Disclaimer: Blick Blog discusses topics regarding general legal information for the purposes of educating readers only and should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Submitting a legal question or receipt of information on this forum does not create an attorney client relationship with attorney Michael C. Blickensderfer or Blick Law Firm. Attorney Michael C. Blickensderfer cannot guarantee a specific result in any legal matter. Also, this website and blog is not intended to solicit clients outside the State of Florida.

The Importance of a Real Estate Attorney in a New Transaction

Buying or selling a home often involves a fair amount of stress, tons of decision-making, and dealing with several professionals—a real estate attorney should be one of them. The law of real property is unique and raises special issues of practice, which a real estate attorney is specially trained to handle.

Anyone entering a real estate transaction is expected to sign contracts, including but not limited to: brokerage contracts, formal sale contracts, and commitments for financing. The property title must also be searched before the property can officially be transferred from the seller to the buyer. Should anything go wrong with a contract or in the title transfer process, it would be extremely difficult for a buyer or seller without legal training to navigate the issue alone.

At the very least, a real estate attorney can help explain to the buyer or seller what the language in a contract means, and what the consequences will be if the contract is broken on either end. An attorney can then help revise any agreement that does not meet the desires of one party or the other.

Consulting a real estate attorney is especially helpful in signing the purchase agreement, which is often considered the single most important document in a real estate transaction. Though a standard form is usually presented to both parties, a lawyer can help explain the document and make changes and/or additions to reflect the needs of the buyer and seller. The standard nature of the form does not usually allow for all necessary questions to be addressed or answered, but an experienced real estate attorney will bring some of the following questions to the attention of the buyer and seller:

  • If there have been changes or additions to the property, were they made lawfully?
  • If the buyer has plans to change or add to the property, can they be made lawfully?
  • What happens if termites, asbestos, radon, lead-based paint, or other harmful elements are discovered upon a buyer-conducted property inspection?
  • What if the property is found to contain hazardous waste?
  • What are the legal consequences if the closing does not take place? What will happen to the down payment?

For the title search process, an attorney should review the title search, explain title exceptions, determine whether the legal description is accurate, and flesh out any problems with prior owners. A real estate attorney will discuss with the prospective buyer any issues that may arise with selling the property in the future, and counsel them on further action. The attorney can also provide insight on zoning violations, which are not covered in the title.

Seeking the help of a licensed, experienced real estate attorney is important in nearly every step of a real estate transaction, but the most common, and perhaps most important, reason a real estate attorney is usually hired, is to handle conflicting interests. While lenders and brokers can provide assistance, both want to see the sale go through. But, if each party has legal representation, they can rest assured that someone is looking out for their best interests throughout the buying or selling process. For more information regarding the importance of a Real Estate Attorney, [Click Here].

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Over 150 New Florida Laws Take Effect this Month

Of the 279 bills passed by Florida legislators three months ago, 161 went into effect on July 1. The laws cover a variety of issues, ranging from school choice to rape kit testing, tax cuts, and criminal punishment.

Below are some of the most important changes Florida will see from the new laws.

Budget: A new budget of $82.3 million was passed by a vote of 159-1. Important projects that will see a portion of that budget are school construction and Everglades restoration.

Tax Cuts: The two big cuts include are drop in property taxes and a three-day sales tax hiatus from August 5-7, aimed at helping back-to-school shoppers. Floridians will also see a permanent sales tax exemption for manufacturing equipment and machinery, and tax-reductions on pear cider and aviation fuel.

Bullying: Schools districts are now required to evaluate their anti-bullying and harassment policies every three years, and includes rules on dating violence and abuse in their discipline guidelines.

Crime and Punishment: The “10-20-Life” minimum sentence will no longer be required for Floridians convicted of aggravated assault or attempted aggravated assault.

Digital Assets: Guardians or trustees of estates will now have the same access to digital assets and electronic account information as they do to physical assets and financial accounts.

