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Personal Story

Many people do not hire an attorney to assist them with their closing nor do they recognize the benefit of choosing a law firm as the title company. However, I learned the hard way and realized too late that I should have had an attorney on my side.
Here is my story so you can learn from my own personal experience. It was the purchase of my second home and my husband and I were on top of everything; very involved in the purchase. The home we were purchasing was a beautiful country home on 2.5 acres. To gain access to our home, you turn off a paved street onto a long dirt road. It was a typical country home that was fairly secluded and only had two other houses along the dirt road before you reached ours.
Nothing was alarming to us. The inspection came back ordinary, despite a few minor things. The survey was descriptive and did not raise any concerns. My husband and I were getting very anxious and ready to move in! The day we arrived at the title company to close on our new home, I can recall signing tons of documents. They were overwhelming and I felt pressured. There was no way I could read everything nor did I understand everything that I was signing. My husband and I were just excited to get the keys! I did not comprehend what a title policy covered or what a lender’s policy was, but I put my trust in the parties to advise me if needed.
A few months passed and we were truly enjoying our new home. However, the long dirt road we traveled to get to the house started to form major potholes. As each day passed, the potholes became worse and worse. My husband and I called the county to see if they would fill in the potholes or pave the road. However, the count informed us, for the first time, it was a private road and that they were not responsible for its maintenance. We were shocked!
We had no choice but to start maintaining the long dirt road. We began by buying rocks and dirt in order to fill the potholes. It was never ending and time-consuming. We were continuously re-filling the potholes trying to smooth out the dirt road. This continued for months and months. Paving the road was no where in our budget and quite honestly, neither was buying rocks and fill.
After we finally had enough, I contacted a real estate attorney. She asked me for my closing documents and my title policy. The funny thing is, I had my closing documents and never received my title policy after the closing. I had to call the title company and ask them to send it to me. The attorney looked at my documents and my policy. She showed me that the dirt road was listed on my policy; it had a list of exceptions that were not covered by the policy and the dirt road was one of them.
Unfortunately, the policy stated it would not cover an agreement that was recorded in a certain book and page in public records. My attorney pulled that document up and she showed me a contract between adjoining neighbors and the first homeowners (which passed to us), that stated all the neighbors shared the responsibility of maintaining the dirt road. If I would have hired an attorney to assist with my closing or a law firm to conduct the title closing, this would have been carefully reviewed with me, and my husband and I would have known what we were purchasing.
Now that we know, we have asked the neighbors for their contribution and, at least, we are not carrying the road burden ourselves. What we learned, however, is that title work is not easy to understand. You need someone who is experienced so you clearly understand what you are buying, and someone who knows the law. We also learned that not all attorneys charge attorney fees at closing. They charge the same price as a title agent, but you get the benefit of an attorney assisting you.
Don’t take the chance because you never know what issues might arise. You need representation and help from a real estate firm. Let them conduct your title closing, so you are fully aware of all the documents you are signing and you don’t get any surprises!
E.J. and B.V.

NEW CONDO TERMINATION LAWS: WHAT YOU AND YOUR CLIENT NEED TO KNOW

My client wants to sell their condominium unit, and I am concerned because many of the units are owned by the same entity, presumably an investor. Are there any laws that may affect how I advise my client in this situation?

Yes, in fact Florida law was recently changed to provide additional protections to condominium owners and to make it more difficult for developers and bulk owners to terminate condominiums. Therefore, whether your client is looking to sell or purchase a condominium unit, these changes should be taken into consideration when deciding whether to move forward with the deal.

In making condominiums more difficult to terminate, the law now states that a plan for termination of a condominium can be blocked if at least 10% of the total voting interests affirmatively reject the plan by voting against it or providing written objections. If the 10% threshold is met, no vote on a plan for termination may take place for the next 18 months. Also, be aware that no voting interest may be suspended for any reason when considering a plan for termination—not even for delinquent assessments.

The additional protections for condominium owners kick in when a “bulk owner,” meaning one who holds at least 80% of the voting interests, exists at the time the plan for termination is recorded. In this situation, owners are now guaranteed at least the fair market value of their unit if a termination occurs. Owners who purchased their unit directly from the developer, rejected the plan for termination, and whose unit has homestead exemption must be paid at least their original purchase price as long as they are current on their assessments and any mortgage on the unit. All other owners must be paid at least the fair market value of their unit, as determined no earlier than 90 days before the recording of the plan for termination. In addition, all owners whose unit has a homestead exemption must also receive a relocation payment equal to 1% of the termination proceeds allocated to their unit.

Owners will now also have their first mortgage satisfied in the event of a bulk owner termination if they are current on all assessments and obligations to the association and all mortgages on their unit. The plan for termination must include satisfying first mortgages on units, though the amount paid to satisfy a first mortgage must not exceed the amount of proceeds allocated to that unit under the plan. However, even if the proceeds from the termination are not sufficient to satisfy the first mortgage, the mortgage will be deemed satisfied when the mortgagee receives either the proceeds allocated to the unit under the plan or the outstanding balance of the mortgage.

