July 1, October 1 and January 1 are commonly known for their effective dates of new laws. Other months and dates may also be used, including the "upon being signed by the Governor" date. As such, several new Florida laws are already in play since July 1st. Here are some that may be of interest to the industry and their effective date(s).
Be sure to review and save a copy of the bills for your reference. The below descriptions are from legislature staff analysis in the Florida House of Representatives or Florida Senate. For questions on these bills, please contact your legal counsel or title insurer.
HB 487 – Department of Financial Services1
- Relieves title insurance, life insurance, and annuity insurance agents and agencies from the requirement that they notice all active policyholders of an office closure that is more than 30 days because the related policies are not continually serviced by the agent or agency.
- Permits DFS to suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew or continue the license or appointment of a title agent or agency that:
- Misappropriates, converts, or unlawfully withholds funds related to an escrow agreement, real estate sales contract, or settlement of a real estate transaction; or
- Is the subject of an adverse action against a license or similar credential in another state, a court of competent jurisdiction, or federal agency, or similar.
- For the purposes of title agents and agencies, changes the authority to act as an escrow agent from the title agent to the title agency and removes the obligation to invest the escrow funds consistent with the requirements applicable to state investment of funds.
- The bill was approved by the Governor on May 25, 2023, ch. 2023-144, L.O.F., and became effective on that date.
SB 770 – Residential Loan Alternative Agreements2
- The bill creates s. 475.279, F.S., to regulate residential loan alternative agreements. The bill defines the term “residential loan alternative agreement” as a signed writing or a signed and written legal instrument between a person and a seller or owner of residential real property that:
- Grants an exclusive right to a person to act as a broker;
- Has an effective duration, inclusive of renewals, of more than two years; and
- Requires the person to pay monetary compensation to the seller or owner.
- The bill defines the term “disposition” to mean “a transfer or voluntary conveyance of the title or other ownership interest in residential real estate.” It also defines the term “residential real property” to mean “improved residential property of four units or fewer or unimproved residential real property intended for four units or fewer.”
- The bill prohibits a residential loan alternative agreement from authorizing a person to place a lien or otherwise encumber any residential real property. Nor can a residential loan alternative agreement constitute a lien, an encumbrance, or a security interest in the residential real property.
- Under the bill, a residential loan alternative agreement may not be enforced by a lien or constructive trust in the residential real property or upon the proceeds of the disposition (sale) of the residential real property.
- The bill provides that a residential loan alternative agreement may not be assigned and becomes void if the listing services do not begin within 90 days after the execution of the agreement by both parties. The bill provides that a listing agreement that does not meet these requirements is unenforceable in law or equity and may not be recorded by the clerk of the circuit court.
- Additionally, the bill deems a violation of s. 475.279, F.S., to be an unfair or deceptive trade practice within the meaning of FDUTPA, and provides that a person who violates this section is subject to the penalties and remedies provided FDUTPA.
- The bill takes effect July 1, 2023.
HB 1419 – Real Property Fraud3
- Recording Notification Service
- The bill creates s. 28.47, F.S. to require the clerks of the circuit court to, on or before July 1, 2024, create, maintain, and operate a free recording notification service, open to all persons wishing to register for the service, to provide property owners with early notice that a land record has been filed on their property. Under the bill:
- “Recording notification service” means a service which sends automated recording notifications.
- "Recording notification” means a notification sent by electronic mail indicating to a registrant that a land record associated with the registrant’s monitored identity has been recorded in the county’s public records.
- “Registrant” means a person who registers for a recording notification service.
- “Land record” means a deed, mortgage, or other document purporting to convey or encumber real property.
- “Monitored identity” means a personal or business name or a parcel identification number submitted by a registrant for monitoring under a recording notification service.
- Registration for the recording notification service must be made possible through an electronic registration portal, which portal must:
- Be accessible through a direct link on the home page of the clerk’s official public website;
- Allow a registrant to subscribe to receive recording notifications for at least five monitored identities per valid electronic mail address provided;
- Include a method by which a registrant may unsubscribe from the service;
- List a phone number at which the clerk’s office may be reached for questions related to the service during normal business hours; and
- Send an automated electronic mail message to a registrant confirming his or her successful registration for or action to unsubscribe from the service, which message must identify each monitored identity for which a subscription was received or canceled.
- Further, when a land record is recorded for a monitored identity, the bill requires that a recording notification be sent within 24 hours of the recording to each registrant who is subscribed to receive recording notifications for that monitored identity. Such notification must contain:
- Information identifying the monitored identity for which the land record was filed;
- The land record’s recording date;
- The official records book and page number or instrument number assigned to the land record by the clerk;
- Instructions for electronically searching for and viewing the land record using the assigned official record book and page number or instrument number; and
- A phone number at which the clerk’s office may be contacted during normal business hours with questions related to the recording notification.