Festivals: Food contests or cook-offs lasting three days or less that are hosted by a school, church, religious organization, or nonprofit, will no longer be considered “public food service establishments,” and therefore will not be subject to licensing fees or government inspection.

Jury Duty: Floridians permanently incapable of caring for themselves can now provide a written statement from their healthcare provider to become permanently exempt from serving the courts.

Marriage: Clergy with religious objections are not required to marry same-sex couples.

Needle Exchange: In Miami-Dade county, home to the country’s highest rate of new HIV cases, the Miami-Dade Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA) will help establish a new needle exchange program to stop the spread of HIV, AIDS, viral hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases.

Outdoors: Fines for illegally killing, taking, or selling game or fur-bearing animals while committing burglary or trespass double to $500. It is now a third-degree felony to knowingly possess sea turtles, their eggs, or their nests.

Rape Kits: Rape kits must be delivered by law enforcement agencies to a state crime lab within 30 days of the start of an investigation. The lab must test the kits within 120 days.

BLICK-LAW-FIRM, LAW, FLORIDA-LAW, TAMPA, FLORIDA, LAWYER, ATTORNEY, 7Safety: Elevators in private residences must now comply with clearing requirements and be equipped with motion sensors.

School Choice: Students can transfer to any state school with available space; athletes are immediately eligible to play if they haven’t started practicing the same sport at their former school. Military children are immediately eligible as long as they haven’t been suspended or expelled from their previous school. For more information regarding new Florida laws, [Click Here].

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Law Change Protects Florida Patients From Balance Billing

BLICK-LAW-FIRM, LAW, FLORIDA-LAW, TAMPA, FLORIDA, LAWYER, ATTORNEY, 2Effective July 1, a change to Florida law will prohibit surprise medical bills for a larger network of consumers.

According to Attorney Eric D. Fader, of Day Pitney LLP in New York City, the law previously protected only consumers in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) from “balance billing.” The change will extend protection to members of preferred providers organizations (PPOs) and exclusive provider organizations, where a predetermined network is in place.

Balance billing refers to the bill a patient receives directly from their healthcare provider if the insurance plan does not cover the balance. The practice is common among “tag-along” providers, like anesthesiologists or radiologists, Fader said.

“This is kind of the flavor of the year for things in health care for consumers to be upset about, with some justification,” Fader said. “Someone goes into surgery—the hospital stay is covered by insurance; the surgeon is covered then you get a bill for $42,000 from the anesthesiologist or someone else.”

By enacting the change and providing protection to a greater number of consumers, Florida joins just a handful of other states with similar billing protection policies, including: New York, Connecticut, and Colorado. But, according to Fader, federal legislation regarding the issue of patient billing protection is certainly not out of the question. A legal movement in favor of patient billing protection would change how hospital and surgeons across the country use ancillary service providers.

“The hospital and surgeon are going to have to take responsibility for who they bring in, who they ask to assist,” Fader said. “For example, a surgical group may have preferred folks they like to work with. If those folks are in network, they might not have worried much if the ancillary providers were in the network.” Fader added, “Now this law will be putting pressure on everyone to be cognizant of such issues.”

In Florida, hospitals will be required to provide patients with information about service providers, if applicable. Insurance companies too will be subject to transparency requirements, making information about providers that are in- or out-of-network more readily available.

As for service providers that are not associated with an insurance network, Fader believes it will become increasingly more difficult to enter a network. “Providers were content to be out-of-network.

Now, there will be more of a push to become part of a network,” Fader explained.

BLICK-LAW-FIRM, LAW, FLORIDA-LAW, TAMPA, FLORIDA, LAWYER, ATTORNEY, 1Unlike New York’s billing protection law, Florida’s will not extend “balance billing” protection to patients without insurance. But, Fader believers a very large portion of Floridians will be protected from surprise bills. For more information regarding law changes, [Click Here].

