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Why every buyer needs a real estate attorney in any real estate closing

By: Ira B. Price, Esq., Ira B. Price, P.A. & Legal Title Services, Inc.

Discussion of Victoria Moreno vs. First International Title, 176 So.3d 301.

The Buyer

Victoria Moreno purchased a home. Victoria did not speak English, only Spanish. Victoria did not hire a real estate attorney to represent her. The closing was handled by a title company. The property had code violations. At the closing, in the pile of closing papers was a “Hold Harmless Agreement” which said the title company was not responsible for the code violations. Victoria admitted receiving the hold harmless agreement, but no one explained it to her. After closing, Miami Dade County proceeded to force her to correct the violations at a cost of over $50,000!

The Summary Judgement

The Third District granted summary judgment to the title company. The Court found there was no evidence of fraudulent inducement, purposeful or negligent information, or any other action that prevented Victoria from reading the hold harmless agreement.

What is the lesson here?

If you don’t read or understand English, it does not matter that you did not read closing papers before you sign them. You are responsible for any legal document you sign, whether you read it or not.

Had Victoria hired a real estate attorney, the attorney would have ordered or reviewed a lien search. The lien search would have disclosed open permits. A further investigation would have indicated what needed to be done to close the permits, including the cost and expenses. Perhaps Victoria would have renegotiated the deal and obtained a reduction of the purchase price. Maybe Victoria would have just cancelled the deal!

Many buyers are told that they do not need a lawyer. There is a reason for this. A lawyer might have raised the issue of the open permits and the deal would not have closed. However, most real estate agents are honest and want their client’s to be protected against title and other issues that are outside the scope of the real estate agent and client’s ability to analyze and resolve.

It is said that you don’t need to worry about what you know; you need to worry about what you don’t know. Since the general public is not experienced in real estate contracts and closings, they need someone who is on their side in the deal-a real estate attorney. And in this case, perhaps a translator!

View Spanish translation.

The opinions of any particular author are not necessarily the opinions of Attorneys' Real Estate Councils of Florida any of the local Real Estate Councils or Attorneys’ Title Fund Services, LLC.