Should the buyer be more aware?

Most new property owners in Florida’s coastal construction line zone are unaware their purchase is subject to more stringent construction standards. Florida Sea Grant photo by Karl Havens.

Florida state law that’s intended to alert coastal property buyers about stringent construction and environmental regulations affecting the property may not be working as well as anticipated.

According to results of a recent research survey, most buyers who had recently purchased property falling within the state’s specially designated Coastal Construction Line zone were not made aware of that fact as required by law. If they did receive notice, they did not remember it.

Property within the coastal construction zone is subject to stricter building requirements that are intended to protect beaches and dunes, the coast’s first line of defense against storms. Approval of construction permits in the zone is based on a review of the potential impacts to the beach dune system, as well as environmental considerations like native vegetation and nesting sea turtles.

Changes passed to state law after Florida’s historic 2004-05 hurricane seasons required that prospective buyers be notifed of these standards.

The research project, conducted by the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, evaluated the extent to which the changes had achieved their intended effect. In a survey of 2,500 random property owners, more than 8 in 10 respondents could not recall seeing the information.

“At the very least, it suggests the manner in which the disclosure is presented, during the transaction process, is just not adequate to meet the law’s purpose,” said Tom Ankersen, Florida Sea Grant legal specialist and co-author of the study.

The final report (TP-194) is available online at fl seagrant.org. The executive summary (TP-195) with conclusions and recommendations for statutory reform is also available online.

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