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Fatal Alligator Attack at Disney World Orlando Could Mean Legal Trouble

Despite all the new activity at Orlando’s Walt Disney World, including the opening of a new attraction based on the popular animated film Frozen, one tragic incident has cast a dark cloud over the so-called “Happiest Place on Earth.”

After a toddler was snatched and killed by an alligator at the Orlando park, Walt Disney Co is facing a public relations crisis and a potential lawsuit.

“When people think of Disney they think of magic, the unbelievable, and everything is going to be fun. This incident flies in the face of that,” Sam Singer, a crisis communications consultant, said. Singer represented the San Francisco Zoo in 2007 when a teenage boy was killed by an escaped tiger.

The alligator attack occurred in mid-June, while Disney’s top officials were on the other side of the world for the launch of the long-awaited Shanghai theme park. Despite the distance, the company was quick to react to the Florida tragedy. Bob Iger, Disney Chief Executive, called the boy’s family as soon as he caught wind of the incident, and also made a public statement offering his condolences. George Kalogridis, Walt Disney World president, flew to Florida from Shanghai. A statement conveying Kaogridis’ sympathy was posted shortly after the accident occurred to the park’s official blog.

The toddler’s family made a public statement, saying they were “devastated” and thanking “local authorities and staff who worked tirelessly” to find the boy and the gator. Though the family has not announced that it will file a lawsuit, the very possibility complicates matters for Disney, especially in their responses to the tragedy. “The more they say, the more liability they could potentially create for themselves,” Singer said.

Jude Engelmayer, another crisis manager, said Disney is doing “all they can do at the moment.” On the company’s response, Engelmayer said, “They are low key, contrite and helpful.”

Several legal experts agree that Disney will be strongly inclined to quickly settle, should a lawsuit come about. One potential issue the company faces is the fact that no signs were posted in the beach area warning park-goers of the threat of alligators. Though Floridians know where gators most commonly lurk, Disney attracts visitors from all over the world, who aren’t familiar with that same knowledge.

“These people are from Nebraska and I can guarantee never once did they think they were in any type of danger letting their child wade in six inches of water,” Lou Pendas, an Orlando personal injury lawyer, said. Pendas has defended individuals incases against Disney in the past, but said he can only recall one other incident involving an alligator, which occurred over 30 years ago and was not fatal.

The rarity of alligator attacks at the park, Pendas emphasized, does not remove Disney’s burden of responsibility.

BLICK-LAW-FIRM, LAW-FIRM, FLORIDA, TAMPA-BAY, ATTOREY, CHRISTIAN-ATTOREY,8“This is unbelievably rare but could easily have been avoided by proper signage and perhaps building a retention wall to keep the alligators off the beach,” he said. “The law says you have to take appropriate steps to keep your invitees safe.”

A source close to the incident claimed Disney has plans to post alligator warning signs in the area of the attack. For more information regarding the Alligator Attack at Disney World, [Click Here].

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Florida Gun Laws Under Fire After Orlando Attacks

The events that took place in Orlando early this month have left Floridians and Americans asking, how easy is it really to buy a gun in the state of Florida?

Gun control groups have rated Florida one of the easiest states to acquire a legal weapon in, and among states those with low ratings, Florida is one of the largest and most densely populated. Semiautomatic, assault-style rifles, like the Sig Sauer AR-15 used in the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, can be legally purchased in Florida by anyone who passes a federal background check. A background check is required by all licensed dealers, including gun shops and retailers; but, background checks are not required by unlicensed private dealers, who can often be found at gun shows.

The FBI conducts federal background checks. The bureau has been known to reject applicants for things like a criminal history, drug use, or mental illness, though this happened in only one percent of background checks.

Some states—California, Connecticut, and New York—require an additional level of screening to legally purchase a gun. Florida, like most states, has no law implementing its own state-level background checks. Florida does, however, require the passage of its own background check for a concealed carry permit.

