Florida 2008 Legislative Session - More Real Estate Issues Addressed
Posted by Benjamin Dona on Sunday, May 4th, 2008 at 2:24pm.
When the 2008 Florida Legislature adjourned on Friday night, Realtors counted numerous law changes that will benefit property owners, renters and the Florida real estate market in general. All the bills will still need to be approved by Governor Crist, but here is a synopsis of the real estate related highlights:
More Property Tax Reforms
Commercial property owners will be pleased to learn that legislation passed requiring property appraisers to consider zoning and permits before applying the "highest and best use" valuation standard. This will give citizens more say in challenges to property assessments and will go a long way to help local businesses who have been experiencing extraordinary property tax increases. In addition, this new law will complement the three constitutional amendments approved last week by members of the Tax and Budget Reform Commission. They include one amendment which would cut property taxes by at least 25 percent and cap annual assessments on non-homestead property at 5 percent; a second amendment that will give marinas, commercial fishing facilities and other "working waterfront" businesses a possible tax break by setting tax assessments according to current use rather than "highest and best use;" and the third amendment which would exempt land held in perpetuity for conservation from property taxes. Other conservation lands would be taxed based on their current use rather than their "highest and best use."
More Property Insurance Reforms
The so-called Homeowners' Insurance Bill of Rights seeks to improve upon the property insurance reforms enacted in 2007 by:
- Extending the rate freeze for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state's insurer of last resort, to January 2010.
- Allowing single-family residential properties and condos with a replacement value of up to $2 million into the Citizens insurance pool.
- Requiring Citizens' policyholders of property located in wind-borne regions and with an insured value of $500,000 or more to disclose the property's windstorm mitigation rating to a prospective buyer.
- Increasing fines for violations of the insurance code and for unfair trade practices by private insurers.
- Extending by one year to January 2010 a provision from last year's insurance bill that requires insurers to get state approval before raising property insurance rates.
- Requiring insurers to notify state regulators 90 days before dropping more than 10,000 homeowners' policies in one year.
- Requiring insurers to use state-approved methods to predict the risk of hurricanes, a key factor in setting rates.
Increased Mortgage Fraud Requirements
The new law raises the penalty for involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme from a third degree felony to a second-degree felony on loans of $100,000. Those found guilty could now face up to 15 years in prison. The legislation also requires law enforcement agencies to promptly notify county property appraisers when the agency finds probable cause that mortgage fraud or other fraud has inflated or could artificially inflate the value of the property. The law also includes help for victims of foreclosure fraud. It requires foreclosure rescue companies to enter into a written contract with consumers that spells out services provided, payment terms and total charges, and provides a three-day right of cancellation period. The bill also bans foreclosure consultants from demanding payment before promised services are delivered.
Affordable Housing Funding
Lawmakers allocated $303 million from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds to fund housing assistance programs for low-to-moderate income Floridians. Finally, the legislature also renewed the Florida Forever Conservation program with an additional $5.3 billion in bonding authority through 2020 and provided $50 million in new funding for the continuing Everglades restoration project. While the Florida Association of Realtors had wanted more out of this session in the way of reforms, these changes were a very good outcome for a year where the legislature faced a budget deficit in the Billions and 37 lawmakers leaving office due to term limits.
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