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What You Don't See Could Be What You Get

Wednesday, July 01, 2015  
Posted by: Lisa McDuffie
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Orlando REALTOR® | July/August 2015

Municipal lien searches often reveal unrecorded charges that are inherited by the buyer

By Roland H. Acosta, Esq.

One of the most critically important services that a REALTOR® can provide to a buyer is a referral list of competent home inspectors. In the current real estate market many sales are done on an “as is” basis, with the buyer having a seven- to 15-day window to inspect the subject property.

In a standard real estate contract, if issues are discovered with the structure, with termite infestation or with permits, the seller may be required to spend up to 1.5 percent of the purchase price in order to correct the problem. In an “as is” contract, if defects are found the buyer can cancel the contract or the buyer and seller can re-negotiate the contract in order to correct the defects.

The buyer should be encouraged to pay for a municipal lien search. The search will help a buyer know what a buyer is really getting into. Although new to Central Florida, a municipal lien search has been a common practice in South Florida for many years.

Why is a municipal lien search necessary? Won’t the title search reveal any liens on the property? A title search will uncover any recorded liens on a property. However, there can be unrecorded charges on the property that may result in a lien. These charges will no longer be the responsibility of the former property owner; but, if they go unpaid, they can become the responsibility of the new property owner. The same follows for unresolved code violations, building permits that have not been closed properly, or unpermitted structures.

The new owner can become liable for an overlooked utility bill as well in some cases.
A municipal lien search will show code violations, open permits, unrecorded liens, and unpaid utilities that are associated with the property. A home inspection and a municipal lien search are necessary if the buyer is going to know exactly what the buyer is purchasing.

Roland H. Acosta, Roland H. Acosta & Associates, P.A., is a member of the Central Florida Real Estate Attorneys Council. CFREAC provides this column on real estate law issues as a service to ORRA members for general understanding of the law, not as a substitute for individual legal advice or consultation and should not be relied on in specific situations without consulting with a real estate attorney. For more information, please visit

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