The shooter responsible for the Pulse Nightclub massacre, did have a concealed carry permit for his Glock semiautomatic pistol, which he had at the seen. He also passed the FBI’s federal background check, despite being investigated by the FBI on two separate occasions.

Additionally, Florida, like many states, does not have any law determining legal magazine capacity. A small group of states has set a limit on magazine capacity, varying between 10 and 15 rounds. Orlando police have not yet states whether or not high-capacity magazines were used in the Pulse Nightclub shooting, though they are usually preferred by mass shooters, because they allow for lots of shots to be fired before reloading.

In the last 20 years, high-capacity magazines have been used in 34 mass shootings, according to the FBI. At Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, Adam Lanza used an AR-15 with 30-round magazines to kill 26 children and faculty members. BLICK-LAW-FIRM, LAW-FIRM, FLORIDA, TAMPA-BAY, ATTOREY, CHRISTIAN-ATTOREY, 5In Aurora, Colorado, James Holmes used an AR-15 with a 100-round drum to kill 12 people at a movie theatre.

Florida is distinguished from so-called “gun friendly” states, like Texas, Kentucky, and Louisiana, because according to the NRA, Florida does not allow for open carry with or without a permit. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Florida also requires a three-day waiting period for gun purchases. For more information regarding Florida’s gun laws, [Click Here].

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Prospect of Medical Marijuana in Florida Creates Buzz

BLICK-LAW-FIRM, LAW-FIRM, FLORIDA, TAMPA-BAY, ATTOREY, CHRISTIAN-ATTOREY,3Talk of changing the marijuana policies in Florida, come this voting season, is bringing thousands of the nation’s legal pot advocates and professionals to the Sunshine State for the spring Marijuana Business Conference.

Nearly half of all US states have some type of medical marijuana program in place, so what’s drawing such a mass to Florida? “It has nothing to do with the climate or the attractions,” said Chris Walsh, editorial director of Marijuana Business Daily, a publication that sponsors the Marijuana Business Conference. “There’s a lot of excitement about the Florida market.”

As the third most populous state in the country, Florida opening access to medical marijuana for qualified patients, poses a huge opportunity for companies looking for to expand their presence in the cannabis market and for researchers in search of new patients. Companies showed their hopefulness at the conference, marketing everything from growing supplies to child-proof packaging.

According to a law already in place, medical marijuana should be available in Florida later this year. But, for Florida’s market to become one of the biggest in the country, as it has the potential to do, the current state law would have to change. This November, Florida voters will decide whether or not cancer, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis should be included on the approved list of conditions for medical marijuana, a choice that will have a very significant impact on the future of Florida’s market.

John Morgan is a multimillionaire trial lawyer who worked on a similar initiative in 2014. Though that measure failed, he is hopeful that the support from Democrats and millennials will help the 2016 measure pass. Morgan spoke of the past initiatives that have failed at the Florida polls.

“We gave these jokers their chance tice,” he said, “and they failed us twice.” While Morgan is hopeful that the measure will be successful, he acknowledged at the Marijuana Business Conference last month that, if the measure does not pass, it will be because of money.

Amendment 2, while supported by younger voting groups and a good chunk of Florida Democrats, has seen opposition from very wealthy Floridians. Mel Sembler, a Republican donor from St. Petersburg, has pledged to raise up to $10 million to kill the 2016 amendment. On the other hand, Morgan has donated as much as $6.8 million of his own money in support of the initiative.

Regardless of the opposition, there is no denying that the marijuana industry means money. International Cannabis And Hemp Expo Held In San FranciscoAs one of the fastest growing industries in American history, economists expect the marijuana industry to generate as much as $8.6 billion in retail sales by 2019 if big players like Florida and Ohio legalize medical marijuana this year.

“This is an industry like any other,” Walsh promised. “There’s a perception in states that haven’t legalized that it’s a bunch of hippies walking around and that product is being sold on the show floor. That’s not what this is,” he said. For more information regarding the prospect of medical marijuana in Florida, [Click Here].

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