clock-2029613_1280 With the turnover of volunteer homeowner’s association (“HOA”) board members over time, it is not surprising that certain important long-term issues may be overlooked. There is one very important law, however, which board members may not be aware of that can eliminate an HOA’s ability to enforce its restrictions.

I am often contacted by an HOA board at the last minute before their restrictions “expire” under this law and even sometimes after they expire. Below is a breakdown of the two different processes an HOA must follow to preserve the restrictions before they expire or, if the deadline has been missed, to revitalize the restrictions.

What is the law and why?

The Marketable Records Title Act (“MRTA”) is a Florida law designed to eliminate “stale” recorded claims that affect the title to real property, such as old recorded leases for which the beneficiaries have long departed or dissolved. Without MRTA, all of these documents still have to be shown on title commitments and policies even though they may have long since become irrelevant and unused. Unfortunately, there isn’t an exemption to save old (and still active) association covenants unless the affirmative steps are taken to preserve them.

What does it mean to HOA’s?

Continue Reading HOA’s: Your Restrictions Have an Expiration Date

know the rulesBeginning July 1, 2017, Florida community associations will have to comply with more burdensome estoppel requirements.

The 2017 Florida legislature just recently passed a new law that will require associations to comply with a request for an estoppel certificate within 10 business days. If they fail to do so, they will forfeit their right to charge a fee for the preparation and delivery of the document.

Furthermore, the fee that an association may charge is now strictly regulated. The fee is capped at $250 if there are no delinquent amounts owed to the association for the applicable unit or parcel, or $400 if a delinquent amount is owed. However, associations may charge an additional $100 if an expedited request is made, and the association delivers the estoppel within three (3) business days after the request.

In addition to the changes to the timeframe and fees related estoppel certificate issuance, the new law will require associations to provide more information than previously required. Associations will have to provide, among other things, information about parking or garage spaces, any open violations noticed to the owner or mortgagee, and contact information for all insurance maintained by the association.

While the law appears strict on its face, the intent behind the law is to provide more uniformity to the estoppel process in order to help buyers and sellers expedite their closings.

If you or your association have any questions about this new law, please give me a call at 239- 344-1231 or email me at michael.lehnert@henlaw.com.

tax.jpgWith Florida’s 2017 Regular Session officially adjourned on May 8, 2017, only 203 bills (of the total 1,606 general bills filed) survived both chambers of the Legislature.

From the handful of legislation that ultimately passed this year, Joint Resolution CS/HJR 21 was enacted. This resolution proposes an amendment to the State’s Constitution that would limit a local government’s authority to assess non-homestead real property for purposes of ad valorem taxation.

Background

Under Florida’s Constitution, ad valorem taxation is expressly reserved to local governments. The state is prohibited from levying ad valorem taxes on real and tangible personal property.

When preparing an annual assessment, the State Constitution also generally requires that all property be assessed at just value (i.e., market value) on January 1st of each year. Thereafter, such assessments are used to calculate property taxes to fund counties, municipalities, district school boards and certain special districts.

Florida’s Existing Limitations on Assessments for Non-Homestead Property

Continue Reading Florida Voters to Consider Permanent Cap on Annual Non-Homestead Property Tax Assessments

IMG_0642I need to let you know how my Saturday project went. In my last post, I told you about a home improvement project that I needed my dad’s help on. And I told you about the concept of “highest and best use.”

I asked my dad to come by at 9 am. He brought a low wattage, high illumination fluorescent shop light that gave off way more light at a lower heat than the work light I had. He also brought a ten inch sliding compound miter saw, saw horses, and a saw table, plus a whole lot more.

The work went pretty quickly, and it had to. It gets hot fast in an attic in Florida this time of year. It was very cramped and hard to get enough room for a good hammer swing on the mend plates. No such problem installing the construction screws. My dad pre-drilled the 2 by 6 splice lumber. (“Son, this drill is practically a family heirloom.  It was my Uncle Bob’s. It’s a 3-way drill, so it can hammer, drill, and do both at the same time. Works great on concrete. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.”) The power screwdriver made the rest easy.

Continue Reading What is Highest and Best Use – Part II

pexels-photo-388241The Cape Coral Building Department has had a rule on the books requiring owners of residential condominiums in Cape Coral to have a letter from their association before pulling a permit to do work in condominium common areas.

You might be thinking “I pulled a permit for something like that 3 months ago, and I didn’t have a letter. Did I miss something?” To answer your question, nope, you’re fine.

Although the rule is old, the Cape Coral Building Official recently announced that the Cape Coral Building Department will begin strictly enforcing this rule. This means Associations should expect to receive requests from unit owners (which they should be doing already), and unit owners need to make sure they have secured the approval of the Association before pulling permits for improvements that may be outside, or appear to be outside, of the unit.

Special thanks to Bill Johnson, Executive Director and CEO of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association for the heads up on the Cape Coral Building Departments new stance on enforcement.

Did you have a home improvement project last weekend? I did.

But this one was beyond my limited skills (and limited tools), so I got my dad involved.  He can fix anything.  And he’s got the ultimate set of tools.

After he looked at the situation, he specified the fix. He liked my suggestion of using a vertical beam in conjunction with the splice that he specified. (Below is the before picture.)

