In today’s stagnant real estate market, state legislators hope a new state bill will fuel faltering condo sales by relieving bulk buyers from the liabilities associated with being a developer.
Our client Mark Grant of statewide law firm Ruden McClosky, who co-authored the bill, weighs in on the issue in the below article. This article, published yesterday in the Sun-Sentinel, is a great example of how effective, proactive media relations help build interest and momentum surrounding serious community issues, which can lead to more public attention and legislation in favor of passing the act into law.
Sun-Sentinel: New Bill Could Help Condo Buyers
Law would remove developer title from bulk buyers
by Daniel Vasquez, Condo columnist
November 24, 2009
A new bill seeks to help bulk buyers of Florida condominium units – and owners desperate to sell to them in a market with record inventories – by amending old state laws and removing the designation of developer from those who don’t build but simply buy lots of units.
A Florida condo law enacted in the 1970s deems anyone a “developer” who purchases more than seven units in a condominium of 70 units or more – or more than five units in a condominium of less than 70 units – and who offers such units for sale or lease. The law potentially bestows on such person or entity all of the legal and financial liabilities that come with the “developer” title.
Some say developer designation laws are having a chilling effect on potential investor buyers who want to take advantage of today’s bargain condo unit prices.
“Florida law says bulk buyers may potentially be obligated to give warranties on construction, keep proper books for the condo association, establish and maintain budget reserves, and all sorts of things that people normally think of as obligations of an entity that builds and creates condominiums, not someone who just buys and leases units,” said attorney Mark Grant, of Ruden McClosky, a state-wide Florida law firm representing condominium developers and lenders. Grant co-authored HB 327 with Broward County attorney Charles Brecker, of Stearns, Weaver.
“I hear from potential buyers all the time who say ‘Whoa, I want to buy condominium units and lease and sell them later, but I don’t want to become a developer,’ ” Grant said.
Grant and Brecker found a backer in House Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, who entered HB 327 – the Distressed Condo Relief Act – into the House registry last week, the first condo reform bill to hit the books for next year’s Legislative session. Grant said he also expects an unnamed senator he is working with to introduce a companion bill soon.
Robaina’s bill proposes to protect bulk buyers and bulk assignees and assignees by removing developer liability for transactions that close in the next two years. If passed next year, the law would sunset on July 1, 2012.
More sales, higher prices. Supporters say removing potential developer liability will encourage bulk buyers to purchase condo units and possibly pay more for each unit. Right now, some bulk buyers offer low-ball prices to offset the risk of becoming a developer.
Faster foreclosures. Some lenders may be delaying foreclosures of condo units because they don’t want to own enough units to be designated a developer, which in turn keeps bad assets on their books, prevents a surplus of units from being put on the market, and further stalls market recovery. Remove the potential for liability, and the sales could follow.Relief for associations. Many condo associations face financial ruin due to revenue lost to empty and foreclosed units. By kick-starting the sale of multiple units, condo associations would generate assessment revenue to maintain property and pay for amenities, such as club houses and pools.
Some unit owners complain today that they live in communities virtually controlled by one or two owners with deeds on multiple units, earning these bulk owners a vote for each unit. Could this new law open the floodgates for more bulk owners and more such problems?
Daniel Vasquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4219 (Broward County) or 561-243-6686 ( Palm Beach County). His condo column runs every Wednesday in the Local section and at sunsentinel.com/condos. Check out Daniel’s Condos & HOAs blog for news, information and tips related to life in community associations at sunsentinel.com/condoblog You can also read his consumer column every Monday in Your Money and at sunsentinel.com/vasquez.