Estoppel and Go
Friday, February 7, 2014
Orlando REALTOR® | January/February 2014
Statutory time frames ensure community associations receive estoppel requests with
plenty of time to spare prior to closing
By Erik Whynot, Esq.
Sending timely estoppel requests can mean the difference between closing a much anticipated transaction or having that transaction collapse entirely. When providing such a request to a community association, REALTORS® should understand the rights and obligations faced by an association when responding. From the perspective of a community association, estoppel letters can present a minefield of liability if not responded to in a timely fashion.
Florida law provides that a community association (including both homeowner associations and condominium associations) must respond to an estoppel request within 15 days of receipt of that request. If an association fails to respond within 15 days, the requesting party may file a lawsuit seeking compliance with the statute through an expedited process. If the filing party wins, the association will be responsible for that party’s reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in bringing the action.
The estoppel should contain an itemization of all amounts owed to the association by the current owner of the property. This itemization includes assessments, fines, attorney fees, interest, late fees, and any other allowable charge levied against the property and/or owner. Further, the account itemization should be very closely scrutinized. Any person asking for the estoppel, other than the owner, has the right to rely on the amount stated therein and be protected from liability for any closing disbursement shortfall resulting there from.
Failure to obtain an estoppel from a community association can result in a transaction either not closing or closing without satisfying an outstanding interest in the property. The former may result in an association seeking all past due amounts from the new owner who, by statute, is joint and severally liable with the prior owner.
REALTORS® should be mindful of the statutory time frames to ensure that a community association receives the estoppel request with plenty of time to spare prior to the closing date. Failing to identify, contact, and obtain an estoppel from a community association can significantly impair and may even terminate a closing before pen hits paper.
Erik F. Whynot, Katzman Garfinkel & Berger, is a member of the Central Florida Real Estate Attorneys Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CFREAC provides this column on real estate law issues as a service to ORRA members to provide a general understanding of the law on various topics interest, not as substitute for individual legal consultation, and should not be relied on in specific situations without consulting with a real estate attorney. For more information, please visit www.centralfloridarec.com.