How to Protect Yourself with Seasonal Rentals


By Dane E. Leitner

Summer break has come to an end, and children have started school again.  In South Florida this means that “season” is right around the corner.  Season is the time of year when many snowbirds come down to avoid the cold winter, as well as many international folks who are involved in the equestrian community.  It is the perfect time when investors, and others who vacate their homes for a few months, provide housing for those coming down for season as they can usually obtain a good rental premium.


While seasonal renting can be lucrative for landlords, it is important that they are protected while doing so.  A well-written lease agreement that protects a landlord is a must.  A useful tip for landlords with seasonal rentals, as well as yearly rentals, is to try to obtain the entire rental amount up front or as much as possible.  Besides the obvious benefit of collecting the money at the beginning and not wondering if the tenant will make the next payment or not, there is another benefit as well.  Should the lease need to be terminated, say because the tenants throw an unruly party, if the lease is properly terminated by the landlord, the landlord could be entitled to keep the remaining amount of money that was paid for advanced rent. Continue reading

Are You a Home Buyer During A Hurricane? Here’s What You Need to Know

Here's What you Should Know if YOu are Buying a home, under contract, during a hurricane

Hurricanes are a fact of life in South Florida, and they don’t stop just because you are under contract to buy your home. As Hurricane Irma threatens all of Florida and the Caribbean, there are thousands of home buyers stuck waiting and wondering what is going to happen with their purchase.

I am often asked what people need to know and what they need to do if they are under contract to buy a home, condo, or townhouse. Here’s the general items to be aware of.

1. Your contract allows for this.

First and foremost, don’t panic – your contract to purchase allows and even makes accommodations for this very scenario (so long as you used the standard contracts). You should have a closing delay clause in your contract that allows you to close on the transaction up to a “reasonable” amount of time after a hurricane has dissipated – “reasonable” is generally considered to be about seven days.

If you’re unsure what your delay clause allows for, ask your Realtor or attorney to review your contract and walk you through it.

2. Bind your insurance policies now.

It is your responsibility to bind your homeowners, wind, and flood insurance (if required) prior to closing. That means you can pretty much do it any time. We would say NOW, as in today, is a good time to do it. That’s because insurers won’t bind policies once a hurricane gets close enough, but they will bind them right up to that point.

If there’s no reason to think you wouldn’t be buying this home otherwise, go ahead and get all your insurance policies paid and in place now.

3. Does the property have storm shutters? Get them up.

Storm shutters are pretty common in South Florida, so find out from the seller’s agent if storm shutters are available, and make sure that they are installed. Storm shutters convey with the personal property of the home on a standard contract (that is, the seller cannot keep the storm shutters.) So if you are not closing prior to the hurricane’s arrival, make sure the house is buttoned up by the seller with the shutters.

If there are missing or too few shutters, make sure the other windows and doors are protected with plywood.

4. Know your risk of loss.

Know your risk of loss up front. A standard purchase contract stipulates that if the home is damaged by a hurricane prior to closing, it is the seller’s responsibility to fix the damage up to 1.5% of the purchase price. If the cost to replace exceeds 1.5% of the purchase price, then it is your decision – you could accept the home as-is and take a 1.5% credit at closing, or elect to cancel your contract and get your deposit back.

5. You’ll need to get a new appraisal.

Lenders suspend all closings while the hurricane is in the “box” – that is, a specific radius within which the hurricane is close to and approaching land, which is determined by the projected path of the storm. Once the storm has passed, and prior to reinstating closings, your lender will probably require a new appraisal to make sure the home is in the same condition as it was pre-storm.

Appraisals are out-of-pocket expenses for the buyer to the tune of $400-$500. To protect your investment, you may want to consider having another 4-point inspection performed following a storm, to catch any potential damage that may not be obvious – such as a damaged section of the roof, for example.

These are just some of the most common concerns home buyers might have while under contract to purchase during a major hurricane threat.

The number one tip is to make sure you are working with an experienced Realtor or attorney who you trust to get the facts straight, and who can guide you through this sometimes difficult process.

For any additional questions, email me at


Adam Seligman, a real estate and business attorney at Ward Damon, co-authored this article with Tom Copeland.



Terminating a House Contract and Getting Your Deposit Back


By Adam R. Seligman

I often get calls from real estate agents regarding residential real estate deals that end in disputes. So the natural question I always get is, if the Seller refuses to return the deposit, how do I recover my client’s deposit?

Usually the call comes after the Seller refuses to sign a Cancellation of Contract arguing that the Buyer did not provide an adequate reason for termination or defaulted in some other way.  Also note that when money is held by title companies, or other third parties acting as escrow agent, those parties can not release the deposit to the Buyer without a court order or signed release.  In many cases the title company will instead transfer the deposit to the county court by filing an interpleader action, thus costing more fees and costs.

My initial answer is that there is no immediate solution.  There isn’t much a real estate agent can do at this point.  The Buyer and Seller need to resolve their legal dispute, either on their own or with the help of lawyers. Continue reading

Real Estate Investing: Don’t Believe These 3 Real Estate Investing Myths


By Adam R. Seligman:

If you are thinking about purchasing a rental property make sure you are not making your decisions based on common, incorrect assumptions. With rising prices and historically low interest rates the real estate investor is back in full swing. However, buying a rental property and counting on it to pay for your retirement or provide you easy monthly passive income may not be a smart move.

Home vs. Investment

Arguably the most pervasive myth when it comes to investing in real estate is the belief that buying a home is a great investment.  To be clear, buying multiple rental properties and relying on rental income from those properties can actually be a good investment.  However, purchasing your primary home and relying on it to fuel your retirement is rarely ever a good idea. Your house isn’t an investment, ATM or piggy bank. It is a place to live in.  Do not forget that. Continue reading

Guide to Alimony Reform 2017


By Eddie Stephens

The Florida Legislation is attempting “Alimony Reform” for the third time.  On Wednesday, January 18, 2017, Representative Burton filed HB 203 and on Friday, January 20, 2017, Senator Passidomo filed SB 412.

Governor Rick Scott vetoed similar efforts in 2014 and 2016, in part, because the bills contained a presumption or premise for equal timesharing,  a hotly contested item that has nothing to do with alimony.

So far…this year’s legislation has NO MENTION of timesharing…yet.

Of course politics is politics, and this is subject to change.  Stephens’ Squibs will be keeping a close eye on these bills and will report any news as it develops.  The last day of the Florida Legislature Session is May 5, 2017.  It will probably be a bumpy ride.

Click here for all the details:

And check back often for updates.

Eddie Stephens is a partner at Ward Damon who is Board Certified in Family and Marital Law and has developed a successful family law practice focused on highly disputed divorces. Most importantly to Stephens is litigating in a manner that minimizes the impact of divorce on children.  If you need help with marital or family matters you may reach Eddie at