In Florida, Nationality May Bar Property Ownership
In general, U.S. law does not discriminate in the matter of real estate ownership, as long as the Office of Federal Asset Control (OFAC) does not object to the purchase or sale. However, the state of Florida passed a law in May 2023 that restricted the right of certain foreign nationals to own property in Florida. It went into effect in July, which means that while all must now abide by it, there are likely foreign nationals that are unaware of this new prohibition.
Severe Restrictions Imposed On Certain Nationals
The bill passed in May bars specific foreign nationals from owning property, with rare exceptions. The countries affected are China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela, but in signing the bill into law, Florida’s governor explicitly stated that it was intended to “counteract the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party” in his state, and to “root out Chinese influence in Florida’s education system.” China is also the only one of the seven countries to merit a specific statute barring property ownership in Florida by its government as well as its nationals.
The new law holds that nationals from those listed “foreign countr[ies] of concern” cannot own agricultural land or any type of real estate that is near a military installation or ‘critical infrastructure,’ including airports and power plants. There is an exception in the law for green card holders (lawful permanent residents), but anyone else who is not a citizen, the law stands. Effectively, this severely limits the ability of these foreign nationals to live and work in Florida – with even more potentially serious consequences for Chinese nationals, who appear to have been singled out.
The Law Remains Unsettled
It is important to keep in mind that those nationals who already own property in Florida will generally be permitted to keep it, but will be required to register with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity – a requirement not forced on any other foreign nationals. There are also a handful of other exceptions to the law that will help a small percentage of property owners, but many will be left out in the proverbial cold.
Depending on your specific situation, it may be in your best interests to wait and see what the ultimate fate of the law will be. A lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), alleging that the law violates both the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and both the federal and state Fair Housing Act. In addition to the undue hardships the law places on the nationals of the ‘countries of concern,’ there is a real possibility that U.S. citizens of those ethnicities may be subject to discrimination as well.
Contact A Tampa Real Estate Attorney
If you are a national of one of the seven countries named in Florida’s new law, it may be a good idea to consult a Tampa real estate attorney so you know your rights with regard to the property you own (or have been trying to buy). Attorney Alicia Seward and the Seward Law Office can help you get your questions answered. Contact our office today at 813-252-6789 to schedule a consultation.