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New Law Requires Disclosure Statement Regarding Coastal Properties

All Buyers of properties either partially or totally seaward of the State Coastal Construction Control Line MUST be provided a Coastal Properties Disclosure Statement upon execution of the contract. This new statement is required to indicate that the coastal property may be: a) subject to coastal erosion; b) subject to federal, state and local regulations concerning coastal construction; c) affected by beach renourishment activities; and/or d) restricted by marine turtle regulations.

Along all of Florida ’s sandy beaches, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has an established a jurisdictional line called the Coastal Construction Control Line (“CCCL”). The CCCL is intended to define the areas of Florida shoreline which are subject to severe fluctuations due to: storm surge, storm waves, flooding or other predictable weather conditions. Once the CCCL has been established within a coastal county, almost all construction seaward of the CCCL is regulated by the state and requires special permitting from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Prior to this new law becoming effective, a Seller of coastal property was merely required to inform a Buyer whether the property being purchased was located partially or totally seaward of the CCCL. This information was allowed to be disclosed as late as the time of closing. Typically, by the time the existence of the CCCL was disclosed, it was too late to halt a transaction or seek additional information regarding the suitability of the property for development.
Under the old law a Buyer was permitted to waive their right to be informed of the location of the CCCL. This waiver was typically agreed to by unwitting Buyers who did not understand the significance of the restrictions imposed upon properties located seaward of the CCCL.

Under the new law, an amendment to Section 161.57, Florida Statutes, (which is reprinted in its entirety below), the following disclosure statement must be included, either in the contract, or as a separate document, prior to the execution of the contract by both parties (the Effective Date) for any property located totally or partially seaward of the State Coastal Construction Control Line:

“THE PROPERTY BEING PURCHASED MAY BE SUBJECT TO COASTAL EROSION AND TO FEDERAL, STATE, OR LOCAL REGULATIONS THAT GOVERN COASTAL PROPERTY, INCLUDING THE DELINEATION OF THE COASTAL CONSTRUCTION CONTROL LINE, RIGID COASTAL PROTECTION STRUCTURES, BEACH RENOURISHMENT, AND THE PROTECTION OF MARINE TURTLES. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION CAN BE OBTAINED FROM THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, INCLUDING WHETHER THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT EROSION CONDITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH THE SHORELINE OF THE PROPERTY BEING PURCHASED.”

While the new law makes it clear that the failure to provide the required disclosure statement will not impair the enforceability of a contract or create a right of rescission, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has advised that a broker or real estate agent who had actual knowledge that the property was located in an area requiring the disclosure, and who failed to make such a disclosure, may be found guilty of violating Section 475.25(1)(b), Florida Statutes for committing misrepresentation or concealment, and may be punished under the provisions of Section 475.42, Florida Statutes.
This new disclosure law reinforces the need to have due diligence inspections and the property closing performed by an attorney with specialized expertise in waterfront property and coastal construction law. Providing a prospective Buyer of coastal property with a clear understanding of how to comply with federal, state, and local regulations will ensure that the sale or purchase of property located in the Coastal Zone takes place both quickly and seamlessly.

10 Tips for Building on the Coast

Before You Buy Your Property

1) Know Thy Elevation. When you purchase a property, be sure to inspect the elevation certificate. While it is unusual, some properties may require that your first floor elevation (the height from the ground level to the top of your first living level) be 12′, 13′, 14′ feet or higher. This may not be a deal killer, but the added height to the foundation level will add cost to your project.

2) Setbacks May Cause Setbacks Coastal lots, whether near ocean, lake or river, tend to be a tad smaller than their landlocked counterpart. As such, your setbacks may cause you some headaches in regard to locating a design that will work for you. Assuming you have a reasonable envelope to build within (a minimum of 24’ in width), you’ll have options for choosing a stock plan that will work.

3) Know Your Flood Zones Many coastal properties fall into flood zones. For the most part, this isn’t necessarily bad news. After all, getting close to a body of water is a large part of the allure of coastal living. You, however, do need to know how this may affect the cost of your building project. Generally speaking, building in a V Zone is the most expensive. V Zones are typically ocean front, or near to ocean front, properties. The building codes that apply to V Zone properties will add about 15-30% to the total cost of the construction project. Much of the added cost will arise from 1) the additional ties, straps, hold downs and anchors required by the building code 2) additional cost for windows with upgraded wind ratings and 3) added cost for elevating the structure. “A” zoned properties carry some of the same code requirements, but will generally only add about 10-15% to the cost of construction.

4) When Being Too Tall is Terrible Many coastal communities are amending their building codes to shrink the total height allowed for residential structures. The idea is to avoid the creation of “corridors of darkness” caused by an excessive number of tall structures on a residential street. This can be tricky, especially because of the need for elevated foundations. The height restrictions can range from 28’ to 50’. As you can image, this will have a huge impact on the design that you choose for your property. In some instances, plans can be modified to squeeze under a given height restriction – just be sure to do the math before you purchase your plan.

5) Be Coastal, Not Cookie Cutter At the risk of being obnoxious, here’s some sage advice for choosing a design for your coastal property. When choosing a design, take into consideration where your residence will be situated. If you’ve moving onto an island, please don’t build a mountain chalet, no matter how nice the A frame windows capture the view. In the same vein, subdivision-style homes (Colonials, Georgians, Federal-style, etc.) probably won’t work either. You have a wonderful opportunity to build a home that looks just right on your lot. There are dozens of coastal architectural options to choose from, so why not avoid the every day and pick something with style?

Before You Start Construction

6) Choose a Builder Who’s Done It Before Many coastal markets have been booming in recent years. Combine this with the fact that margins are higher for homes in “specialty” categories and you’ll find that builders from outside the market may decide to give the coast a go. Don’t go there. Choosing a builder who has experience in your coastal market offers the following advantages:

  • They’ll have a working knowledge of the construction methodologies unique to coastal home construction.
  • Your local coastal builder is more likely to have solid relationships in place with subcontractors and vendors. You don’t want to be the customer who gets stuck with “the only tile man we could find.”
  • If they’ve been around, you’ll be able to walk through homes they’ve built – when it comes to quality promises, seeing is believing.

7) Don’t Go Cheap on Materials We’re not suggesting that you import the most expensive tile from Italy or buy absolute top-of-the-line windows. We would recommend, however, that you avoid cheaping out on materials that are exposed to the elements. This would include: the roofing material you specify, the quality of window you choose, the grade of paint you pick, the decking material you buy and the type of ceiling fans you install. The coastal elements are famously tough on building materials – if you try to get by with lesser materials, you’ll lose the saving you realized by having to replace them inside of three years.

8) Details, Details One of the first things your builder may want to talk you into is the elimination of all the “frilly” trimwork shown on your set of plans. He or she will make a case for saving money and time by simplifying the design for the fascia boards, balustrades, gable trusses, cornice work, under-eave brace supports, eyebrow dormers, etc. Some compromise is OK, but be careful not too eliminate too much. Often, it’s this type of detail that gives the design its coastal look and feel.

After You Build

9) Build an Outdoor Kitchen One of the joys of living on the coast (whether your coast is lake, ocean or river) is being outside. Over the past five years we’ve seen the introduction of hundreds of great products that make building your dream outdoor kitchen easy and more affordable. Why not expand your usable living space to include the great outdoors?

10) Don’t Forget the Flowers Whether you do it yourself, or hire a professional, get started with beautifying your property with landscaping. You’ve endured 6 – 18 months of dirt during the construction of your home, you deserve this. Adding landscaping, whether it’s formal or casual in design, will make your house instantly feel like a home.