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Fort Lauderdale Real Estate Law Blog

South Florida remains a hotspot for real estate fraud

The Florida real estate market has historically had a problem with fraud and other shady real estate activity. The latest reports confirm this, suggesting that Fort Lauderdale residents need to use caution during a residential property real estate deal, and they should also remember the common wisdom that if "it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

A common scheme that is going through South Florida now involves rentals. Given the tight market in this part of the country, people often use real estate agents to help them find an apartment to rent. Because there are good reasons to do so, a prospective tenant will often give the agent some money to be held in trust, just so the landlord knows that the person is good for the rent. The downside of this is that the real estate agent has the opportunity to take the money and never find their client a rental home as promised.

We can help with tense and important negotiations

A previous post on this blog discussed how not all real estate disputes in Fort Lauderdale wind up in a courtroom. Many times, a lawsuit or potential lawsuit gets settled long before a trial either through informal talks or something more formal, like arbitration or mediation.

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Is it better to buy a starter home or rent?

Many young people in Fort Lauderdale and the Broward County area may find themselves asking whether they want to own a home as soon as possible or rent a house or an apartment for the time being until they can get their lives more established.

There are several non-economic reasons people may want to buy a home. Many Floridians, for example, like the freedom home ownership brings, as homeowners do not have to follow the terms of what might be a very detailed lease agreement. On the flip side, someone may want to avoid the time and expense it takes to maintain a home. After all, for most residential properties, the landlord handles the maintenance.

Are commercial leases negotiable?

Like any other contract, business owners in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are allowed to negotiate their commercial leases. In fact, negotiation is often something a prospective landlord expects, which means the first lease proposal or draft contract should be read more as a wish list of what a lease would look like to the landlord if they had everything they wanted.

The tenant should, therefore, not be merely content with accepting unfavorable terms in a lease and should instead look at several important parts of the proposed lease agreement to see if those terms work for the business's needs. If they do not, then the owner should not hesitate to make a counteroffer or propose their own lease terms to the landlord.

The doctrine of 'caveat emptor' in Florida

Many real estate disputes start when a buyer realizes that the property they thought they were buying doesn't meet their expectations. It is particularly frustrating when a person was counting on using a piece of property in their business, and it turns out that the property has a serious defect like bad plumbing or electrical wiring issues.

Traditionally, in Florida, the buyer of a piece of commercial real estate has the obligation to research and inspect the property they are buying. On the other hand, a seller does not have any obligation to tell a buyer about any problems with the property. The only obligation a seller has is to speak truthfully, if they choose to speak at all. This principle is called the doctrine of "caveat emptor."

How we can help with your commercial title work

One of the important steps of a commercial real estate transaction in Florida is ensuring that the person or business buying or building the property has what is called "clean title" to the property. In a nutshell, clean title means the one who buys the land does so without having to worry about the claims of another party, including other purported owners, holders of easements and lenders or creditors with unsatisfied liens on the property.

At the end of the day, a title problem can completely sidetrack a commercial real estate transaction. In the best cases, it can stop the transaction from going through, meaning the buyer and the seller could be left scrambling for other options. In the worst case scenario, it could mean a person buys office buildings or property for a new venture like a strip mall and ends up being unable to use it. Such an incident could cost millions of dollars and ruin a business.

Florida real estate market's recovery spotty at best

The residents and business owners in Broward County, Florida, remember the boom times of the late 2000s and the catastrophic economic crash that started in late 2008. The crash caused a financial fallout which rippled through all of the Florida economy and, in particular, affected real estate values.

Although Florida has recovered from the Great Recession in many respects, the state's real estate market has not really recovered fully from 2008, as many buildings are still valued below what they were worth almost a decade ago. In fact, in some zip codes in this state, fewer than 10 percent of the homes have actually rebounded completely to their pre-2008 values.

In the future, coastal land values may crumble

The Fort Lauderdale market for residential property near the coastline is not showing any signs of coming to a screeching halt. However, there are some who are predicting that down the road, thanks to climate change, the property market on the coast will "dry up" even before the sea level rise actually forces people inland.

One public official in a nearby city believes that the financial problems in the coastal real estate market will come when people realize that they can no longer get their boats in and out of the inlets and canals along the coast because of water rise. Eventually, the water will be too high for a boat to get under the coastal bridges.

What sellers have to tell buyers of residential real estate

The traditional rule of "caveat emptor" means that a Fort Lauderdale resident who wants to buy a new home needs to check out the property and make sure it is free of serious problems and, more generally, is somewhere where they can live long-term.

Florida laws in some situations uphold the doctrine of "let the buyer beware" and, in other situations, have very detailed rules about what a seller must tell a buyer. For instance, a seller does not need to tell a buyer that someone who lived in the property has HIV. Perhaps more importantly, a seller also does not need to tell a buyer whether someone died in the home, even if the death was by suicide or even a murder or manslaughter. Assuming these things matter to the buyer, such details are for them to figure out.

Good real estate contracts are key to preventing litigation

No one who sets about to buy, sell or develop real estate in the Broward County, Florida area wants to find himself or herself tied up in litigation. Such legal disputes are very costly both in terms of money and time, so much that even a relatively simple dispute can easily make a Floridian's investment in real estate not worth it.

Our law office works on the transactional side of real estate law, meaning that we devote our time and expertise to preparing quality real estate contracts that will protect the interests of our clients in the long term. In do so, though, we serve an important role in our clients' litigation prevention strategy, since a good real estate contract, along with attentiveness during both the transaction and the closing process, are the best defenses against lawsuits.