Protect Your Investment and Protect Your Credit

Recently, the National Association of Relators (NAR) has put together some really helpful information for homeowners who may be experiencing difficulties during this unusual time in all of our lives.  For your convenience, we have made these materials available in this post.  Please note, while the materials note that a “Realtor” can help, just replace the word “Realtor” with “Khani & Auerbach”.  We are here for you and can help guide you.

Keep in mind, if you are presented with documents from your lender, pause before you sign.  We highly recommend that you have a real estate attorney review those documents for you to ensure that you understand what you are signing.  There have been some cases where lenders have prepared docs for borrowers that completely create a new mortgage.  This has been happening with some lenders and has caused a number of problems for homeowners, especially those wishing to sell their homes.

  1. Protect Your Investment helps homeowners who are struggling to meet their loan obligations due to COVID-19.  The guide offers advice about working with trusted professionals like REALTORS® and housing counselors at HUD-approved agencies. The guide also provides information about payment options offered by lenders and tips for avoiding scams.
  2. Protect Your Credit explains the provisions implemented by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to protect consumers’ credit scores. The guide outlines consumers’ rights under the CARES Act, explains how to obtain a free credit report, and offers guidance on how to dispute inaccurate credit information.

Protect Your Investment Booklet

Protect Your Credit Booklet

If you have been keeping your eye on the rates, you may have also noticed that the rates are ridiculously low.  If you are currently in a property that has equity and you need the funds, now is a great time to refinance your property and take out that equity for immediate use or save for a rainy day.

At Khani & Auerbach, we are here to help you through these difficult times and will always be here for you.


The Importance of Hiring a Real Estate Attorney

Miami SkylineI like to call this, “Story Time with Khani & Auerbach”. Yesterday, I received a phone call from a lovely lady regarding a Time Share transfer. The transfer to our caller was conducted back in 2007, but she had some concerns about her ownership interest and wanted to know where she stood. She wanted to ensure that she was in fact the owner and had an ownership interest that she thought she purchased. After doing very light research in the public records, I uncovered two transfers that gave me pause.

The first transfer was conducted in 2001, a Quit-Claim Deed. This Quit-Claim Deed, at first blush, looked really official, as it had been prepared by an attorney. But, as a real estate attorney practicing for 20 years in this field, I never quite trust that any document is prepared accurately, regardless if it’s prepared by an attorney or not. As luck would have it, the document was poorly drafted and the intentions of the transferor/grantor are really unclear. I would do the next best thing and reach out to the attorney that prepared the document. What do you think I would find next? The phone number provided on the Deed was disconnected and after some further inquiry, I found that the attorney was suspended several years ago, had never reapplied to the Bar and was no longer licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. So, the first brick wall in my research was erected. What now?

I wanted to look at the second transfer made in 2007 to my client and found that the preparation of this document was even worse than the one made in 2001. This document looked like someone found a form at Office Depot and just filled in whatever they felt might look right. Well, nothing was right about it and it was ALL WRONG. The second brick wall in my research had now been erected. Now, you might say to yourself, “But, the County recorded this document, so it must be accurate.” Let me be clear when I say, the County will record ANYTHING you put in front of them as long you pay the required fees. They are an administrative agency and they do NOT practice real estate law and do not know anything about the history of the subject property. Furthermore, they have no obligation to know these things. All they do is record documents and collect taxes and fees.

So, now I am reviewing two poorly prepared documents/transfers and have the honor of telling the caller that not only are the transfers poorly prepared, but she may not even have ownership. The next question on your mind may be, “How could any of this been prevented?” Simply, by hiring a Real Estate attorney. A Real Estate attorney has the knowledge and experience to do the job accurately in the first place, avoiding the exact same situation we are presented with in this case.

Now, the first deed prepared in 2001 was, in fact, drafted by an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Florida, but what I don’t know is how this attorney was found and whether he focused his practice on real estate or not. In addition to hiring an attorney, knowing whether an attorney focuses on real estate is even more important than just hiring any attorney. In this case, I just couldn’t determine this attorney’s area of practice and had to assume he just didn’t know what he was doing. As for the second deed prepared in 2007, well, that was just two parties trying to save a buck. Look where we are now. Unraveling these terrible transfers and correcting these poorly drafted deeds will take more effort, more time and certainly cost more money than all the parties could have ever imagined. All of this could have been prevented just by hiring a real estate attorney in the first place.

