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The recent order to halt residential evictions through Dec. 31, 2020, by the Centers for Disease Control is aimed at preventing the further spread of COVID-19 and protecting tenants impacted by the virus.  Under the order, renters of single family, multifamily and mobile home residences who earn less than $99,000 a year ($198,000 for joint filers) may submit a declaration to their landlord asserting their eligibly to be protected from eviction.

For eligibility, renters must provide a declaration form to their landlord asserting their qualifications and inability to pay, and they will not be relieved of their obligations to pay rent nor any fees or interest due to nonpayment.  In addition, residents can still be evicted for other reasons, like engaging in criminal activity, posing a health or safety risk, or damaging rental property.

cdc-300x227The order also specifically excludes foreclosures of home mortgages from the moratorium, but it is unclear whether a foreclosed homeowner could seek protection from being removed from the property post-foreclosure sale.

Our firm’s real estate attorneys are helping our clients navigate through these challenging times and contend with the issues surrounding the current state of evictions, foreclosures and property transactions.  We encourage those with questions to contact us, and we also recommend submitting your email address in the subscription box on the right to automatically receive all our future blog articles.

The Governor signed House Bill 469 on June 27, 2020, dealing with real estate conveyances.  The bill removes the requirement under Section 689.01, Florida Statutes requiring a landlord to have two witnesses when signing a lease for a term of more than one year.

The requirement for witnesses was limited to a landlord’s signature only and was designed to protect the grantor of the estate in the land. House bill 469 provides that no subscribing witnesses are required for a lease of real property or any instrument pertaining to a lease of real property, eliminating the requirement that two subscribing witnesses be present when the lessor signs a lease with a term of more than one year.

The bill becomes effective on July 1, 2020.

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The firm’s Oscar R. Rivera was quoted in an article that appeared in the Miami Herald‘s website today and is expected to appear in the print edition in the coming days.  The article, which is titled “The Pandemic Gave Franchisees Shopping South Florida Real Estate a Leg Up,” focuses on opportunities that are now opening up for commercial real estate buyers and franchises catering to middle-market shoppers and diners.  It reads:

. . . A variety of national and local franchisees want to buy: Dunkin’ Donuts, 7-Eleven and Mr. Gomas Tires. Categories include beauty, experiential retail, cloud kitchens — think: co-working facilities for individual professional chefs — and, yes, gyms. . .

. . . But buyers aren’t necessarily finding bargains. While some pre-COVID contracts have been re-negotiated, most prices remain steady, said Oscar Rivera, lawyer and partner at the Coral Gables-based firm Siegfried Rivera, a retail specialist.

MHerald2015-300x72Still, franchise owners are jumping into the market “There’s pent up demand to eat out. There will be a drop off in people’s buying power [due to the economy and job losses]. That will be felt across the board,” Rivera said. “But since the price point in these restaurants are not significantly high compared to other restaurants, it will be felt less so.”. . .

Our firm salutes Oscar for sharing his insights into one of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on commercial real estate in South Florida with the readers of the Miami HeraldClick here to read the complete article in the newspaper’s website.

ORivera2014The firm’s Oscar R. Rivera was quoted in today’s South Florida Sun Sentinel in the newspaper’s article on the status of the residential evictions moratorium headlined “Gov. Ron DeSantis Extends Florida’s Evictions Ban for One More Month to July 1.”  The article reads:

. . . The moratorium pertains only to residential properties and not to commercial real estate such as office buildings, warehouses, free-standing retail shops and shopping malls.

Oscar Rivera, an attorney at the South Florida law firm of Siegfried Rivera, said Monday that clients who operate apartment buildings have not seen an outpouring of delinquencies since the coronavirus pandemic upended the economy. He surmised that is probably a result of loans and grant money flowing from the public sector to help keep businesses afloat.

sun_sentinel_logo-300x64“On the residential side, a lot of our clients who are owners of residential properties have been collecting a large percentage of rents,” he said.  Commercial landlords, Rivera added, have been working out delays in rent payments for those tenants who need them.

“We represent all sorts of landlords and across the board; we have not seen a significant uptick in any kinds of defaults,” he said.  “People are trying to look through this situation in the most favorable way possible.” . . .

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JCatalanoSRHL2An article authored by firm shareholder John Catalano is featured in the Business Monday section of today’s Miami Herald.  The article, which is titled “Owners of Retail Properties, As Well As Tenants, Will Feel Pandemic’s Bite,” focuses on the prospects for rent deferrals and insurance claims for the owners of closed stores and the spaces they occupy.  It reads:

. . . It has quickly become apparent that the outbreak of COVID-19 will take a massive toll not only on retail tenants, but also on the owners of retail properties. One of the first places that retailers will look for potential relief will be their lease agreements, which may include force majeure clauses and other provisions that are designed to cover business disruptions caused by catastrophes and acts of God.

