7 New Florida Laws go Into Effect July 1

New Florida Laws

Florida Realtors: New Florida Laws effective July 1

  1. Cap on estoppel certificate fees – Sellers of properties who live in an HOA, condo association or co-op will have a limit on the amount they’ll pay for an estoppel certificate, a document that informs a buyer if the seller is current with their dues and assessments. SB 398 (Sen. Passidomo, R-Naples) caps estoppel certificate fees at $250 for unit owners who are current in their assessments. Associations may charge an additional $100 for expedited estoppel certificates (delivered within three business days) and another $150 to owners who are delinquent in their assessments. The bill sets the price of estoppel certificates for multiple units owned by the same person and establishes a uniform, statewide format that ensures buyers and closing agents receive the appropriate information needed to close the real estate transaction. This bill also requires certificates to be valid for 30 days if delivered electronically or 35 days if delivered by mail.
  2. Florida’s natural resources – More than $500 million is earmarked for Everglades restoration, beach renourishment and springs restoration. During the session, SB 10 (Sen. Bradley, R-Orange Park) served as the primary piece of policy legislation for Everglades restoration and establishes how the funding will be used for these projects. A key provision of SB 10 is the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that is designed to curb nutrient and salinity levels that are harmful to Florida’s valuable natural resources.
  3. Condominium termination law – Legislation passed in 2015 to protect condo owners from being forced to sell – possibly at a loss – has several loopholes that real estate investors and bulk buyers exploited. SB 1520 (Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater) fine-tunes the rules and modifies the process by reducing the percentage of owners required to reject the termination – from 10 percent to 5 percent.
  4. Condominium oversight – A South Florida news report of fraud in condo board elections, misappropriation of funds and rigged bids resulted in a Miami-Dade grand jury recommending changes to Florida’s Condominium Act. HB 1237 (Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami) provides several new condo oversight rules: (1) a condo association with more than 150 units must publish its financial reports and other documents (bylaws, articles of incorporation, condo rules) on a password-protected web page; (2) if an owner is denied documents and fraud is proven, persons responsible for fraudulent activity could face felony charges; (3) the term of a condo board director is limited to eight years, with some exceptions.
  5. Private flood insurance – As Realtors petition Congress to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Florida lawmakers continue to work to attract private flood insurance capital to Florida. HB 813 (Rep. Larry Lee Jr., D-Fort Pierce) accomplishes two primary goals: (1) Rating flexibility for flood insurers is extended from 2019 until 2025 before they must follow guidelines similar to other lines of coverage – a way to encourage private insurers to enter the Florida market; (2) insurance agents can place flood policies with surplus lines insurers for two more years – until 2019 – before they must make a “diligent effort” to place the coverage with carriers regulated by the state. Diligent effort requires an agent to seek coverage and be rejected by at least three regulated carriers writing the same type of coverage.
  6. Drone regulation – HB 1027 (Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville) preempts the regulation of unmanned aircraft systems (drones) by local governments and grants oversight to the state of Florida. This will prevent drone operators from having to potentially comply with ordinances adopted by 400+ local governments.
  7. Pollution notification – SB 1018 (Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid) sets a threshold for when an operator is required to notify the Division of Emergency Management and the Department of Environmental Protection about a pollution event. It also provides a timeframe for the notification and defines what a reportable event means. This legislation is the result of pollution from a sinkhole at the Mosaic fertilizer facility in Mulberry, Fla., last summer. The Scott administration created an emergency rule that shifted the burden of pollution notification from the state to the owner of the property where the spill occurred. Florida Realtors was part of a coalition that successfully challenged the legal authority for this rule, creating an opportunity for the passage of this friendly legislation.

© 2017 Florida Realtors

8 Things Your Realtor Does Behind Your Back

Realtor Benefits

Have you ever wondered what on Earth your Realtor is doing behind your back?

No, we don’t mean anything underhanded, naughty, or downright felonious—far from it, in fact. So relax. What we’re talking about is a mystery: In the sometimes confusing, occasionally hectic, and always stressful world of buying and selling, what are your agents really doing behind the scenes?

We’re here to shed some light! For every hour an agent spends in your presence, he or she will spend an average of nine hours out of eyesight working on your behalf. Why? Because agents don’t get paid if they don’t close the deal! Unlike lawyers who bill by the hour, agents won’t receive a penny until (or unless) a sale comes through. It’s all a gamble, in which they could shoot snake eyes and come away empty-handed. This is the business.

