Every state has unique laws governing real estate transactions – and that can trip up people who are not used to Florida’s regulations. One of the most critical examples of this is how Florida handles municipal liens on properties. It’s absolutely vital to perform a municipal lien search before closing on a Florida property, or else you or your client could receive some very unpleasant surprises.
How Florida Handles Municipal Liens
A lien is any debt or fee attached to a property. This can include lapsed mortgages, unpaid property taxes, code enforcement violations, even IRS back tax claims. In many states, these liens follow the person who owned the property when the lien was incurred – but in Florida, liens are typically attached to the property instead.
In other words, if someone buys a property with old liens which are still unpaid, the new owner would likely end up responsible for them.
This can significantly drive up the costs of buying and utilizing a property. Further, based on a 2016 ruling, these liens can persist even on zombie properties which were claimed by the state and resold through judicial processes. There are even cases on record where all buildings on a property were demolished, but previous code enforcement and building violation fees were still attached to the empty lot.
Worse, these liens do not necessarily show up in basic title searches. In fact, they are often specifically excluded from basic title coverage. A realtor or buyer purchasing in Florida would need to conduct an independent Florida municipal lien search to be certain that there are no fees or liens still attached to the property which would need to be paid off.
Municipal Lien Searches in Florida Are a Must
Municipal lien searches are best handled by professionals who know how to quickly and efficiently search public sources, and contact relevant agencies, to uncover any hidden liens still attached to a property. They can uncover any such liens, regardless of source – which allows you and/or your client to go into a transaction fully understanding what the legal responsibilities will be.
In some cases, performing this search can prevent ruinous surprise fees at the end of the closing process.
While municipal lien searches are not legally required, they are considered proper due diligence for all realtors and other property agencies in Florida. This is a necessary step in the process of buying property in Florida, and one which cannot be overlooked.
Real Res Protects Property Buyers in Florida
With a history going back to 2001, Real Res brings together decades of experience in researching Florida properties. Our municipal lien searches are fast, thorough, and accurate. They give you the information you need to know if that property is actually a good deal. We can also procure HOA estoppel letters, documenting any HOA-based fees attached to a property, as well as conducting land surveys.
If you’re buying property in Florida, Real Res should be your valued research partner. Contact us to learn more.