Real Estate And Landlord/Tenant FAQs

At Seward Law Office, P.A., we handle a wide variety of real estate issues for clients throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Following are some questions that we think you may find helpful if your goal is to resolve a real estate dispute or complete a real estate closing.

What can I do if I find a defect in my home after I purchase it?

Florida law requires sellers to disclose all defects known to the seller, including defects that are not obvious to the buyer. If a seller failed to disclose a defect that materially affects the value of your property, you should contact us as soon as possible. We can assess your situation and help you right the wrong. If a resolution cannot be reached outside of court, we will go to court to hold the seller accountable.

What is a title search, and why is it necessary?

A title search is essentially an examination of all the documents concerning a property. The records to examine may include deeds, property and name indexes, court records and many other documents. Title searches are conducted basically for two reasons: 1) to verify the seller's right to sell the property and 2) to discover any defects, claims or other burdens on the property. Depending on the property in question, such burdens may include judgments against the seller, land use restrictions, unsatisfied mortgages and unpaid taxes.

What is title insurance?

Title insurance protects against financial loss in the event that title defects of some kind lead to a claim against your ownership. In addition to problems like unsatisfied mortgages and unpaid property taxes, there may be hidden defects that a title search may not reveal, such as forgery, fraud or misstatement of facts by the seller. Such defects can arise after you have already bought your home, and your right to ownership could be threatened. It is therefore important to have title insurance to protect your financial interests. Florida law does not require title insurance, but it is wise to purchase it. You pay it once, and it remains in effect for as long as you own the property.

I have liens on my home. Can I still sell it?

In Florida, if you are selling real property, all liens and title defects must be resolved before closing. Our firm can help you in these matters, ensuring that you meet your obligation to provide marketable title to the property.

As a buyer, why do I need an attorney to review my real estate contract?

When purchasing real estate, you are making a major investment. If you are like most buyers, though, you are not entirely sure of the process leading up to the real estate closing. At Seward Law Office, P.A., we have extensive experience in these matters. We can guide you through the process and help ensure that your investment is protected. We can inform you about the typical costs, how long it usually takes to get mortgage approval, what disclosures the seller must make, and what your and the seller's obligations are with regard to inspections and repairs. An experienced real estate lawyer can review and negotiate the contract, provide you with peace of mind, help you save money, and help you avoid costly mistakes and misunderstandings that could lead to litigation.

How are HOA/condominium disputes between boards and residents handled in Florida?

Florida law requires that parties to HOA/condo disputes participate in mediation before commencing arbitration proceedings or filing a lawsuit.

Can a condominium association fine a unit owner for a rule violation?

Yes, the law gives condo associations limited fining power in the event that a unit owner, tenant or guest fails to comply with the provisions of the condominium documents. Generally, the association must provide the unit owner with at least 14 days' written notice, along with an opportunity for a hearing, before a fine or suspension may be imposed. Also, the association may temporarily suspend a unit owner's right, or a tenant's right, to use common elements and facilities if the owner or tenant fails to comply with the condominium documents. The fine cannot, however, become a lien against the condo unit.

Can a condo association restrict the rental or sale of a condo unit?

Yes, the law allows for an association to restrict sales and rentals of condo units. Generally, the association will require the unit owner to submit an application that discloses details about a prospective resident. In many cases, disputes arise when the declaration of condominium is amended to prohibit or restrict owners from renting out their units. Whether or not such an amendment applies to a particular unit owner will depend on whether the owner consented to the amendment and whether the unit owner acquired title to the unit before or after the amendment's effective date.

Can the owner of a condo unit access the common elements and facilities while the unit is being rented out?

Generally, no. Condominium associations usually have rules that prohibit dual usage of common elements — and the association property in general — by unit owners and their tenants. In fact, the law provides that, unless a rental agreement states otherwise, the owner of a rented unit shall not have rights to usage of common elements, except perhaps as a guest.

Can I break my lease in Florida?

Generally, if you sign a fixed-term lease and you leave before the lease expires and without paying the remainder of the due rent, you are breaking the lease and will be liable for the unpaid rent. However, there are a few exceptions under the law. For example, federal law allows you to break a lease without liability for rent if you are starting active military service. You also may break a lease if the rental unit violates Florida health codes or is otherwise unsafe. If your landlord violates your privacy rights or harasses you, you may also break your lease. In fact, Florida law requires your landlord to provide 12 hours' notice to enter a rental property. If your landlord repeatedly fails to provide such notice before entering, you may have legal grounds to break the lease.

Schedule A Consultation

If you have questions or concerns about a Florida real estate issue, we can help. You can schedule a consultation with attorney Alicia R. Seward by calling 813-252-1595 or 727-489-4615, or send us an email. With offices in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Alicia advises and represents clients throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.