Saturday, June 29, 2013

Some Florida laws become effective July 1

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – June 28, 2013 – A few new Florida laws – ones passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott – have an effective date of July 1 and go into effect on Monday.

Laws effective July 1, 2013

• Tax loophole closes.
Language was included in different bills to close a tax loophole used by for-profit affordable housing builders that form non-profit subsidiaries primarily to pay lower property taxes. (HB 437).

• Squatters find it more difficult to claim ownership of an abandoned house.
Lawmakers strengthened Florida’s adverse possession laws. Starting Monday, a claim of adverse possession requires 1) payment of all outstanding taxes and liens levied by the state, county or municipality within one year; and 2) submission of information to the county property appraiser: contact info, date the adverse possession claim began, legal description of the property, and dates when outstanding taxes and liens were paid. Filing this return, however, does not give an adverse possessor an enforceable interest in the property. Squatters who don’t file a return may be charged with trespassing. If an adverse possessor leases the property to a third party, he can be charged with theft. (HB 903)

• Citizens Property Insurance Corp. gets new rules.
Some rules in a massive law impacting the state-owned insurer become effective at different times. However, a few kick in on Monday: 1) A rule requiring all new applicants to go through a clearinghouse to establish if they’re eligible for Citizen’s coverage; and 2) the addition of a consumer advocate in the Citizens Board of Governors. (SB 1770)

• Rules eased for renting with a homestead exemption. Under current law, a homeowner who rents his home for any length of time in two consecutive years can lose his homestead exemption. Starting Monday, a “safe harbor” allows people to rent their homestead up to 30 days a year without losing the exemption. However, rentals that exceed 30 days for two consecutive years jeopardize the homestead exemption in year two. Note: The law doesn’t address how many days beyond the 30-day threshold triggers abandonment of homestead. A Department of Revenue opinion allows rentals up to six months every other year if proof of substantial residency and other conditions are met. (SB 342)

• Residential landlord tenant changes.
Some changes were made to Florida’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, including a change to the disclosure language landlords who rent five or more dwelling units are required to give. While the law becomes effective July 1, use of the revised disclosure is not mandatory until Jan. 1, 2014. In addition, the new law contains provisions about screens, recurring tenant violations of a lease, evictions after acceptance of partial rent, non-renewal notice requirements, writs of possession and the transfer of security deposits from a previous owner to a new landlord. (HB 77)

• Green energy tax incentives.
A new law creates rules to implement the tax break for solar energy devices installed on or after Jan. 1, 2013. The bill does not, however, shield windstorm mitigation upgrades from property taxes. (HB 277)

• Online pre-licensing courses for appraisers.
Before Monday’s effective date, appraisers could only take post-licensing classes via the Internet. (SB 1398)

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

U.S. vets have easier license requirements in Fla.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – June 18, 2013 – As a way to thank U.S. military veterans for their service and entice them to live in the Sunshine State once their service ends, Florida government generally – and the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) specifically – have eased some licensing rules for veterans. Gov. Rick Scott has pushed state agencies to develop veteran-friendly programs.

At DBPR, Secretary Ken Lawson says in an email that means “helping (veterans) obtain professional licenses, and encouraging them to remain in Florida to build a career or business once their military obligation has been completed.”

Lawson outlines three major initiatives to help Florida’s military veterans:

• DBPR waives the initial licensing fee, initial application fee and unlicensed activity fee for any honorable discharged veteran who applies for a state professional license within three years of leaving the Armed Forces. Find more information here.

• Any active military personnel with a Florida professional license can apply for Military Exemption Status. If they’re outside the state on active duty and not practicing their profession in the private sector for profit, they’re exempt from all license renewal requirements. The exemption lasts for the duration of active duty outside Florida and for six months following honorable discharge. Find more information here.

• Military spouses also benefit. Through DBPR, the spouse of an active duty service member stationed in Florida may request a temporary license. The temporary license is based on the professional license they held in their home state and is valid for six months. Find more information here.

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac extend loan programs

WASHINGTON – May 30, 2013 – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to extend two programs that help troubled borrowers stay in their homes: the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the streamlined modification initiative. Both will now remain effective through 2015.

Earlier today, the U.S. Treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that they’re also extending HAMP for non- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans.

“One of FHFA’s priorities is to provide assistance to struggling borrowers who are at risk of losing their homes,” says FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco. “These extensions keep two valuable foreclosure prevention programs available to those who need them. The extensions also align the end date for three key assistance programs developed in response to the housing crisis.”

HAMP helps homeowners struggling to keep their loans current by lowering their monthly payments. The streamlined modification initiative, announced by FHFA on March 27, gives borrowers at least 90 days late another path to avoid foreclosure and lower their monthly payments without requiring financial or hardship documentation.

Since the first full quarter of 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have completed more than 2.7 million foreclosure prevention actions. About half are permanent loan modifications, including more than 435,000 permanent HAMP modifications.

© 2013 Florida Realtors®