Another protection is that owners who occupy their unit may choose to lease back their unit for up to 12 months following the effective date of a termination involving a bulk owner. However, owners must request to lease their unit within 90 days after the plan for termination is recorded and sign a lease within 15 days of being presented with one. Otherwise, they will be required to vacate the unit.

Due to these changes, it is very important to know the fair market value of a unit and if a bulk owner does or could soon exist when determining whether to buy or sell a condominium unit.

– Contributed by Jonathan Northington. Jonathan is a member of the Bay Area Real Estate Council (www.barec.com) and is a real estate and business law attorney at Davis Basta Law Firm, P.A.

We are here to help with your National Firearms Act (NFA) questions

We invite you to peruse our website where you can find information on Firearm Trusts that we prepare, designed to address federal and Florida State law. In most cases, our firm charges a flat fee (including mailing costs) for a Firearms Trust (see our webpage: http://davisbastalaw.com/practice-areas/gun-trusts/).

If you plan to purchase certain types of items, including but not limited to machine guns, sound suppressors, short barreled shotguns, or short barreled rifles, is regulated by federal law. Placing such items in a trust is a convenient and popular method of holding these items, which is a type of ownership recognized in Florida.

We caution owners of class III items when relying on boilerplate forms or software designed to create trusts. You should ensure that your trust and any trust done for your client is properly drafted to deal with any special issues involved with items regulated by the NFA. Our law firm practices in the area of real estate, which encompasses estate planning, and has been drafting gun trusts since 2008. When the NFA is violated, the individuals who violate the Act may be subject to substantial fines, criminal charges, and forfeiture.

If you would like any information or to discuss our services, please do not hesitate to contact us at anytime.

Can I rent my property if it is homestead property in Florida?

Engaging an attorney as you plan and proceed is essential on this issue, because the laws and application of the laws vary depending on whether there is a rental, lease, or license, in addition to other case-by-case details. In addition, it has been argued that the rental statute (Fla. Stat. §212) can be considered ambiguous and does not provide homeowners with concrete guidance. These ambiguities are compounded by the nuances in court’s decisions in this area.

With many title companies closing their doors, are you wondering where to get title polices and who can do your closings?

The spiral downturn in the real estate market caused title companies to take an especially hard hit.  Brokers and their agents, who once relied on their favorite title company, are now faced with the task of searching for a new place they can trust.  They need a place to bring their closings and a place that can issue that necessary title policy.  I know of such a place.  It’s your local real estate attorney.

During the real estate boom there was so much work for everyone that real estate professionals, more often than not, looked to the closest and best title company to assist them with their closings.  Once they developed a relationship with that certain title company, they did not need to look anywhere else for quality closings.

For this reason, many brokers and their agents have never had the opportunity to work with a real estate attorney.  Unlike title companies, many real estate attorneys were able to weather the real estate crash by assisting individuals with short sales, loan modifications, foreclosures and civil lawsuits.  Now as the real estate market starts to slowly climb back, those without their trusted title company should consider taking their business to a real estate attorney.

Most attorneys who specialize in real estate law usually have the ability to write a title insurance policy and conduct closings.  More importantly, if legal issues arise, they are capable of expediently resolving these issues before crucial deadlines that can sometimes make a deal fall completely apart.

While many states, require the services of a licensed attorney for all real estate transactions Florida is not one of those states.  In Florida, an attorney is not required for the issuance of a title policy or to close real property.  Notwithstanding that fact, many Florida brokers realize the value of having a real estate attorney at closing and wouldn’t think of doing it any other way.

Still some Brokers may be reluctant to take their real estate matters to an attorney.  It is a common misconception that it is more expensive to get a title policy or have a closing conducted with an attorney.   However, the cost of title insurance in Florida is promulgated, which means that the rates for that type of insurance are set by the State.  Therefore, it is the same price for the policy regardless of who does the issuing.  More importantly, having a real estate attorney on your side may actually save money.

A real estate attorney has typically reviewed hundreds of real estate documents.  They are familiar with titles to real estate and real estate transactions in general.  They know what to look for and how to spot and avoid potential problems.  Most importantly, a licensed attorney is the only person who can give you legal advice.

Give us a call and  tell us about your next deal.  You will be pleasantly surprised to find our doors are open and we will be pleased to issue that title policy and close your transaction.

What is the NFA?

NFA stands for the National Firearms Act.

The Act is a federal statute which imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms (such as gun suppressors, gun silencers, SBRs and machine guns) and mandates the registration of those firearms.

Useful NFA Links

What if I am making my own weapon and I have a gun trust?

After the trust is executed, you will need to provide ATF Form 1 and a copy of the trust to the ATF. ATF Form 1 is available on the ATF website. Download ATF Form 1 here.  Once you receive the tax stamp, you may purchase the parts necessary to make your own weapon.

PLEASE BE AWARE that you may not be in possession of all the parts necessary to manufacture the Class 3 weapon until you receive the tax stamp from the ATF.

What is the ATF?

ATF stands for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF enforces Federal statutes and regulations dealing with firearms and explosives.

Useful ATF Links:
Click here for the ATF web site.
Click here for the ATF’s National Firearms Act Handbook