About the Writer
Khila Khani is a partner with Khani & Auerbach. Her practice focus has been in Real Estate law for 20 years.

The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. Should you wish to discuss any potential matters with her or her partner, you can contact them here.

Florida Homestead Exemption Filing Deadline is March 1, 2016

Homestead Exemption Filing Deadline is March 1, 2016

All legal Florida residents are eligible for a Homestead Exemption on their homes, condominiums, co-op apartments, and certain mobile home lots if they qualify. The Florida Constitution provides this tax-saving exemption on the first and third $25,000 of the assessed value of an owner/occupied residence. While a complicated formula is used to explain this — as the additional $25,000 only applies to the non-schools portion of your tax bill — the bottom line is that the basic homestead exemption can save a Florida homeowner in 2015 anywhere from $641.73 to $1,077.67 (depending upon your city’s millage rate) in annual tax savings for all homes with a value of $75,000 or higher.

You are entitled to a Homestead Exemption if, as of January 1st, you have made the property your permanent home or the permanent home of a person who is legally or naturally dependent on you. By law, January 1 of each year is the date on which permanent residence is determined.

In some Florida Counties, you may be able to file for Homestead ONLINE. Check with your county’s property appraiser office for more information about how to file.

The timely filing period for Homestead Exemption for 2016 is March 3, 2015 through March 1, 2016. The absolute deadline to LATE FILE for any 2016 exemption — if you miss the March 1 timely filing deadline — is September 19, 2016. State law (Sec. 196.011(8), Fla. Stat.) does not allow late filing for exemptions after this date, regardless of any good cause reason for missing the late filing deadline.

What You Need When Filing for Homestead

When filing an application you must bring the following items listed below. To claim 100% coverage, all owners occupying the property as Tenants in Common (i.e., proportional share co-owners) must file in person on jointly held property. In the case of a married couple (“Tenants by the Entirety”) or Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (“JTRS”), any one owner may qualify for 100% coverage — although it is always highly advisable to have all eligible owner-occupants to file.

1. Proof of Ownership: In general, the recorded Deed or Co-op Proprietary Lease must be held in the name(s) of the individuals applying for Homestead. In most counties, you may not need to bring a copy of the deed or co-op lease if the document has already been recorded in the Official Records. If the PROPERTY IS HELD IN A TRUST, THE COUNTY MAY ALSO REQUIRE EITHER A NOTARIZED CERTIFICATE OF TRUST OR A COMPLETE COPY OF THE TRUST AGREEMENT. Note: Most taxpayers prefer to use the simple Certificate of Trust form, instead of submitting the entire trust for our review, as it better protects the privacy of your estate planning and other financial matters.

2. Proof of Permanent Florida Residence — preferably dated prior to January 1 of the tax year for which you are filing — is established in the form of:

A. FOR ALL APPLICANTS: Florida’s Driver’s License (or — for non-drivers only — a Florida I.D. Card) is REQUIRED. Note: You must surrender to DMV any out-of-state regular driver’s license. You MUST also have either of the following:
1. Florida Voter’s Registration; or
2. Recorded Declaration of Domicile.

B. FOR NON-US CITIZENS, you MUST have the items listed above AND proof of permanent residency, asylum/parolee status (or other “PRUCOL” status); OR proof you are the parent of a US-born (US Citizen) minor child who resides with you.

3. If you or your married spouse have a Homestead Exemption in any other county, state or country (or an equivalent permanent residency-based exemption or tax credit, such as New York’s “S.T.A.R.” exemption) on another property you also currently own, you will NOT be eligible for a homestead in any Florida county until after you surrender the exemption in that other jurisdiction. (Note: If you know of someone with a Homestead Exemption in a Florida county who also maintains an exemption on another property elsewhere, please report this information to our Fraud Investigations Section at 954.357.6900.)

The State-approved application form requests certain information for all owners living on the premises and filing:
• Current employers of all owners
• Addresses listed on last I.R.S. income tax returns.
• Date of each owner’s permanent Florida residence.
• Date of occupancy for each property owner.
• Social Security numbers of all owners filing.
• Social Security number of any married spouse of the applicant, even if the spouse is not named in the deed and is not filing).

