We get all sorts of calls on Florida Realtors Legal Hotline, from routine calls that fall within the scope of the Hotline (general topics related to the practice of real estate in Florida) to calls where we give a more hands-off response and recommend the person with the legal issue find a local lawyer for consultation.
Here are the top three calls that fall into that category:
1. Tax questions
The tax code is notorious for its complexity, and the penalties for noncompliance can be severe. If someone has a question about tax forms or tax liability, we always recommend they consult their own tax professional. The person with a tax question can then decide whether they’re comfortable doing their own research or whether they want the protection and security of consulting a tax attorney or certified public accountant.
Tax law is typically a specialty, although any lawyer could advise if comfortable fielding the specific question posed.
2. Contracts that are not Florida Realtors or Florida Realtors/Florida Bar forms
When reading contract language, it’s essential to review the entire document, so we almost always defer to a local lawyer who can review the document before interpreting a clause.
Here is an example of how clauses are rarely read in isolation: Assume a buyer wants to know precisely how and when to terminate a Florida Realtors/Florida Bar contract during the inspection period. The pinpoint answer requires a review of all these separate clauses in the contract:
a. Standard F time is of the essence
b. Section 3(b) calculation of the effective date
c. Section 12 number of days within which the buyer may cancel
d. Section 12 acceptable reasons to cancel (if buyer deems the property not acceptable, in buyer’s sole discretion)
e. Standard F calendar days are used in this contract
f. Standard F if the deadline falls on a weekend or national legal holiday, it will automatically extend until 5:00 p.m. the following business day
g. Standard O knowledge of who can deliver notice (buyer, attorney, broker, or associate)
h. Standard O what delivery methods are acceptable (mail, personal delivery, or electronic media)
3. Specific questions about a condominium association or homeowners’ association documents and rules
Although Florida Statutes have some basic requirements regarding condominium associations and homeowners’ associations, which we are happy to discuss, each association has a fair amount of flexibility in how its documents and rules will be structured. As we talked about with contracts, researching specific questions, such as whether an association’s tenant screening process or pet rules are being enforced correctly, would require a careful review of association document(s).