On May 8, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Bill 264 (SB 264). This bill aims to restrict or prohibit the sale and conveyance of real property to foreign nationals and entities from seven named countries of concern. With 24% of all foreign buyers acquiring property in Florida, this new Act, effective July 1, 2023, will have a far-reaching effect on real estate in the Sunshine State of Florida.
The 7 Countries
Under Bill 264, individuals, government entities and entities directly associated with or partially controlled by foreign governments of the following countries of concern are restricted from purchasing or acquiring property in Florida:
- The Russian Federation;
- The Islamic Republic of Iran;
- The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea;
- The Republic of Cuba;
- The Venezuelan Regine of Nicolás Maduro;
- The Syrian Arab Republic; and
- The People’s Republic of China.
Entities or individuals from the first six countries are prohibited from owning or acquiring any agricultural land in the state. They cannot own or acquire any interest in real property within 10 miles of any military installation or critical infrastructure (ie. military bases, camps, posts or stations of 10 contiguous acres under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense; water treatment facilities, wastewater treatment plats, seaports, spaceports, refineries, chemical manufacturing plants, gas processing plants, liquid natural gas plants, airports, electrical power plants, and telecommunications central switching offices), with the limited exception of owning 1 residential property under two acres in size. However : i) the property is not within 5 miles of any military installation, ii) the person has a non-tourist visa or has been granted asylum in the US, and iii) the purchase is in the name of the person who holds the visa or other official documentation allowing the individual to be present in the State.
Violators from these six named countries can be charged with a second-degree felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 15- years and a fine of not more than $10,000.00.
Restrictions to China
Further restrictions apply to the People’s Republic of China, as China accounts for $6.1 billion in annual residential transactions alone. Under the Bill, Chinese Communist Party or other Chinese political party officials or members, Chinese business organizations, people permanently residing in China and Chinese Citizens who are not also lawful permanent residents or citizens of the US, are prohibited from purchasing or acquiring ANY interest in real property in the state of Florida. They are also not eligible for the exception of owning one piece of residential property. Violators of these ownership provisions can be charged with a third-degree felony, carrying a maximum sentence of 5-years in prison and up to a $5,000.00 fine.
After July 1, 2023, any foreign national from the above-named countries who currently own or who are still permitted to enter into a contract for purchase of residential property in Florida will be required to register. They must register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) by January 1, 2024 for agricultural land, or the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) by December 31, 2023 for land located near critical infrastructure or military installations. Violators who fail to register their interests may be subject to daily penalties of $1,000.00/day, liens for any unpaid penalties, or State pursued forfeiture and forced sale of the property.
What Realtors and Title Companies Need to Know
For Realtors, Closing Agents and Title Companies in Florida, extra care and precautions must be taken. This is to ensure any sales contracts or potential closings do not involve individuals from the above-named countries or do not violate provisions of the new Act. Persons who knowingly assist, sell or convey proscribed lands to prohibited parties are subject to a second-degree misdemeanor. They may also be punishable by up to 60-days in prison and a fine up to $500.00. Confirming the Citizenship or Immigration Status of a buyer or client can be uncomfortable, but the consequences outlined under this new Act carry a far greater impact.
While some details of the new Act are still to be determined and many technical questions cannot yet be answered, the Florida real estate market will be directly impacted. It is imperative that realtors, buyers and sellers wishing to purchase and sell real estate in Florida should consult our knowledgeable Real Estate Attorney. By speaking with a Real Estate Attorney, you can ensure they are in full compliance with the new laws implemented.