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New Year, New Laws, Old Form Documents? Exhibit A: Changes in Florida’s Real Estate Contracts

Settling into a New Year often brings renewed energy into setting and pushing new goals of building business relationships, increasing sales, and moving Letters of Intent and negotiations into final, signed agreements.

It’s all too easy to grab a form document off the Internet (Google, anyone?), or to pull the last document in your files as a template for your next agreement.

However, changes in the law can take effect at the beginning of the calendar year, as well as mid-year or fiscal new year, and sometimes on a random date in between. 

Your awareness – or lack of awareness – in changes in the law can mean the difference between keeping you and your business operating within the law or putting you at great financial and legal risk for not complying with the law. It can also result in financial and time savings or additional burden in time and costs.

Major Changes to Florida’s Form Contracts: FR/BAR “As Is” and Residential Contracts

Florida’s real estate market has been among the hottest markets to buy, sell, lease, and otherwise invest.  Much of the state’s real estate market is driven by the residential market, namely the sale and purchase of single, family homes.  These buyers and sellers are not always individuals. They also include individuals and investment companies, some based locally, others from out of state or out-of-country, who may not be familiar with Florida-specific laws and customs.

In Florida, there are form contracts you easily find online. However, the ones that are generally accepted form contracts, those widely used and accepted by professionals within the industry, are the purchase and sale agreements for residential real estate contracts, issued and approved by the joint committee of Florida Realtors and The Florida Bar, including the (i) FR/BAR Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase and the (ii) FR/BAR “As Is” Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase.

These FR/BAR contracts are not typically updated on a yearly basis, as they take significant collaboration between both professional organizations. The most recent changes took effect as of November 1, 2021, among them, a few highlights summarized:

“Loan Approval” and “Appraisal”

The definitions of “Loan Approval” and “Appraisal” have been expanded.

If the financing contingency box is checked, then in addition to obtaining approval for financing, the Buyer’s lender must also receive a satisfactory appraisal (or alternative valuation of the Property) prior to the expiration of the Loan Approval Period. This revision was made to expedite the receipt of the appraisal, as the prior form contract allowed the lender’s appraisal to come in right before Closing, and a deal could fall apart right before the Closing Day. Under the new revision, if the appraisal does not meet lender approval within the Loan Approval Period, the parties could terminate sooner than previously allowed and the property could return to the market sooner for other potential buyers.

Delivery Notice Methods

In addition to providing notice by mail or personal delivery, notices by fax or email are allowed. However, other electronic media delivery previously allowed is prohibited, so no texts or social media messages.

Occupancy Clause

The occupancy clause has expanded to include disclosure of existing seasonal or short-term vacation rentals and future tenancies.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN REAL PROPERTY TAX ACT (“FIRPTA”)

FIRTPA withholding and reporting costs are now explicitly designated as a Seller.

Time Calculations

Calendar days are now based on the Property’s location, and if a date or time period ends on a Saturday or Sunday, or a day that is a national legal public holiday (as defined by U.S.C. Sec. 6103(a)), or a day on which a national legal public holiday is observed because it fell on a weekend, that date or time period extends to the next calendar date which is not a Saturday, Sunday, national legal public holiday, or a day in which a national legal public holiday is observed.

Force Majeure (Pandemic now included)

The definition of “Force Majeure” expanded under the new form contracts to include “governmental actions and mandates, government shutdowns, epidemics or pandemics.” This section allows

Understanding Changes in the Law, Changes in the Forms

The foregoing summaries are just some of the changes to the new form Florida “As Is” and Residential Purchase and Sale Contracts. There are many other changes that were added, deleted, or modified. 

Although you may be able to find one of the new forms online, very likely the older forms will pop up. Further, if the forms do not originate directly from the Florida Realtors or The Florida Bar or a licensed Realtor, Broker, or Attorney, you may not know if you have a form contract that is fully updated or if the correct Riders are being properly used.   

It is worth paying the extra money for a professional to work with you in preparing or responding to a contract, even a form contract that appears to be blessed by professional organizations.  The cost of “free” and fast forms can amount to an expensive and long process of fixing versus hiring a professional to prepare an agreement that’s specific, clear, and current or hiring an attorney to litigate for or against a not-so-current or compliant contract.

To learn more about the recent changes in Florida’s real estate contracts or other areas of residential or commercial real estate, please contact BMD Attorney Christine M. Berk (cmberk@bmdpl.com) – (407) 214-8395.

Explosive Growth in Pot of Gold Opportunity for Bank (and Other) Cannabis Lenders Driving Erosion of the Barriers

Our original article on bank lending to the cannabis industry anticipated that the convergence of interest between banks and the cannabis industry would draw more and larger banks to the industry. Banks were awash in liquidity with limited deployment options, while bankable cannabis businesses had rapidly growing needs for more and lower cost credit. Since then, the pot of gold opportunity for banks to lend into the cannabis industry has grown exponentially due to a combination of market constraints on equity causing a dramatic shift to debt and the ever-increasing capital needs of one of the country’s fastest growing industries. At the same time, hurdles to entry of new banks are being systematically cleared as the yellow brick road to the cannabis industry’s access to the financial markets is being paved, brick by brick, by the progressively increasing number and size of banks that are now entering the market.

2021 EEOC Charge Statistics: Retaliation & Impact of Remote Work

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its detailed information on workplace discrimination charges it received in 2021. Unsurprisingly, for the second year in a row, the total number of charges decreased as COVID-19 either shut down workplaces or disconnected employees from each other. In 2021, the agency received a total of approximately 61,000 workplace discrimination charges - the fewest in 25 years by a wide margin. For reference, the agency received over 67,000 charges in 2020, and averaged almost 90,000 charges per year over the previous 10 years.

Ohio’s Managed Care Overhaul Delayed – New Implementation Timeline

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) launched the Medicaid Managed Care Procurement process in 2019. ODM’s stated vision for the procurement was to focus on people and not just the business of managed care. This is the first structural change to Ohio’s managed care system since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) approval of Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2005. Initially, all of the new managed care programs were supposed to be implemented starting on July 1, 2022. However, ODM Director Maureen Corcoran recently confirmed that this date will be pushed back for several managed care-related programs.

Laboratory Specimen Collection Arrangements with Contract Hospitals - OIG Advisory Opinion 22-09

On April 28, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published an Advisory Opinion[1] in which it evaluated a proposed arrangement where a network of clinical laboratories (the “Requestor”) would compensate hospitals (each a “Contract Hospital”) for specimen collection, processing, and handling services (“Collection Services”) for laboratory tests furnished by the Requestor (the “Proposed Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Proposed Arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) if the requisite intent were present. This is due to both the possibility that the proposed per-patient-encounter fee would be used to induce or reward referrals to Requestor and the associated risk of improperly steering patients to Requestor.

Property Owner Protection from Tax Valuation Challenges

New legislation provides significant new protections for commercial property owners against challenges to valuation primarily by local school boards and prohibiting side agreements to avoid tax valuation changes. The Ohio Legislature has approved House Bill 126 which will go into effect July 2022 but will effectively apply to the 2023 tax valuation year.