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Florida's Ban on Foreigners Buying Real Estate: a Possibly Unconstitutional Confusing Mess

If you haven't kept up with Governor Ron DeSantis' recent changes to Florida law, here's one effecting real estate. Senate Bill 264 that went into effect on July 1st in part limits the sale, purchase, and ownership of certain properties in Florida by certain foreign principals from 7 countries including China, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea.

This is a new law that has not yet been ruled on in court. The Department of Justice is questioning the constitutionality of this law because of the conflict with the Federal Fair Housing Act and the US Constitution's 14th Amendment and has filed a statement of interest in US District Court in a case filed by 4 Chinese immigrants and a real estate brokerage. They've requested a preliminary injunction that will be heard on July 18th.

Not only is it new, the law is pretty confusing and not well defined. I attended a class where even the lawyer didn't want to try and interpret who exactly foreign principals are from this law. For all of the countries listed except China, the restrictions apply only to agricultural land or land within 10 miles of a "military installation" or "facility of critical infrastructure" neither of which are defined or listed. For China, it applies to all real property in Florida with a few exceptions.

The law also requires buyers to sign an affidavit attesting they are not violating this law. The affidavit is supposed to be developed by FREC (the Florida Real Estate Commission) who hasn't even met about this yet. The law also calls for these foreign principals who currently own certain real estate in Florida to register with either the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) or the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), but those departments do not yet have a process in place to register.

The standard contract used in real estate transactions in Florida was just amended to include the following:

Not only does this law affect the purchase of real property, it also affects the ownership by these foreign principals. This is not to be taken lightly. Violation of the law can include commission of a misdemeanor (even a felony on one case), fines, and forfeiture of the real property.

Of course, I am not a lawyer and can not in any way help you determine if this law applies to you or what course of action you should take. Please, read the law and consult an attorney if you have any questions or concerns.


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