On Friday, June 27, 2020, Governor DeSantis signed HB 469 into law. This new law removes the longstanding requirement that real estate leases, for a term exceeding one-year, have two individuals witness the landlord’s signature to the lease. The changes are effective for leases signed on or after July 1, 2020.
Prior to this new law, Florida Statute 689.01 required most conveyances of real property be by a written instrument signed by the seller or landlord in the presence of two subscribing witnesses. In other words, the deed or lease was not valid if there were not two witnesses to their signature. No witnesses were required for the buyer or tenant. Although this law applied to most transactions, there were exceptions for leases of a term of less than one year, and for sales and leases by corporate officers. Judicial rulings also made exceptions when the tenant took occupancy of the leased property and regularly paid the rent, even absent a properly witnessed lease agreement.
The requirement for witnesses protects parties when the validity of a legal document is challenged. If questions arise, after the fact, witnesses can be questioned to verify whether the document was legitimate or a forgery. Witnesses also allowed inquiry into whether a party signing a document was acting under coercion or mental disability, which may invalidate the document.
The new law continues the trend in Florida, and other jurisdictions, to accommodate electronic transactions. Time will tell whether the advantages in speed and simplicity result in more fraud and deceptive practices.
Whenever signing or relying upon any important legal document, it is important to verify who you are dealing with and to preserve documentation regarding the transaction should questions ever arise. You can also protect yourself when purchasing or leasing property by obtaining a title insurance policy from the experienced Jacksonville real estate attorneys at Ansbacher Law.