A Florida property attorney is an attorney who works primarily on matters that deal with Florida’s property laws, statutes, and cases. Although this sounds simple, Florida has some complex legal terms that pertain to property and real estate. Some of these terms include homestead and adverse possession laws. With Florida’s property laws being so complex many opt to have an attorney present during the closing process of a real estate sale. For these reasons Florida real estate attorneys from Pensacola to Miami work countless hours counseling and answering their clients’ questions that pertain to property matters.
Real Property vs. Real Estate
It seems that the terms real property and real estate can be and are used interchangeably, but by their definitions they are not the same. In reality, real estate is actually a part of real property just like an apple seed is a part of an apple. Just like an apple seed is not the same thing as an apple, real estate is not the same as real property. The term real estate refers to actual land, the natural resources on or under the land, and anything that is permanently attached to the land.
A good example to explain the concept of real estate is a farm. The real estate of a farm includes the acreage that makes up the farm, any oil or other natural resources that may be in or under the farm’s land, any trees or crops on the land, the barn, the well, and the house. The farm animals are not a part of the real estate because they are not physically attracted to the land. The animals are considered personal property, which is not included in real estate. Another example of personal property is the furniture in the house. Real estate refers only to the physical property and the things that are permanently attached to it; it is all of the physical things you get when you buy property.
Real property on the other hand refers to not only the physical real estate, but also all of the rights that come along with owning real estate. Real property rights include the right of ownership, possession, and use of enjoyment. When you buy a piece of property you buy the physical real estate, and the rights of owning the property (real property). Knowing the difference between the two concepts is important because when it comes to talking to your Florida property attorney, you will want to be as clear as possible, in order to limit confusion.
Florida Homestead Laws
You may have caught wind that Florida is known for its generous homestead laws. What is a homestead law? Homestead laws allow property owners to register a limited portion of their property as a “homestead” which makes the property practically off-limits to creditors and exempt from certain taxes and fees. Congressional bodies tend to enact homestead laws to help prevent homelessness.
Unlike many other Homestead laws in the United States, Florida’s homestead laws do not indicate a maximum dollar value that may be designated as a homestead. For example, both a home that is appraised at $200,000 and a home that is appraised at $800,000 can be exempted if the owners so chose under Florida’s Homestead laws. Florida’s Homestead laws do not put a limit on how much property is worth.
However, Florida’s Homestead laws are not completely lenient. Florida’s Homestead laws do limit the amount of acreage that can be exempted. When it comes to acreage, Florida’s Homestead laws places limits, based on where the property is located. If the property is in an urban setting only up to a half (1/2) an acre can be exempted, but in a rural setting up to 160 acres can be exempted. Let’s go back to our example of the real estate that was appraised at $200,000. Let’s say that it sits on an acre of land within city limits. This means that you, the owner of the real estate, can only get half of the property exempted under Florida’s Homestead laws. For example, if the $800,000 property is a 50-acre track of land in an unincorporated part of the county. Under Florida’s Homestead laws all of this property can be exempted.
There are many different types of homestead exemptions, some that pertain to tax exemption and others that pertain to asset protection. Understanding these laws and how they work takes time and effort. Filing for a homestead exemption can be done by going to the Florida Department of Revenue, but it would be in your best interest to seek the guidance of a Florida property lawyer before doing so.
Adverse Possession (AKA Florida’s Squatter Laws)
Adverse possession is seen by some as a justified transfer of land, while others may see it as land theft. No matter what category you fall under it is important to understand that under Florida law, squatters have rights. Florida’s adverse possession laws says that when an individual publicly moves into what seems like a neglected property, improves it, lives in it continuously for seven years, and pays taxes on it, then they can be granted to title of the property.
In order to claim adverse possession, one must meet these four requirements:
- Hostile Claim: The trespasser mustActual Possession: The trespasser must be physically present on the land and must be treating the land as if they already own it.
a. Be aware of her or his trespassing; or
b. Merely occupy the land (with or without knowing that the land is private property); or
c. Make an honest mistake such as relying on an incorrect deed.
- Open and Notorious Possession: The trespassing cannot be a secret.
- Exclusive and Continuous Possession: The trespasser cannot share possession with others, and they must be in possession of the land continuously.
If you plan on claiming adverse possession, or there is someone trying to claim adverse possession on land that you own, you should contact a Florida real estate atty to help you through the process.
Closing on a House with an Attorney
Purchasing and selling real estate is not normally an everyday (let along every decade) occurrence for most people. Not only does buying and selling real estate involve large sums of money, the entire process can prove to be extremely challenging and stressful. Because the real estate market can be so stressful and confusing there are a lot of things that can, and often do, go unnoticed. These things that go unnoticed can get you in great legal trouble. With it being at the end of the process, and everyone just wanting it to be done and over with, many of these overseen details occur in the closing process. In order to protect yourself and your property from potentially dangerous oversights it is a good idea to have a Florida property attorney when going through the real estate closing process.
Whether you are the buyer or the seller it is a good idea to have an attorney present at closing. Your Florida real estate closing attorney will be there to represent you, pertaining to your buying real estate or selling real estate. In the closing process there are many legal documents that need to be signed. With the help of a Florida property attorney you can ensure that you are not signing anything that can cause you grief down the road, or that simply is not a good deal. Your attorney can also help explain the hard to comprehend legal jargon that the closing documents contain. Having Florida property attorney present is not required, but it is highly recommended.
Where to Find a Florida Property Attorney
Florida was one of the hardest affected states during the housing bubble, which means that there are a lot of Floridians that must once again trust the housing and real estate market. With that said though, there are many people that are attracted to our state due to Florida’s climate and reasonable cost of living. Florida has seen a continuous climb in population and with all of these new Florida residents comes the buying and selling of homes for them to live in and other real estate for them to conduct business. Due to the recent growth and return of the housing market, Florida has seen countless new Floridians take up residence in the Sunshine state. As a result, many Florida attorneys are choosing to practice real estate and real property law.
With so many real estate attorneys to choose from, how can you be sure that you are choosing the right one? The right attorney is someone that is dedicated to you and has your best interest in mind. Located in Clermont Florida is a law office that offers just that. The Law Offices of Bret Jones, P.A. attorneys and counselors has a proven Florida property attorney that can provide legal advice to real estate and real property questions, and closing services.