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Live Local

Florida has seen tremendous growth and development over the past decade. With that growth has come a lot of changes in the economy and a large spike in population. This has created a thriving real estate market for homebuyers, with the demand for housing rising greatly. But there is one major thing we have learned throughout recent years: there is a need for more affordable and workforce housing.

To promote more affordable and workforce housing, Governor Ron Desantis signed SB 102 into law. SB 102, now known as the Live Local Act, has significantly impacted zoning laws and limited local government’s power to regulate affordable housing.

This new law makes it easier for affordable housing projects to get approved quickly without going through a long public hearing process to change a property’s zoning. It also allows for affordable housing to be built in areas that are currently zoned for commercial or industrial use. The affordable housing project can be approved quickly and easily, if it meets certain requirements. This law will go into effect on July 1st, 2023. Overall, SB 102 will help make it easier to build affordable housing in your community.

Below is a more detailed explanation of how the Live Local Act will affect the local approval and development of affordable and workforce housing.

What is “Affordable” Housing?

Continue Reading Live Local Act and Its Major Effects on Development Approvals for Affordable Housing
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Navigating Landlord Tenant Disputes in Florida: 5 Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

As a landlord, you’ve probably heard horror stories about tenants who refuse to pay rent, damage your property, or violate the terms of the lease agreement. These disputes can quickly escalate into costly lawsuits, leaving both parties frustrated and stressed. As a landlord, it’s crucial to be aware of the common disputes that can arise with tenants and take steps to prevent them from occurring. 

This post will address the most common landlord/tenant disputes and provide tips on how landlords can avoid unnecessary lawsuits. By understanding your rights and responsibilities as a landlord, you can maintain a positive relationship with your tenants and avoid legal battles that can be both costly and time-consuming.

Security Deposits

One of the most common disputes between landlords and tenants in Florida is related to security deposits. In Florida, landlords have specific responsibilities when returning a tenant’s security deposit. The landlord is required to return the security deposit within 15 days after the termination of the lease.

If the landlord plans to withhold part or all of the deposit to cover unpaid rent or damages to the property, they must provide a written notice within 30 days to the tenant explaining why the deposit is being withheld. If the landlord fails to return the deposit or provide a written notice, the tenant may be entitled to damages up to three times the amount of the deposit, plus attorney fees. Therefore, landlords must understand their responsibilities and follow the proper procedures to avoid unnecessary legal disputes.

Rent Increases

Continue Reading Navigating Landlord Tenant Disputes in Florida: 5 Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them
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On April 13, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law SB 360, a bill to make significant changes to the state’s construction defect claims process. The new law, which goes into effect immediately, should provide some additional protections  to those in the construction industry by shorting the time period for bringing design and construction defect claims, clarifying the application of these time periods on multi-building projects, and adding  a “materiality” requirement to statutory claims for violation of Florida’s Building Code according to Fla. Stat. § 554.84.

How does this impact Florida Contractors?

Continue Reading Florida’s New Legislation Provides More Protection for Contractors and Design Professionals
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Was your residential dwelling rendered uninhabitable by Hurricane Ian or Hurricane Nicole? You may be eligible for a partial refund of your 2022 property taxes.

On December 16, 2022, section 197.3181, Fl. Stat., was signed into law, which provides for a prorated refund of ad valorem taxes for residents whose homes were impacted by Hurricane Ian or Hurricane Nicole. To qualify for the partial refund, the applicant’s property must have been determined “uninhabitable” due to Hurricane Ian or Hurricane Nicole, which means there was a loss of use and occupancy of a residential improvement which resulted from damage to or destruction of the residential improvement, or from a condition that compromises the structural integrity of the residential improvement.

Continue Reading April 3, 2023 is the Deadline to Apply for a Partial Property Tax Refund
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The Lee County Building and Industry Association has provided a recap of important updates worth noting if you are involved in construction and contracting in Lee County, Florida. These updates will impact the procedures and protocols that individuals and businesses must follow when submitting permit applications and seeking licensing.

Community Development Department Office Hours

The first update concerns the closure of the Community Development Department lobby each business day at 3 p.m. starting March 27, 2023. This will apply to both public access and incoming phone calls. In addition, the Community Development office will stop accepting customer walk-ins at 2:30 p.m. The changes are being implemented to allow staff more time to process and review applications submitted that day. It is important to note that electronic permit applications will continue to be accepted with no restrictions.

This change is due to the increase in in-person customer levels, which have risen almost 200% since Hurricane Ian, despite more than 90% of permits being submitted electronically. Before the hurricane, staff processed an average of 3,700 permit applications per month. These changes will remain in effect until permit applications decrease or additional staff is hired and trained.

LCEC Update

Another update worth noting is the recent LCEC meeting recap. During this meeting, issues related to delays associated with running electricity to developments and single lot projects were discussed. The highlight was that delays are affecting all aspects of LCEC business. While working to resolve these issues, they see delays continuing well into 2024.

Continue Reading Lee County Implements Changes to Building and Licensing Matters to Keep Up with Surging Demand
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As the need for structural engineering in Florida continues to grow, it is essential to stay up to date on the current legal and engineering requirements for buildings and condominiums. This blog post will explore the legal perspective and engineering requirements for buildings and condominiums in Florida.

What is the status of structural-type inspections for buildings in Florida, especially condominiums, from a legal and engineering perspective?

As you may recall, the Florida legislature passed Florida Statute §553.899 requiring mandatory structural integrity inspections for condominium associations and cooperatives for building with three or more stories and more than 30 years in age or 25 years in age if three miles from the coastline.

As part of that Statute, the Florida Building Commission was required to prepare a report and deliver it before December 31, 2022, to the Governor and both Houses of the State Legislature. Click here to download the report (without the appendix) which delivered on December 14, 2022.

Florida Building Commission Report Findings

As you can see, the main recommendation is that the Florida Building Commission has asked the Florida Legislature to give it rulemaking authority to prepare rules to clarify how the inspections, called “milestone inspections,” should be done.

The Florida Building Commission would like to craft the rules on how the inspections are to be done by creating a new section in the Florida Building Code where the regulations and proposed forms for the milestone inspections would be placed.

Of course, there were other recommendations as well to clean up some ambiguity in the Statute as it currently reads, such as requiring a special inspector or structural engineer to be the only person who can do the phase 2 milestone inspection, which is an inspection of substantial structural deterioration found in the phase 1 milestone inspection. I suspect a clarifying edit will likely be requested because it makes no sense to say “an engineer or architect” can do the phase 2 milestone inspection. Instead, the inspector on phase 2 milestone inspection needs to be an engineer who is truly in the structural world, like one who designs buildings of more than three stories or one certified as a special inspector/threshold inspector.

This is especially true in Florida cities like Surfside, which have many older high-rise buildings that need extra attention when being inspected. Florida law states that these engineering inspectors must meet specific criteria and qualifications to perform these milestone inspections. They must demonstrate experience related to the design and construction of buildings as well as knowledge regarding codes applicable to the particular type of construction under consideration. Furthermore, these engineering inspectors must have at least four (4) years of experience inspecting similar structures before conducting any milestone inspections.

What’s next?

I suspect this current legislative session will result in some changes to the Statute, like giving the Florida Building Commission the rulemaking authority because the legislature is not capable, or likely desirous, of drafting the type of technical rules required to make the milestone inspections efficient.

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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