Anyone selling a property in Florida is required to make specific disclosures to buyers about the estate’s condition and history.
Sellers who fail to fulfill the obligation and try to hide certain aspects that are not visible to the naked eye are exposed to legal liability.
In this article, you will discover what you have and have not to disclose when selling a house in Florida.
Home Disclosure in Florida – As Provided by Law
Derived from the case of Johnson v. Davis, 480 So.2d 625 (Fla. 1985), the state case law provides that when a seller of a property knows of facts/conditions about the property that has a substantial impact on its value or desirability and are not known to the buyer, the seller must disclose them.
Additionally, Florida statutes provide some specific requirements for sellers, requiring them to disclose:
- dangers associated with radon gas, which is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Often found in buildings in Florida, radon gas is inert, colorless, and odorless (Florida Statutes §404.056(5)),
- environmental risks associated with erosion, if selling a coastal property. Such type of property might be subject to specific regulations, which include building regulation, rigid coastal protection structures, protection of native species, etc. (Florida Statutes §161.57), and
- a disclosure summary at or before the execution of the contract for sale, containing statutory language and stating the buyer cannot assume that the amount of property taxes currently paid by the seller will remain the same after the property’s sale. Change of ownership or property improvements triggers reassessments of the property, which can lead to higher taxes (Fla. Stat. § 689.261).
Also, as provided by Florida Statutes (§720.401), the seller of any property located in a community governed by a condo or homeowner’s association must disclose:
- information regarding mandatory membership,
- the requirement for monthly/quarterly fees (including assessments), and
- what documents contain more details about the association and its rules.
Besides, there are similar requirements for condominiums, specifically stated in Florida Statutes §718.503.
How Sellers Can Make Disclosures to Home Buyers in Florida
Florida law does not require all types of disclosure to be written down on paper. In this sense, some legal experts believe sellers can make disclosures either verbally (with some statutory exceptions) or in writing.
Nonetheless, an oral disclosure without any written confirmation would be a hurdle to prove later. It could be extremely problematic in cases where the buyer purchases a home property and finds out about undisclosed issues.
We strongly recommend sellers to make property disclosures in writing, always seeking guidance with an expert real estate attorney to oversee the documentation.
Home Disclosure in Florida – Main Items to Disclose
Florida Association of Realtors® has a standard form utilized in disclosures, as it covers many common property issues about which buyers need to know. Be aware that this is a separate form from the standard contract used in most property transactions.
The main items contained in the standard disclosure form include:
- the existence of any actual or potential legal claims, complaints, or court proceedings affecting the property,
- whether any disputes have arisen regarding the property’s boundaries,
- the existence of environmental hazards such as asbestos, lead, mold, defective drywall (a common issue in Florida), and others affecting the property,
- if the property contains any past or present sinkholes (another recurrent issue in Florida),
- the existence of any types of infestations or damage originated from wood-destroying organisms such as termites, fungi, etc., and
- the existence of issues affecting any structural or essential component of the home, which includes the roof, plumbing, electrical wiring, major appliances, HVAC, etc.
Also, some federal regulations affect real estate disclosures done at the state level. We strongly recommend you seek guidance with an expert attorney in Florida in full compliance with regulations at both levels.
House Disclosure for Property Sold “As-Is”
In layman’s terms, an “as-is” clause means that the buyer agrees to acquire the property in its current existing condition, without the need for the seller to make further repairs or improvements to it.
Nonetheless, an “as-is” clause does not exempt the seller from disclosure duties as provided by Florida law.
What Sellers Do Not Need to Disclose When Selling a Property in Florida
As provided by Florida Statutes § 689.25, home sellers in Florida are not obligated to disclose:
- whether a case involving murder, suicide, or death has occurred (or is suspected to have occurred) on the property, or
- whether the property has been inhabited by an individual infected with HIV/AIDS.
In case the buyer asks directly about these issues, sellers have the right to remain silent (state law does not provide specifics about the matter) or answer the question honestly if it does not affect the privacy of previous inhabitants.
Nonetheless, be aware of false statements, as lying to a buyer could provide legal ground for misrepresentation.
Be aware that home sellers in Florida are not expected to ensure buyers that their properties are perfect, which is virtually impossible. Besides, Florida courts decided that sellers will not be held accountable for property defects of which they did not know.
You Do Not Know What to Disclose When Selling a House in Florida? – We Can Help You
Undoubtedly, real estate transactions in Florida can be extremely demanding from a legal viewpoint.
Do not face uncertainty when dealing with home disclosures or any other matter regarding real estate in Florida. Get in touch with Attorney Romy B. Jurado today by calling (305) 921-0976 or emailing [email protected] to schedule a consultation.