IMG_0613I guess I did learn something helping out here and there as a kid in the driveway and later on in the shop.

My dad gave me very specific instructions on the materials.  “You need a 2 by 6 eight feet long. Make sure it’s pressure treated. Pick out a good piece of lumber. You want a good straight grain. Get No. 8 construction screws three inches long.  Square drive, not a hex drive.  They get chewed up too easily.  You could use Phillips head if you have to.”

Couldn’t find the right screws, so I got two sets of what came the closest. And two 2 by 6’s eight feet long. Just in case.

IMG_0640What does this have to do with property rights? We Americans love our property. Just check out Home Depot or Lowe’s some weekend. Jam-packed with do-it-yourselfers.

Now, I wasn’t thinking “highest and best use” when I was getting the materials that my dad specified–I was just getting the stuff I needed for my project. But as I thought back on it, I remembered the concept. In determining value of a property that’s being taken,

the highest and most profitable use for which the property is adaptable and needed, or is likely to be needed in the near future, is to be considered….”

This definition comes from an older case, but remains a great way to capture all that goes into the concept of “highest and best use.” In my neighborhood, the highest and best use is residential (even though the zoning would allow for more). So I want to keep my house looking right.

I know your property is as important to you as mine is to me. If the government, or someone else, wants to take yours, make sure you know about highest and best use.

florida-1624651_640Have you ever wondered whether renting out your property using VRBO qualifies as a commercial use as opposed to a residential use? You’re not alone.

On one hand, earning income from rent, advertising for new tenants, managing and scheduling those tenants, and maintaining the property to comply with the regulations required to frequently rent out your property for short periods certainly sounds like a business.

On the other hand, it’s your residence, and the people paying you to stay in it are only using it to eat, sleep, and do other ordinary acts incident to living. They aren’t using your place to produce income for themselves.

While both sides seem to have a reasonable argument, a recent Florida appellate court decided that renting a home to someone who uses the home “for ordinary living purposes such as sleeping and eating” qualified as a residential use under that particular association’s governing documents. See, Santa Monica Beach Property Owners Association v. Acord, (Fla. App., 2017).

What is the Legal Scoop?

Continue Reading Renting Your Home Using VRBO is a Residential Use

Mortgage contractI find myself frequently having conversations with potential clients asking why they shouldn’t use a title company to handle the closing of their new home. Why spend more money to hire an attorney when a title company can close the deal for less? Excellent question.

Sure, a title company can create the documents necessary to close the deal. They can also generally guide the parties on some issues that might come up, such as what additional requirements must be met when the seller is considered a “foreign person” under FIRPTA.

Continue Reading Top 5 Reasons to Hire An Attorney When Buying A Home

Recently, I attended the 65th running of the Twelve Hours of Sebring, the world-famous endurance race for sports cars. Past winners include Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt, among other giants of auto racing.

This was my first time to the Twelve Hours of Sebring race. WOW!! The sound of that many high-performance motors was incredible and incredibly loud, even with my noise-canceling headphones.

Four classes of sports cars ran in the Twelve Hours of Sebring 2017, but I watched the GT Le Mans class the closest because the cars were very recognizable:  two Corvettes, two BMW M6s, a Ferrari 488, three Ford GTs, and two Porsche 911s. The Hairpin, the most famous turn at Sebring, appeared to be the most challenging spot for the drivers: hard braking, followed by hard acceleration, with drivers trying to pass and avoid getting passed. Here are the two Porsches dueling:

The No. 66 Ford GT held the lead in the GT Le Mans class for a portion of the race, and was leading when my dad and I left the race just after sundown. I made it home in time to watch the last ten minutes of the race. Much to my surprise, the No. 3 Corvette won the GT Le Mans class. WOW!!

Now, how does this apply to your property rights? The answer: Never Give Up.

The government wants your property? Never Give Up. The government isn’t offering what your property is worth? Never Give Up. The government has taken your property? Never Give Up.

P.S. If you go to the next Twelve Hours of Sebring race, you’ll need tickets, a big hat, sunblock, lots of water, snacks, headphones, sunglasses, beach chairs, shoes you can walk long distances in, hand sanitizer, and your smartphone (so you can take pictures and watch the race on TV to see what’s happening on other portions of the track),

reis_logo_footerAt this month’s REIS meeting, Dr. David Jones, Executive Professor of Economics and Finance at Florida Gulf Coast University, presented his take on how the Trump Administration will affect the U.S. economy.

Dr. Jones predicts that the economy will be on the rise through the end of 2018. He declined to offer a forecast beyond that mark because, as he light-heartedly informed REIS members, he was taught to only predict around one corner, not two.

The first corner in that analogy is the future of the U.S. economy during the first two years of the Trump Administration, while the second corner is how Trump’s potential desire to get reelected may cause him to change his stance on important economic issues.

After recognizing that some experts predict that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates 2-3 times in 2017, Dr. Jones predicted that interest rates will increase four times in 2017 and six times in 2018, ending in an interest rate of about 3%.

Finally, admitting that he is not an expert in stocks, Dr. Jones cautioned that with interest rates so low for so long the value of stocks may be artificially high and their true value currently unknown.

Thank you to Dr. Jones for his entertaining and highly informative presentation, and thank you to State Insurance Agency for sponsoring the event.