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.
The State of Florida has what is called the Real Estate Recovery Fund that protects customers against fraud and even negligence on the part of a licensed real estate agent. There are a couple of provisos about which people need to be aware, however. First, the victim has to sue the agent and actually get a judgment against them and then not be able to collect on it. While someone who actually has defrauded a client will rarely want to show up in court, this rule does make it harder for someone to recover from the fund when there is an honest dispute between the agent and their client.
Also, the fund is only available when a licensed agent has acted improperly, so it is important that would-be buyers or renters check to make sure that whomever they are working with has valid Florida credentials for dealing in real estate.
Oftentimes, the services of a qualified Florida real estate attorney can go a long way in helping someone identify and stay away from a shady real estate deal.
Source: 7 News Miami, "Stealing Home: Real estate fraud common in South Florida," Brandon Beyer and Leisa Williams, June 12, 2017.