So if you’re wondering what agents do to earn their paycheck, Realtor.com compiled a list of things they do when you’re not watching (or should be doing—if they’re not, maybe you need a different agent!).

They shop property online

Don’t we all? And yet, their real estate research goes beyond oohing and ahhing over a few photos on a Saturday night. Darbi McGlone, a Realtor® with Jim Talbot Realty in Baton Rouge, LA, estimates she spends about two hours each day researching potential properties.

“This could include looking up flood zones, previewing the homes for out-of-state clients, or any number of specific things,” she says.

Plus, listings come and go fast in the real estate world, so agents need to check their multiple listing service database constantly, or else they’ll miss out. Sometimes the process of matching up properties with clients can take a very long time.

“I have a client who wants a Mid-Century Modern house in Carlsbad, but there aren’t many there,” says Rachel Collins Friedman, a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty in San Diego, CA. That means that she’s been searching the database regularly for that particular kind of property for three years (here’s hoping all that patience pays off).

They go prospecting

Of course, there’s nothing like seeing a house in all its brick-and-mortar glory, which is why most Realtors worth their salt spend tons of time driving around checking out new listings. In Friedman’s San Diego area, they call it “caravan day.”

“It’s a good way to preview properties, and it’s a good time to network with other agents and talk up your listing,” she says.

They attend pitch sessions

Agents don’t spend all their time sizing up homes. According to Friedman, they also spend tons of face time with other pros at pitch sessions—gatherings of local agents at cafes where they swap listing info in order to spread the word about your property if you’re selling, or to find the house that checks every box on your wish list if you’re buying.

They spend their own money on marketing

In addition to not getting paid until a deal is done, selling agents also spend their own money on marketing: magazine and newspaper ads, fliers, hiring a photographer, glossy prints, and premium placements on listing sites.

“Agents can spend thousands marketing a property,” says Friedman.

They write up offers and counteroffers

Offers and counteroffers are an extremely important part of the transaction, as they can save or net you thousands of dollars on a sale. Yet getting to the right price requires written offers and counteroffers every step of the way.

“It’s time-consuming to be writing them up, explaining to the client how to counteroffer and the ways to do so, and just keeping track of it all,” Friedman says.

They stick around for inspections

You might not be present when it’s inspection time, but a good agent will be. This gives the agent an immediate knowledge of what’s going on. Anything from termites to an iffy foundation can be relayed to the buyer immediately, according to Friedman. McGlone estimates inspections take roughly two hours.

They smooth bumps in the road

Not every sale goes smoothly—buyers and sellers get difficult all the time—but good agents try to shield their clients from the high drama unless there’s a reason to fill them in.

“It’s called putting out fires,” says McGlone. “It’s just fixing issues that a lot of times buyers and sellers never needed to be made aware of.”

They keep you calm when the pressure’s on

Good agents don’t just hand you a house. They can also act as a therapist, making your sale much less stressful.

“People get emotional. You have to be a problem-solver and keep a positive approach and come up with a positive solution,” Friedman says. “It might not take a lot of time, but it takes emotional energy.”

Tell that to your therapist.

via Craig Donofrio who covers home finance and all things real estate for realtor.com. 

FAA Loosening Up On Drones

FAA, Drones & Real Estate

Those shooting stars could be drones capturing photos, video, or even delivering packages…

Key Takeaways via Britt Chester with Inman:

  1. The FAA no longer requires Section 333 waivers for drones weighing less than 55 lbs.
  2. Flight in the airspace classified G does not require clearance from local air traffic control.
  3. Drone pilot must be at least 16 years old and pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.

Not sure whether, where and how you can use drones for real estate photography?

Some gray area of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) regulation has been cleared up thanks to Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it will no longer require a Section 333 waiver — making it much easier for real estate agents to legally fly drones.

The Section 333 waiver was a bottleneck of commercial applications on the FAA website, many of which were targeted toward real estate professionals and production companies working with real estate agents. (The online portal for Section 333 waivers has been shut down on the FAA website.)

Drone photography and video footage has been a game changer in real estate. And the affordability of pro-sumer drones has many people scrambling to get one, especially now.