Note: The amount of the homestead exemption protection granted to an owner residing on a particular property is to be applied against the amount of that person’s interest in the property. This provision is limited in that the proportional amount of the homestead exemption allowed any person shall not exceed the proportionate assessed valuation based on the interest owned by the person. For example, assuming a property valued at $40,000, with the residing owner’s interest in the property being $20,000, then $20,000 of the homestead exemption is all that can be applied to that property. If there are multiple owners, all as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the owner living at property filing receives the full exemption.

6 Steps Every Homebuyer Should Expect for Closings


Get owner’s title insurance and buy your home with confidence
Your long home-buying journey is almost over. You found the home you love, the seller agreed to your offer and now it’s time for closing. Of course, there’s a lot to think about right now, and the last thing you want is something¬ to go wrong. So make sure you work with an experienced closing agent to help ensure the details come together and everything runs smoothly.

As soon as the seller accepts your offer, the behind-the-scenes work begins. You can expect closing to happen within 30 to 45 days.

1. Select a Closing Agent
If you are working with a real estate agent, with your permission, he or she may place an order with a closing agent as soon as your sales contract is accepted. The closing agent can be a real estate attorney or title company.

Most homebuyers rely on their real estate agent to select a closing agent—someone they work with regularly and know to be professional, reliable and efficient. However, you are always permitted to choose your own closing agent. The closing agent will oversee the closing process and make sure everything happens in the right order and on time, without unnecessary delays or glitches.

2. Make a Good Faith Deposit
First, a contract or escrow agreement is drafted, which the closing agent reviews for completeness and accuracy. The agent will also put your good faith deposit into an escrow account, where the funds will remain until closing. Typically, the real estate attorney or title company can hold those funds in escrow until closing.

3. Title Search is Conducted
Once the title order is placed, the title company conducts a search of the public records. This should identify any issues with the title such as liens against the property, utility easements, and so on. If a problem is discovered, most often the title professional will take care of it without you even knowing about it. After the title search is complete, the title company can provide a title insurance policy.

4. Lender’s Title Insurance Policy and Owner’s Title Insurance Policy
There are two kinds of title insurance coverage: a Lender’s policy, which covers the lender for the amount of the mortgage loan; and an Owner’s policy, which covers the homebuyer for the amount of the purchase price. If you are obtaining a loan, the bank or lender will typically require that you purchase a Lender’s policy. However, it ONLY protects the lender.

It strongly recommended that you obtain an Owner’s policy to protect your investment. The party that pays for the Owner’s policy varies from county to county within the State of Florida, so ask your settlement agent for guidance before closing.

5. Obtain a Closing Disclosure
Your lender must provide a Closing Disclosure to you at least THREE (3) days prior to closing. Your lender will provide this Closing Disclosure directly to you, the Buyer, at a minimum, three days before you close your transaction.

If you or your lender makes certain significant changes between the time the Closing Disclosure form is given to you and the closing, you must be provided a new Closing Disclosure form and an additional three-business-day waiting period after receipt of the new form. The three (3) day period will reset or apply if the creditor:
• Makes changes to the APR above ⅛ of a percent for most loans (and ¼ of a percent for loans with irregular payments or periods)
• Changes the loan product
• Adds a prepayment penalty to the loan

If the changes are less significant, they can be disclosed on a revised Closing Disclosure form provided to you at or before closing, without delaying the closing.

6. The Finish Line: Prepare for Closing
As closing day approaches, the closing agent orders any required updated information. Once the closing agent confirms with all parties, (the lender, the buyer and the seller), a final date for closing will be set, along with time and location of the closing.
On closing day, all of the behind-the-scenes work is complete. While you’ve been busy packing, ordering utilities and coordinating the movers, your closing agent has been managing the closing process so that you can rest assured, knowing all the paperwork is in order.

This document provides a brief description of insurance coverages, products and services and is meant for informational purposes only. Actual coverages may vary by state, company or locality. You may not be eligible for all of the insurance products, coverages or services described herein. For exact terms, conditions, exclusions, and limitations, please contact our office.

Congratulations to Attorney Khila L. Khani for achieving an AV Preeminent Rating with Martindale-Hubbell

khilaCongratulations to Attorney Khila L. Khani for achieving an AV Preeminent Rating wih Martindale-Hubbell! Khani & Auerbach is delighted about this achievement. Martindale-Hubbell’s AV Preeminent rating is a significant accomplishment and a testament to the fact that a lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence. These ratings serve as an objective indicator that a lawyer has the highest ethical standard and professional ability. To find out more about Martindale-Hubbell’s ratings, please click here.