REAL ESTATE LAW
We provide comprehensive guidance on the various aspects of real estate law that go beyond the conventional perception of buying or selling a home. Real estate law encompasses diverse areas that significantly impact individuals’ lives. Our experienced team offers expert advice and representation in handling boundary disputes, Homeowners Association (HOA) conflicts, and landlord-tenant disputes. With a wealth of experience representing both HOAs and owners, as well as landlords and tenants, we are committed to safeguarding our client’s rights and interests throughout the legal process. Whether you require assistance with real estate contracts, investment property transactions, or resolving disputes, our dedicated team is here to navigate the complexities of real estate law and ensure your final decisions are well-informed and confident.
Who we help.
Whether you are a builder, consumer, contractor, subcontractor, supplier, or laborer, our team provides the legal support and guidance you need to succeed in the real estate industry.
When embarking on the journey of buying or selling property, the decision to work with an attorney can provide invaluable benefits and peace of mind.
What is Real Estate Law?
When people think of “real estate law,” they typically think of buying or selling a home. But many other areas of real estate law commonly touch peoples’ lives. We advise clients with boundary disputes, Homeowners Association (“HOA”) disputes, and landlord/tenant disputes. We have represented HOAs and owners, and we have represented both landlords and tenants.
Why do I need an Attorney to Buy or Sell Real Estate?
A home is one of the most significant purchases for most people. It is not just an investment; it is where you and your family will live, where your children may go to school, and where you will make new friends.
When buying or selling a home, most people engage real estate agents to help them. Although they can help you find a good location and a fair price, they cannot advise you about what kind of real estate contract to use or what the terms of that contract mean. Real estate agents use several different contracts, but only a real estate attorney can advise you as to which one is best for your circumstances; for example, some contracts are better for buyers and others for sellers. Some are more appropriate when buying vacant, investment, or commercial land. “One size” does not fit all. Thus, a real estate attorney can help you navigate various contracts necessary for various real estate transactions.
In addition to home sales, we advise clients who invest in real estate. Clients invest in real estate by refurbishing homes for resale or accumulating a portfolio for leasing or buying commercial real estate like warehouses or shopping centers. These transactions involve very different contracts that need to be understood and negotiated. In addition to real estate contracts, these investments may involve promissory notes, mortgages, and zoning and construction issues. Moreover, investors want advice about owning their new investment properties: Should they form a limited liability company, a corporation, or a partnership? We help our clients navigate all these issues so that whatever real estate transaction they face, they will feel confident about their final decisions.
Why do I have to Follow HOA Rules and Restrictions?
When you buy a home in Florida, you will likely be a Homeowners Association (“HOA”) member. HOAs are used in planned communities between 10 to 1000 homes. HOAs were created by Florida statute to help communities regulate owners’ behaviors so the community would display uniformity in appearance and quality. Not everyone keeps their trash cans out of sight, mows their lawn, paints their house (the right color for the neighborhood), or keeps the peace. The developer creates the HOA rules and restrictions after buying the lots but before building and selling the homes. The developer records in the public records what are called “restrictions,” which restricts the owner’s use of his property. Each owner who buys a home in the community is subject to the “restrictions” (or rules) because they are incorporated into the owner’s deed when they purchase the property. You may see a sign saying “Deed Restricted” community.
Can an HOA Force the Sale of My Home?
Yes. HOAs usually charge monthly or annual fees (or assessments) and enforce payment by recording a lien against a home that fails to pay this assessment. If a homeowner continues not to pay, the HOA can foreclose the lien or force the sale of your home to collect what the homeowner owes. Some owners do not know this; others do not believe it because someone told them that a person’s primary residence in Florida is their Homestead, protected from forced sales by creditors. Indeed, your primary residence is generally protected, but Florida’s HOA statute makes an exception to this rule and allows HOAs to force the sale of your home to pay for your past-due assessments. So, we always advise our clients to pay their HOA dues even if they disagree with the amount. You can always fight with the HOA later about any payment dispute, but paying when due prevents the HOA from recording a lien against your property.
What are My Rights as a Tenant or My Duties as a Landlord?
The landlord-tenant relationship can be as pleasant as April snow or as horrific as September hurricanes. Tenants often complain that their landlord is not repairing or maintaining the premises, and landlords complain that their tenants are not paying rent or they are causing damage to the premises. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, we can advise you of your rights and responsibilities. We represent tenants and landlords with lease preparation and review, dispute resolution, and evictions.
Is a Written Lease Necessary?
It is not always, but it is strongly recommended. A written, signed lease is required for leases one year or longer. Shorter leases can be oral but are strongly discouraged. Nothing prevents a tenant and landlord dispute better than a detailed, complete written lease. By detailed, we mean one that specifically states what the landlord’s and the tenant’s responsibilities are for repairs, when rent is late, when there is a late fee, when there is a default or breach of the lease, and when you get your security deposit back. A well-written lease will spell out these and other issues so that the parties are clear about each other’s rights and responsibilities. We regularly help landlords draft leases or review their current lease agreements, and we help tenants review lease agreements presented to them by landlords.
Can I Change the Locks on My Rental?
No, unless you have a court order. In Florida, a lease is an interest in real estate; it is a possessory interest. In other words, when you sign a lease agreement, you are given a “possessory right” to live there for the length of time and under the conditions outlined in the lease. This possessory right may be for a week, a month, or a year. But it may only be taken away by a court order. So, no one can be evicted or removed by the police from where they lease unless a court has ordered their removal as part of an eviction proceeding. Therefore, changing the locks—or engaging in “self-help”—before a court orders the tenant’s removal is illegal.
Does My Landlord Have to Give Back My Security Deposit?
It depends. If a landlord fails to follow Florida law’s procedure for returning a deposit, they may waive their right to keep the security deposit. Once a tenant vacates the premises, a landlord must return the deposit within 15 days unless they intend to claim damages. If they claim damages, they must send a Notice of Claim to the tenant within 30 days after the tenant leaves, outlining the damages and the repair costs. The landlord’s Notice must also inform the tenant that he or she has 15 days from the receipt of the Notice to object to the landlord’s claim, or the tenant will waive its right to the return of the deposit. If the tenant objects to the claim, the landlord may not use the deposit, nor are they required to return it. If the landlord wants to use the deposit, they must sue the tenant. If the tenant wants the deposit back, he or she must sue the landlord. Whoever prevails in this deposit dispute will be reimbursed attorney’s fees. Landlord-Tenant deposit disputes are very common. But you can prevent them if you keep good records of what the premises looked like when you arrived and when you vacated. We recommend you take an inventory and use pictures and video to substantiate it. We regularly handle deposit disputes for landlords and tenants and can help you if you are entangled.
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