The new rules take effect August 2016

The last time the FAA issued new regulation on UAVs was in December, although the rules took effect this past March. Many of the same rules still apply, although the biggest one is regarding the non-requirement of a section 333 waiver.

To operate your drone, you must obtain a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating. There are two ways to do this.

  1. You may pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
  2. If you already have a Part 61 pilot certificate, other than a student pilot certificate, you must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months, and you must take a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

Drones and the NAR

The first line in Part 107 (after the rule determining 55 lbs. weight max) relates to the visual line of sight (VLOS): The remote pilot in command and drone operator must maintain VLOS. It is required to have a “spotter,” and this rule states that the two people in control of the drone must be able to see it.

Late last year, NAR wrote a letter to Michael Huerta, FAA administrator, requesting a change in the VLOS at it relates to “unusually sized buildings and rural properties.

A source with NAR said that ever since the FAA called out Realtors directly in 2014 regarding drone use, the association has been actively working out how it can help agents who are utilizing aerial photography.

“We’ve worked hard to strike a responsible balance that protects the safety and privacy of individuals, while also ensuring Realtors can put drones to good use,” said Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida., and president of NAR, in a press release.

Specifically, the NAR wants to focus on the category of drones known as micro UAVs. These are drones weighing less than 4 lbs. and, according to the NAR, do not pose the same threat to the safety of the general public as those classified under small UAV.

“Getting here wasn’t easy, and the FAA is to be commended for listening to the concerns of real estate professionals throughout the rule-making process,” Salomone said. “We’re entering a new stage of drone use in real estate, and no doubt there will be additional questions and challenges ahead. NAR will continue educating its members on issues important to the safe, responsible use of drones so they can grow their business and better serve their clients.”

New rules about UAV flying

Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without air traffic control permission. Read more about airspace and the regulations for each in the pilot’s handbook.

  1. You still may not fly your UAV above 400 feet in relation to ground level.
  2. If you are operating your drone above 400 feet, you must remain within 400 feet of a structure.
  3. The UAV must not exceed 100 miles per hour in airspeed.
  4. You must be 16 years of age to operate a drone remotely.

Another change is the inability to fly over groups of people “that are not participating in the operation” outside, within a structure or in a stationary vehicle.

There have also been changes to the use of drones as applies to delivery services.

Drones may transport property for compensation as long as they remain in the VLOS of the pilot in command, and they cannot be operated from a moving vehicle.

Originally posted by Britt Chester with Inman

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How Florida Real Estate Bills Fared This Legislative Session

Florida Realtors logo

via Florida Realtors…

For Florida Realtors, the 2016 session was as much about preserving and protecting homeownership as it was ensuring no new laws were passed that would disrupt your business.

Among real estate bills that passed, there are several notable victories for the industry, prospective buyers and property owners:

$500,000 to combat unlicensed real estate activity and possible savings for licensees. Licensees pay $5 into the unlicensed activity fund when they renew their licenses. Under HB 303 (Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland), this fee will be waived if the amount of funds collected exceeds what was spent in the previous two years.

$200.1 million to Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds. This is the highest funding level in nine years. Lawmakers provided $135.5 million for rental assistance ( State Housing Initiatives Partnership, or SHIP); $5 million for homelessness challenge grants; and $64.6 million for state housing programs, half of which will go to the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program. Also, lawmakers appropriated monies from general revenue and other trust funds for several local housing initiatives: $4 million for homelessness programs around the state; $16 million for the Low-income Housing Energy Assistance Program; and $1 million for a variety of community development projects.

Statewide water policy. SB 552 (Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness) was one of the first bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law. It’s a complex bill that lays the foundation for a comprehensive water management program for the state. Several aspects of this 134-page bill align with Florida Realtors’ view on how to preserve one of Florida’s greatest natural assets: (1) protect and restore fresh water springs; (2) give the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) oversight for scientifically-based water research programs; and (3) allow the DEP to oversee pollution control measures for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, and the St. Lucie River and Estuary. Separately, the state budget provides monies for other environmental projects: $159.7 million for Everglades restoration; $56.8 million for northern Everglades and estuaries protection; and $50 million for springs protection projects.