These provisions will often list events such as floods, earthquakes, war, strikes, government regulations, civil disorder, etc., as triggers that would delay parties’ obligations under the contract. The applicability of the spread of COVID-19 as a force majeure triggering event may depend on the exact wording used in the lease. Some may generally stipulate “conditions beyond the parties’ control, including but not limited to Acts of God” as qualifying conditions, while others may specify circumstances such as “war, terrorist act, government regulation, disaster or strikes.” MHerald2015-300x72While leases widely differ in their form, modern leases for most major retail centers include a carve-out that the occurrence of a force majeure event does not permit late payment or nonpayment of rent by a tenant. Continue reading

JCatalanoSRHL2ORivera2014By Oscar R. Rivera and John Catalano

Real estate billionaire Tom Barrack, the chairman and chief executive officer of Colony Capital, warned recently that the U.S. commercial real estate mortgage market is on the brink of collapse due to a predicted chain reaction of margin calls, mass foreclosures, evictions and bank failures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Loan repayment demands are likely to escalate on a systemic level, triggering a domino effect of borrower defaults that will swiftly and severely impact the broad range of stakeholders in the entire real estate market, including property and home owners, landlords, developers, hotel operators and their respective tenants and employees,” he wrote.

The longtime friend of President Donald Trump surmises that the impact could dwarf that of the Great Depression.

Indeed, the commercial property market is under severe strain domestically and abroad due to forced shutdowns of retail and hospitality businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.  The looming crisis in commercial real estate could eventually cause the Federal Reserve to relax some regulations, allow more forbearance on loans, and buy distressed assets directly by restarting the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

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Our firm’s founder and managing partner, Steven M. Siegfried was awarded the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Construction Law Committee of The Florida Bar.  The award, which he received at the group’s annual awards reception in Orlando on Friday, March 6 (see photo below), recognizes one Florida construction law practitioner per year for their lifetime of exemplary dedication and mentoring, and their commitment to maintaining the very highest level of professional reputation and integrity.

Lifetime-Achievement-Award-2020-60-1024x681Steven has focused on construction law in Florida since 1976.  He has served as an adjunct professor of construction law at the University of Miami since 1984, and he has also conducted many seminars and presentations for construction law practitioners throughout Florida during his entire career.  He is board certified by The Florida Bar as both a civil trial and construction law, having earned both designations in their year of inception from the state’s bar association.  Steven is also a founding Fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers, and he is the author of Florida Construction Law and The Florida Construction Lien Law, An Overview.  He earned his undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College in 1971 and his law degree from American University, Washington College of Law in 1974.

All of the attorneys and professionals at our firm are very proud of the impact that our founder has had in teaching a generation of attorneys about the intricacies of construction law at the University of Miami while helping to build one of the state’s most respected practices in the field.  We congratulate Steven and salute him for receiving this prestigious recognition from his peers in The Florida Bar’s Construction Law Committee.

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Three of the firm’s shareholders finalized several real estate transactions totaling more $76 million in Broward and Monroe counties.  John Catalano represented Konover South and Master Development Partners in their purchase of vacant property in Miramar, Fla. owned by the Cleghorn Shoe Corporation.  The purchase was part of a $41 million acquisition that will pave the way for a 30-acre mixed-use community with 650 apartments to be developed by Altman Cos., while Konover South and Master Development Partners plan to break ground on a 56,000-square-foot retail center.  Click here to read additional information on the deal from the pages of the South Florida Business Journal.

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Oscar R. Rivera represented the seller in the sale of Palm Square, a 77,621- square-foot shopping center in Broward County that sold for $20.475 million to Galim Capital. The retail strip, located on Pines Boulevard, is at the epicenter of a thriving Broward County submarket, which is in the midst of adding multifamily, retail and mixed-use development to the area.  Click here to access PROFILE Miami’s article and read more on the deal.

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susanodess-srhl-224x300The firm’s Susan C. Odess authored an article that appeared as the featured guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “Court Opens Citizens Property Insurance to Claims for Consequential Damages,” focuses on a recent precedent-setting ruling with a certified question to the Florida Supreme Court by the state’s Fifth District Court of Appeal.  It reads:

. . . The appellate panel overturned the trial court’s decision and remanded the case back to the lower court for hearings on whether the claimant is entitled to consequential damages for lost rental income caused by the insurer’s delays and denials.

The case began with an insurance claim by Manor House with Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which accepted responsibility for the loss and paid $1.93 million. The property owner later reopened the claim seeking $10 million, and the insurer subsequently made additional payments for approximately $345,000. However, Citizens’ adjuster estimated the actual cash value and replacement cost value of the policyholder’s loss to be in the $5.5 to $6.5 million range.

dbr-logo-1-300x57The property owner eventually sued in 2007 seeking prompt payment of the allegedly undisputed amount of $6.4 million and asking the court to compel Citizens to engage in the appraisal procedures called for under the policy.

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JCatalano200x300-200x300For the second consecutive day, an article by one of the firm’s attorneys is featured as the guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article by shareholder John Catalano, which is titled “New Remote Online Notary Law Brings Notarization Process Into 21st Century in Florida,” discusses the ramifications of the new Florida law authorizing the use of remote online notarization to enable signers and notaries to use audio and video communications to notarize signatures.  His article reads:

. . . The remote online notary (RON) process entails the use of a live two-way video conference, such as Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts, to meet the statutory personal appearance requirements for notarizations. Notaries and signers will be able to see the documents on their screens during the conferences, and they must follow specific procedures for identity proofing. This includes the use of data services to have signers answer questions requiring personal knowledge, and they may also use facial recognition services.

dbr-logo-300x57Notaries using RON must provide a clear video recording with audio of the notarial act along with a post-execution document record, and they must also utilize a comprehensive vendor security program to help ensure data security. They will use their electronic notary seal as well as their signature to secure documents against tampering, and they must retain recordings of the video conferences for at least five years.

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