You don’t need an expert to tell you that real estate law does not function in a vacuum. So, it should come as no surprise that many of the changes affecting our lives – from the unceasing advances of technology to the pandemic – are reflected in the new spate of changes to Florida’s closing contracts, which went into effect on Nov. 1, 2021.
Some of the changes are fairly straightforward. For example, if a property you are selling is equipped with a watercraft lift, that will now be subject to the buyer’s inspection. Others, however, will have a more nuanced impact on transactions as we move into 2022, the Florida Bar Board-Certified Real Estate Attorneys at Palm Beach’s Rabideau Klein advise.
We have technology to thank for several of the updates affecting real estate closing contracts in Florida, including:
- In the era of video doorbell cameras and smart thermostats, members of the Florida Realtors and Florida Bar who crafted the changes have acknowledged a need to revise the definition of “personal property.” As of Nov. 1, 2021, it now also includes doorbells, thermostats, television wall mounts, television mounting hardware, mailbox keys and storm protection items and hardware.
- Developments in technology are also reflected in changes to the acceptable methods of delivery for Florida closing contracts. Previously, acceptable options included either mail or personal delivery. Now, it is also acceptable to have contracts delivered via email or fax.
It may seem surprising that this change is only going into effect now, when fax machines are widely viewed as anachronisms, but you may be surprised to learn that, in some quarters at least, fax machines remain unexpectedly relevant as we head into 2022.
So, emails and faxes are in. Texting, which had previously been seen as an acceptable method of delivering contracts, on the other hand, is out.
“This is noteworthy because it means texts cannot be used to provide notice for these contracts. The change was made because texts can disappear over time, making them unreliable as evidence to prove that a notice was delivered,” the Florida Realtors explained in their recent update on the changes being made to Florida closing contracts.
The global pandemic has ushered in a dizzying array of changes to almost every facet of life since it first emerged almost two years ago. As of Nov. 1, 2021, you can add changes to the Florida real estate closing contracts to that long list.
- The definition of Force Majeure, as Florida Realtors reports, has been broadened to include “governmental actions and mandates, government shutdowns, epidemics or pandemics.” On an even more sobering note, it should be noted that the definition now also includes “civil unrest.”
Seasonal and Short-Term Vacation Rentals
The changes that went into effect in November affect clauses in both the AS IS and Residential real estate closing contracts in Florida. In addition to revising a number of specific clauses in the contracts, three new riders were added and seven existing riders were updated.
One of the new riders deals with seasonal and short-term vacation rentals, a change likely made due to the increasing popularity of short-term vacation rentals such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
Changes revolving around the issue of seasonal and short-term vacation rentals were also made to the occupancy clause of Florida’s closing contract. As of Nov. 1, 2021, disclosure of existing seasonal or short-term vacation rentals is covered, as are any such intended rentals where the occupancy would take place following the closing date.
Among the key changes related to leasing after a closing highlighted by the Florida Realtors are:
- Seller shall deliver copies of the lease(s) and a written disclosure of the facts and terms to the buyer within five days after the Effective Date.
- Buyer may terminate the contract by delivering written notice to seller within five days after receipt of the lease(s) and written disclosure if buyer is not satisfied with them.
- Seller shall furnish Estoppel Letter(s) (or seller’s affidavit if seller is unable to obtain an Estoppel Letter) to buyer at least 10 days prior to closing.
- Buyer may terminate the contract by delivering written notice to seller within five days after receipt (but no later than five days prior to the Closing Date) if an Estoppel Letter or seller’s affidavit differs materially from the lease(s) or representations in seller’s written disclosure just described in point 1.
It is important to note that, if leasing is an issue in a real estate closing contract, Florida Realtors recommend that: “The buyer and seller should carefully review occupancy and leasing language in the contracts to get a full picture of their rights and obligations in this matter, and they should consult a lawyer if they need help understanding or complying with these terms.”
If you are looking for a real estate lawyer in Palm Beach who can help you manage these and other changes and updates to Florida’s closing contracts, contact the Florida Bar Board-Certified Real Estate Attorneys at Rabideau Klein.