- Finally, the bill provides that:
- There is no right or cause of action against, and no civil liability on the part of, the clerk with respect to the creation, maintenance, or operation of a recording notification service.
- Nothing in this section may be construed to require the clerk to provide or allow access to a record or information which is confidential and exempt from s. 119.071 and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution or to otherwise violate Florida’s public record laws.
- This section applies to county property appraisers that have adopted an electronic land record notification service before the bill’s effective date, but where a land record is recorded for a monitored identity, notice through the property appraiser’s service must be sent within 24 hours of the instrument being reflected on the county tax roll by the property appraiser.
Quiet Title Actions
- The bill creates s. 65.091, F.S., to expressly state than an action to quiet title based on a title fraud allegation may be maintained under chapter 65, F.S. Further, the bill:
- Requires the clerks of the circuit court to provide a simplified form for the filing of a quiet title action based on a title fraud allegation and instructions for completing such form.
- Entitles a petitioner bringing a quiet title action based on a title fraud allegation to the expedited summary procedure timeframes set out in s. 51.011, F.S.45
- Requires a court hearing a quiet title action to quiet title in and award a prevailing plaintiff with the same title and rights to the land that the plaintiff enjoyed before the title fraud.
- The bill creates s. 689.025, F.S., to prescribe a statutory form for quitclaim deeds. Specifically, the bill provides that a quitclaim deed must be in substantially the following form:
This Quitclaim Deed, executed this (date) day of (month, year) by first party, Grantor (name), whose post-office address is (address), to second party, Grantee (name), whose post-office address is (address).
Witnesseth, that the said first party, for the sum of $(amount), and other good and valuable consideration paid by the second party, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, does hereby remise, release, and quitclaim unto the said second party forever, all the right, title, interest, claim, and demand which the said first party has in and to the following descried parcel of land, and all improvements and appurtenances thereto, in (county), Florida:
Recording Real Property Conveyances (Effective January 1, 2024)
- The bill also requires that a quitclaim deed include:
- The legal description of the property the instrument purports to convey, or in which the deed purports to convey an interest, which description must be legibly printed, typewritten, or stamped on the document.
- A blank space for the parcel identification number assigned to the property the instrument purports to convey, or in which the deed purports to convey an interest, which number, if available, must be entered on the deed before it is presented for recording.
- However, the bill provides that the:
- Failure to include such blank space for the parcel identification number does not affect the conveyance’s validity or the deed’s recordability.
- Parcel identification number is not part of the property’s legal description otherwise set forth in the deed and may not be used as a substitute for the legal description.
- The bill amends s. 695.26, F.S., to require that the post-office address of each witness to an instrument purporting to convey real property be legibly printed, typewritten, or stamped upon such instrument.
- The bill creates the Title Fraud Prevention Through Identity Verification Pilot Program (“Pilot Program”) in s. 28.2225, F.S., for a period of two calendar years. Under the Pilot Program, the clerk of the circuit court for Lee County, Florida (“clerk”), may require that a person presenting a deed or other instrument purporting to convey real property or an interest therein for recording produce a government-issued photographic identification card as follows:
- When the person presents the deed or qualifying instrument to the clerk for recording in person, the clerk may require the person to produce a government-issued photographic identification card for inspection by the clerk before recording the deed or instrument. The clerk must then record the name and address of such person, as this information appears on the identification card, in a record to be kept by the clerk, along with the official records book and page number or instrument number of the deed or instrument ultimately recorded in connection to the production of the identification card. Such a record may not be made available for viewing on the clerk’s official public website but must be made available for public inspection and copying as required by Florida’s public records laws.
- When the person presents the deed or qualifying instrument to the clerk for recording through an electronic recording service, the clerk may require the person to also submit a photocopy of a government-issued photographic identification card to the clerk before recording the deed or instrument. The clerk must note on the photocopy the official records book and page number or instrument number assigned to the deed or instrument ultimately recorded in connection to the submission of the photocopy and retain the photocopy in a record kept by the clerk. Such a record may not be made available for viewing on the clerk’s official public website but must be made available for public inspection and copying as required by Florida’s public records laws. However, the person submitting the photocopy may redact from the photocopy prior to its submission all information he or she does not wish to be made public, except for his or her name, address, and photograph.
- Further, under the Pilot Program, the clerk may refuse to record a deed or qualifying instrument if the clerk requires the production of an identification card as specified in the bill and the person presenting such deed or instrument for recording does not produce the requested identification card.
- The bill provides that, if the clerk chooses to participate in the Pilot Program, the clerk must:
- Provide notice of the identification card requirement on the clerk’s official public website.
