What Must a Seller Disclose When Selling a House in Florida?

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In more than 25 years of guiding South Floridians through their residential and commercial real estate transactions from our Coral Springs, Florida, office the LAW OFFICE OF GARY M. LANDAU takes care to protect our clients’ legal interests, represent them diligently, and fully inform them about all the requirements of their real estate transaction.

A question we often receive from clients preparing to sell their homes is, “What must a seller disclose when selling a house in Florida?” This blog, from our experienced real estate lawyer, Gary M. Landau, offers homeowners an overview of the disclosure process in the Florida real estate market, and what buyers and home sellers can expect from real estate closings.

Keep reading to learn more, then contact us at (954) 979-6566 to schedule a free initial consultation in person or on Zoom to discuss your unique transaction with a seasoned real estate attorney.

Laws Governing Florida Real Estate Transactions for Sellers

Like many states, Florida requires anyone selling their property to make specific disclosures to potential buyers before the sale is completed at closing. These disclosures pertain to the property’s condition and relevant history. 

These disclosures are mandated because otherwise sellers would have an advantage over buyers, since they have intimate knowledge about the property for sale, especially about subtle or hidden defects that are not easily known. 

Anyone wanting to sell a property must inform potential buyers of certain conditions through specific disclosure forms.

Legal Requirements for Florida Home Sellers

Some examples of defects sellers need to disclose include the presence of mold, a leaky roof, or the fact that termites have been found.

The law regarding such disclosures was first laid out in 1985, in a court case known as Johnson v. Davis. In that case, when the buyers inquired about peeling plaster and buckling they noticed around the windows before closing on the property, they were told this was from minor problems that had been corrected. After escrowing the remainder of their substantial deposit, a heavy rain made clear the buckling and peeling were from a roof leak, which experts later deemed was inherently defective. The court ruled the sellers had fraudulently concealed evidence of this defect by not disclosing it.

In addition to disclosures about home defects that could affect the buyer’s interest in the property, Florida law requires that home sellers also provide several other important documents to potential buyers. 

These include:

  • A written statement about whether it is known that naturally occurring radon gas is present. Per Florida Statute §404.056(5), this statement must also describe the dangers posed by radon.
  • Notice of any pending code enforcement actions against the seller. According to  Florida Statute §162.06, in addition to this disclosure, the seller must notify code enforcement officials of the property transfer.
  • A summary of the recent property taxes. Per Florida Statute § 689.261, the seller must explain that the buyer cannot assume their property taxes will remain the same as the seller’s was.
  • If the property for sale is located along the coast, the seller must provide a written statement explaining the potential for erosion, in accordance with Florida Statute §161.57. The buyer also must be informed that the property might be subject to special regulations concerning construction, strict coastal protection measures, beach renewal efforts, and measures to protect marine turtles.
  • If the property is part of a community under the governance of a condo or homeowner’s association, the seller must provide information about the required membership, mandatory monthly or quarterly fees and assessments, and complete documents containing details about the association and its rules. These are mandated by Florida Statute §720.401 and Florida Statute §718.503, which specifically deal with condominiums.

Does Florida Require a Disclosure Form?

Although several states use a specific form for sellers to make their disclosures, Florida does not require the use of an overarching standard form. However, many sellers use the disclosure form provided by the Florida Association of Realtors®, given to them by their real estate agents. This form is separate and distinct from the real estate contract designed to facilitate the sale of the home.

The Florida Association of Realtors® disclosure form addresses:

  • Any environmental hazards in the property, including asbestos, lead, mold, defective drywall, and other issues.
  • If wood-destroying insects or organism infestations, such as termites or fungi, have inflicted damage.
  • Existing problems with structural and other essential components of the home, including the roof, plumbing, electrical wiring, major appliances, and HVAC.
  • The presence of any restrictions on reconstructing the property after a casualty loss or damage.
  • Actual or potential legal claims, complaints, or court proceedings affecting the property.
  • Any disputes that have arisen regarding the property’s boundaries.
  • Whether the home is built on property that contains any past or present sinkholes.

To protect sellers from future disputes, these disclosures should always be in writing, even though the law doesn’t specifically state that they must be. 

And if a seller is not sure whether something must be disclosed, I have learned throughout my career serving clients in South Florida’s real estate law, that it is better to err on the side of disclosure, revealing anything they think might fall under these covered areas.

Are There Limits to the Risks Florida House Sellers Face?

The need to disclose shouldn’t overwhelm sellers, who sometimes worry they might be held liable for not revealing every detail about their home’s condition. 

