Purchasing a home or other real property is no simple task. It is common for even experienced homebuyers or property investors to run into difficulties when faced with the many steps, requirements, and legal documents necessary to complete a purchase. Building codes, inspections, titles, and legal jargon can be overwhelming without extensive knowledge and experience with Florida’s real estate laws.
One such legal term you will likely hear about is an “estoppel”. It isn’t necessary for you to become an expert on what an estoppel is and when it is required; that’s what your real estate attorney is for. However, having a general understanding of when estoppels are used and why they matter can eliminate stress and confusion down the road.
What is an Estoppel?
An estoppel is a legal term for the action of stopping someone from rescinding or breaking a promise. It is often used in contract law because a signed contract is, at its core, a promise made by one person or entity to another. Issuing an estoppel ties someone to the statements made in that document so that they can be relied on later on, including for the real estate closing transaction.
Estoppels in Real Estate
How do estoppels relate to real estate transactions in Florida? There are some variations in the practical application and requirements of estoppels. A residential property that belongs to a homeowner’s association (HOA) or condominium association will require a condo association or HOA estoppel prior to closing. Some office buildings are part of condominiums and even though they are considered commercial property, they will also require a condo estoppel prior to closing.
When a property is rented, a tenant estoppel will be required prior to closing (see below for more information about each type of estoppel).
Estoppels should be obtained prior to the closing of a purchase and sale transaction so that the information on them can be verified and used to prepare the closing statement. Estoppels also ensure that the soon-to-be owner fully understands the requirements and expectations involved for an association.
Condonimium and HOA Estoppels
Sometimes referred to as a condo or HOA letter, resale certificate, or resale package, condominium and HOA estoppels are frequently used in Florida real estate transactions. These are some of the pertinent details that must be included in the estoppel:
- The monthly, annual or quarterly association dues;
- Any outstanding payments and fines;
- The name of the management company or association that payments need to be made payable to;
- Any parking space, storage unit, or dock space that comes with the unit;
- Whether the subject condo unit or HOA property has any violations imposed against it;
- The amount and frequency of any special assessments;
- Whether the association has the right of first refusal;
- Any transfer taxes or other fees that must be paid at closing;
- Whether association approval is required and whether it has already been applied for; and
- If there are any other associations that need to be contacted for an estoppel statement (such as a master association).
The estoppel is typically ordered by the closing agent or seller’s attorney. For a buyer, knowledge is power in real estate transactions, which is why reviewing the condominium or HOA estoppel can give you valuable information prior to the closing taking place.
Tenant Estoppels in Florida
Tenant estoppels are integral to any investor’s or buyer’s due diligence when buying a residential or commercial property that is rented. A tenant estoppel allows you to complete numerous important steps prior to finalizing the purchase, including verifying details regarding the terms of an existing month-to-month oral lease or a written lease.
Some of the materials terms that a tenant estoppel should include are as follows:
- The amount of the weekly, monthly or quarterly rent;
- Whether the tenant has paid rental payments in advance (such as last month’s rent)
- The amount of the security deposit;
- The lease start date and expiration date;
- Whether the tenant has any options to renew or purchase;
- The frequency and due date for each rental payment; and
- Whether the tenant has any claims against the landlord, and if so, the nature of those claims.
It is vital to ensure that if the tenant has any claims against the current landlord (i.e., the seller), that those claims are resolved prior to closing so that they do not become the responsibility of the new owner.
The tenant estoppel should be signed by all tenants that occupy the property. The estoppel should also be compared to the leases and any rent rolls provided by the seller to ensure that all the material terms are consistent. If there are any discrepancies, they will need to be resolved prior to closing.
How Farshchian Law can Assist with Your Florida Purchase & Sale Transaction
For both commercial and residential transactions, estoppels are an integral part of the closing process. There are many other important considerations as well when buying or selling a property in Florida. To learn more about our services for buyers and sellers and to discuss how our real estate attorneys can assist with your next purchase or sale, contact us to schedule a free consultation. You can call our office at (800) 604-1871 , or email us at Info@JFRealEstateLaw.com.