- Require the production of an identification card from all persons presenting a deed or qualifying instrument for recording, whether in person or through an electronic recording notification service, until such time as the clerk:
- Chooses to cease participating in the Pilot Program; and
- Provides notice that the production of an identification card is no longer required on the clerk’s official public website.
- By December 31, 2025, provide a report containing the following information to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives:
- The number of persons who presented a deed or qualifying instrument for recording:
- In person.
- Through an electronic recording notification service.
- The types of identification cards produced in connection with the presentation of deeds or other qualifying instruments for recording, and the number of each type.
- Feedback received from the community, if any, in response to the clerk’s implementation of the Pilot Program.
- Whether the Pilot Program led to the identification of any persons suspected or accused of fraudulently conveying, or attempting to fraudulently convey, real property, and the outcome of any criminal charges or civil actions brought against such persons.
- The clerk’s recommendation as to whether the production of a government-issued photographic identification card in connection with the presentation of a deed or other instrument for recording is appropriate to require throughout the state.
- Any other information the clerk deems necessary.
- The bill provides that nothing in s. 28.2225, F.S., may be construed to require the clerk to provide or allow access to a record or information which is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1), F.S., and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution or to otherwise violate Florida’s public records laws.
- Effective Date The bill was approved by the Governor on June 14, 2023, ch. 2023-238, L.O.F., and takes effect on July 1, 2023, except that the amendments made by the bill to s. 695.26, F.S., take effect on January 1, 2024.
SB 264 – Interests of Foreign Countries4
The bill (Chapter 2023-33, L.O.F.) generally restricts the issuance of government contracts or economic development incentives to, or real property ownership by, foreign principals, which are certain individuals and entities associated with foreign countries of concern. Foreign countries of concern include the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro, and the Syrian Arab Republic.
With respect to conveyances of real property in this state, the bill generally:
- Prohibits foreign principals from owning or acquiring agricultural land in the state.
- Prohibits foreign principals from owning or acquiring any interest in real property within 10 miles of any military installation or critical infrastructure in the state.
- Prohibits China, Chinese Communist Party or other Chinese political party officials or members, Chinese business organizations, and persons domiciled in China, but who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S., from purchasing or acquiring any interest in real property in the state.
- Provides limited exceptions from the ownership restrictions for the purchase of one residential property that is not on or within 5 miles of any military installation in the state.
The bill also amends:
- The Florida Electronic Health Records Act, to require that the offsite storage of certain personal medical information be physically maintained in the continental U.S., U.S. territories, or Canada.
- The Health Care Licensing Procedures Act, to require licensees to sign affidavits attesting that all patient information stored by them is being physically maintained in the continental U.S., U.S. territories, or Canada.
Finally, the bill amends the statute criminalizing threats and extortion, to provide that a person who commits a violation of the statute, and at the time is acting as a foreign agent with the intent of benefitting a foreign country of concern, commits a first degree felony.
These provisions were approved by the Governor and take effect July 1, 2023.
Affidavits for Interests of Foreign Countries may be found on the FLTA web site: https://flta.org/ForeignInterests.
SB 708 – Estoppel Letters (Mortgage)5
- Reduces the time to respond to an estoppel letter request from 14 days to 10 days.
- Allows a mortgagee or mortgage servicer to send a corrected estoppel letter, so long as the previous estoppel letter was not relied upon.
- Prohibits a mortgagee or mortgage servicer from qualifying, reserving the right to change, or conditioning or disclaiming the reliance of others on a current, valid estoppel letter.
- Prohibits a mortgagee or mortgage servicer from refusing to accept funds received that conform with the amount provided in a current, valid estoppel letter; and requires the mortgagee or mortgage servicer to apply such funds to the balance of the loan.
- Requires a mortgagee or mortgage servicer to execute an instrument acknowledging release of the mortgage and send it for recording in the official records of the proper county within 60 days of payoff. The recorded release must be sent to the mortgagor or record title owner of the property. The bill also provides for attorney fees for prevailing parties in civil actions relating to these requirements.
- Specifies that the release of a mortgage does not necessarily relieve the mortgagor, or the mortgagor’s successors or assigns, from any personal liability on the loan or other obligations previously secured by the mortgage.
- Provides the requirements for making and responding to an estoppel letter request.
- Standardizes the minimum contents of an estoppel letter.
- Provides for application to existing mortgages.
- The effective date of the bill is October 1, 2023.
1 HB 487 - House Final Bill Analysis 3 (Final Bill Analysis)
2 HB 770 – Senate Rules (Post Meeting)
3 HB 1419 – House Final Bill Analysis4 SB 264 - Senate Judiciary Committee Analysis
5 SB 770 - Senate Rules Post Meeting
For questions on these bills, please contact your legal counsel or title insurer.