But Florida courts have recognized that sellers can’t be held to an impossible standard of guaranteeing their house is in pristine condition. Courts have held that sellers are not responsible for revealing defects that were unknown to them.

What Must a Buyer Prove in Court When Suing a Seller?

If a buyer sues a home seller following the purchase, they must prove that the seller:

  • Knew about the property’s defect;
  • That the defect significantly impacts the property’s value;
  • That the buyer was unaware of the defect when purchasing the home;
  • That the defect could not have been easily detected by the buyer; and
  • That the seller did not share information about the defect with the individual(s) who purchased the property.

If I’m Selling My House “As Is,” Must I Provide Written Disclosure?

In many real estate contracts, sellers can sell their home “as is.” This means the buyers agree to accept the property in its current condition, without requiring the seller to pay for repairs or improvements. 

As an experienced real estate attorney, I always tell my clients who are selling their homes that an “as-is” home sale does not absolve them of their disclosure responsibilities under state law. All material defects a seller knows about must be disclosed to the individual(s) purchasing the property, even if under the terms of the contract the seller is not required to repair those defects.

Do Federal Guidelines Apply to Lead Disclosures When Selling a House in Florida?

While most real-estate provisions are set by the Florida state legislature, in a few cases federal regulations about disclosures kick in. In one of the most important, sellers of homes built before 1978 must disclose any known presence of lead-based paint. This paint, which stopped being regularly used after that time, can cause developmental delays and other problems in children who ingest chips of the paint.

As part of this disclosure, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires sellers to include an EPA-approved pamphlet addressing the hazards of lead-based paint. The seller must also include information in the real estate contract titled, “Lead Warning Statement,” with a declaration that all notification requirements have been fulfilled.

Are There Facts About a Property That Do Not Have to Be Disclosed?

Certain aspects of the history of the property do not have to be disclosed. Florida Statute § 689.25 grants specific exceptions to the real estate disclosure requirements for sellers and their real estate agents. 

A person selling their home in Florida does not have to disclose that:

  • someone infected with HIV or AIDS lived in the property or
  • a murder, suicide, or death took place or is suspected to have taken place in or around the property.

What happens if a buyer specifically asks about these issues? A seller can simply say that state law does not require such information to be shared. Still, it’s important not to make false or misleading statements because a buyer can still take legal action against a seller who misrepresents the facts.

What Happens to Florida Sellers Who Fail to Comply with Disclosure Laws?

Sellers and their real-estate agents who fail to comply with real estate disclosure laws can face serious consequences including the cancellation of the contract, loss of money, and even claims ranging from fraud to negligence, depending on the nature of the non-disclosure. 

If I Have Hired a Real Estate Agent to Help Me Sell My Florida House, Do I Need a Real Estate Attorney?

As is clear from this discussion of all the various disclosure requirements mandated by law, selling a home can be a complex process. Real estate agents are valuable to home sellers and buyers, because they fill a specific niche, marketing the property and finding the buyer.

However, real estate agents are not always knowledgeable about all disclosure laws. They also are not involved in all the legal paperwork and steps required to legally transfer a home from the seller to the new buyer.

Some real estate agencies are affiliated with title companies, but only an experienced real estate attorney can legally represent a seller or buyer during the transaction in addition to handling all the closing documents and providing title insurance. Experienced real estate attorneys typically provide this representation for similar rates as a title company that generally cannot provide legal representation.

Hiring a real estate attorney with years of experience in real estate law, ideally even before you sign the contract, can help your closing go smoothly. Experienced real estate attorneys can answer all questions you have about the process and represent your interests each step of the way.

Contact the LAW OFFICE OF GARY M. LANDAU, P.A., a Knowledgeable and Experienced Real Estate Attorney Serving Coral Springs, Parkland, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and All of South Florida

With more than 25 years of experience and countless satisfied clients, Gary M. Landau and his team of legal professionals are uniquely positioned to help you with your probate and real estate needs in South Florida. Whether you’re ready to probate a loved one’s estate or to write your own will, or if you are purchasing a home, have inherited a home, or want a closing agent to handle title insurance and all documents for your closing or refinancing, the LAW OFFICE OF GARY M. LANDAU, P.A. is ready to work with you. 

Call our office at (954) 979-6566 or complete our online form today to schedule a free consultation. We work with our clients in person, over the phone, or on Zoom.

Copyright © 2024. LAW OFFICE OF GARY M. LANDAU, P.A. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. 

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Coral Springs, FL 33067
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