Tax exemptions for seniors, solar energy and first responders. Lawmakers passed three proposed constitutional amendments dealing with taxes that voters will consider in November 2016. HJR 1009 (Rep. Larry Metz, R-Groveland) would grant a property tax break for first responders disabled in the line of duty. HJR 193 (Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers) would give commercial property owners a tax break on solar and renewable energy devices. And HJR 275 (Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah) would allow certain low-income senior property owners to keep their additional homestead exemption even though the value exceeds $250,000 due to improving market conditions.

New type of sinkhole insurance. Property owners in so-called “sinkhole alley” (Hillsborough, Hernando and Pasco counties), where coverage currently available only covers catastrophic loss, will be pleased to know protection against less severe damage may soon be available. SB 1274 (Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater) allows insurance companies to offer a new line of sinkhole insurance that covers damage considered less than catastrophic, such as sunken floors and cracked walls. Policyholders would be required to make repairs and not use an insurance payout for other expenses or purchases.

No new restrictions on vacation rentals. Florida Realtors successfully worked against several bills that would have allowed local governments to ban short-term rentals.

Want to challenge your property assessment? Take along a real estate representative. Property owners who disagree with the value placed on their property may challenge the assessment before their county’s Value Adjustment Board (VAB). Currently, only an attorney or “agent” may represent the owner. HB 499 (Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah) expands the list of representatives to include a real estate appraiser or broker.

Faster lease approvals for members of the military. SB 184 (Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville), a broad military/veterans affairs bill, took on a House amendment late in the session requiring landlords and condo/homeowners’ associations to approve or deny a rental application submitted by active duty service personnel within seven days. If the application is denied, the prospective tenant must be told why. If the application is not processed within the seven-day period, the landlord and condo/homeowners’ association must lease the unit to the service member.

FREC appointment. The Senate approved Gov. Rick Scott’s appointment of 2011 Florida Realtors President Patti Fitzgerald to the Florida Real Estate Commission. Fitzgerald, broker associate/manager with Illustrated Properties in Jupiter, will serve a three-year term.

Real Estate Bills that did not pass:

Cap on estoppel certificate fees. Fierce opposition made it difficult to advance legislation that would have capped estoppel certificate fees. HB 203 (Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven) made it through all House committees and was poised for discussion on the floor. The Senate version, SB 722 (Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland), died in committee.

Assignment-of-benefits reform. For four years, legislators have tried to curb property insurance fraud, overbilling and lawsuits when property owners allow repair contractors, such as water remediators, to file an insurance claim on their behalf. These abuses, according to insurance companies, drive up rates for all policyholders. Two bills were introduced this session. One pitted trial lawyers against insurance companies, and the other focused on kickbacks that water remediators pay to plumbers and other repairman. Both bills proved too controversial for this Legislature.

New homeowners’ association disclosure. SB 1122 and HB 1375 would have required prospective buyers to receive a homeowners’ association’s governing documents within seven days of closing. The buyer would have been allowed to terminate the contract for purchase within three days after receipt of these documents. Both bills died in committee early in the session.

New renters insurance disclosure. SB 342 would have required two different leases for residential rentals: one lease when tenants are required to purchase a renter’s insurance policy and the other when insurance is not required. SB 342 passed the Senate; its House companion, HB 237, died in committee.

Higher documentary stamp taxes. SB 660 and HB 735 sought to shift the cost of impact fees — paid by builders but often passed along to purchasers of new construction — to all property buyers in the form of higher documentary stamp taxes. If adopted by local governments, doc stamps could have jumped from 70 cents to $1 per $100 of value.

Use of local surtax for water restoration projects. Local governments are permitted to levy an infrastructure surtax to pay for a range of capital projects, such as land for public parks or energy-improvement loans for residential or commercial property. HB 995 and SB 346 would have allowed local governments to use proceeds from this surtax to dredge muck from bodies of water and restore them for public use.

Fair housing, anti-discrimination. Florida Realtors was one of 36 companies and organizations in favor of legislation to ban discrimination in the workplace and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. SB 120 and HB 45 died in committee.

Stricter penalties for crimes committed against real estate agents. With attacks against real estate agents on the rise, two bills were filed to stiffen the penalty for certain crimes committed against a real estate professional during property showings. HB 47 made it to the House floor, but its Senate companion, SB 214 , stalled in committee, as legislators questioned why real estate licensees should be given the same protected status as law enforcement officers and sports referees, as currently allowed.