaust (e.g., rehearing, reconsideration, administrative appeals, etc.), others may not. It is important to be familiar with local rules, including land regulations, ordinances, administrative codes, and any applicable staff interpretations. Exhaustion of available non-judicial remedies is an important consideration in any potential land use challenge.

In addition to exhaustion of any available local remedies, the following is a brief overview of some common legal remedies that could be available to an applicant in the event of a denial:

Petition for writ of certiorari

This process involves filing a fairly-detailed petition with the local circuit court within 30 days from the date of the denial. It can take many months, even years, to conclude. This is the typical “zoning appeal,” and the standard of review is whether the local government’s decision is supported by competent substantial evidence, whether there were any procedural due process violations, and whether the decision maker followed the essential requirements of the law. See Deerfield Beach v. Vaillant, 419 So.2d 624 (Fla. 1982). Each party typically pays its own legal fees.

“Consistency challenge”

Continue Reading What options are available to challenge denial of a land use application in Florida?