Zinzow Law

Septic Systems: You thought the Government was in your “Business” before…

How Florida Septic Regulations Affect Homeowners: 4 Things you need to know.

By: Karen Leonardo, Real Estate & Closing Attorney at Zinzow Law.

The below information is designed to help Florida Realtors and Homeowners learn about proposed government regulations and how they can hinder the sale of an existing home or the construction of a new home.

Septic System Laws Are Complex
In an attempt to protect Florida’s water systems from the ramifications of algae blooms, State and local government authorities are implementing new and more invasive oversight and regulations into homeowners’ use of sewage treatment and disposal systems (“septic systems”). The effort to reduce nitrogen pollution purportedly caused by septic systems is at the forefront of Florida’s environmental issues. As Florida Realtors and Homeowners grapple with a sea of already complex laws and regulations, even more laws are being proposed. Florida landowners with septic systems should become aware of these changes to best prepare for the expense of staying compliant. Here are four things you need to know.
Demystifying Septic System Laws, and Recommended Best Practices
  1. Establish a relationship with a reputable septic tank contractor to upkeep and maintain your septic system. A search for a licensed septic tank contractor is available at http://www.floridahealth.gov/statistics-and-data/eh-tracking-and-reporting/septic-tank-contractors.html. Your contractor can also give you guidance on how to extend the life of your system.
  2. Know which regulations and laws apply to you.
    1. Be on the lookout for a state-wide requirement for onsite inspections every five years. Onsite Inspections may take effect under a proposed bill founded on recommendations set forth by the Blue-Green Algae Task Force.
    2. Determine whether your property lies within a Priority Focus Area identified by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Septic systems in these areas are subject to additional regulation through the Water Quality Restoration Program. A PFA search is available at www.floridadep.gov/PFA map. These areas are subject to a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP), and your county may have a part to play in the enforcement of the plan.
    3. Generally, lots less than one acre in size are subject to a higher level of regulation and scrutiny.
    4. Inquire about remediation and septic to sewer conversion projects your county may consider or study. Some septic areas, particularly those within BMAP areas, may be required to connect their properties to sewer even if a functioning septic system is onsite.
  3. If you are considering building a new home that requires a septic system, you will want to avoid the headache of failing post-permitting inspections. Be sure to consult with your general contractor and a septic tank contractor to ascertain the cost of installing a system that complies with the latest recommendations and requirements set forth by the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. This is especially significant on lots less than one acre.
  4. For existing septic system owners, plan for repair or replacement well in advance of an emergency. Septic systems can last up to 30 years on average with regular maintenance and upkeep; however, local county health departments have permit requirements that may demand replacement rather than repair of an existing septic system.
This information is meant for you whether you are in Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Citrus, Polk, Hernando, or any other county in Florida. If you should have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to Expert Real Estate and Title Closing Attorney Karen Leondardo at Zinzow Law. Kleonardo@zinzowlaw.com, or 727-787-3121.
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Deadline Looming – Claim Your Homestead Exemption

Deadline Looming – Claim Your Homestead Exemption

In Yesteryears, it was sweat and back-breaking hard work that allowed your name to be put on the deed to the 160 acres you could call a homestead, but those days are many decades in the past. Today, however, the homestead has a slightly different meaning. You may not be working the land in the traditional sense; you may be raising a family on a quiet cul-de-sac or living out your golden years in a condo near the beach; in Florida, your homestead is where you lay your head at night and live out your life. It is the American Dream. So, it is vital as a realtor or mortgage broker that you remind or educate your clients about Florida’s Homestead benefit and its deadlines.

The following is a take and paste reminder to share with your new Floridian Homesteader Clients, Neighbors, and Friends! Those who take advantage will thank you for the tax savings for years to come! Out-of-staters or first-time homebuyers are often unaware of the ability to file for a homestead tax exemption in the Sunshine State. This reminder may prove useful to anyone who established a new permanent home in Florida as of January 1, 2022 – including those Floridians who relocated to a new home within the State and are unaware that homestead exemptions do not automatically carry over to a new property.

Beat the rush and start the process to apply for your homestead tax exemption now! The deadline is March 1, 2022, but do not delay. Every county in Florida has its own property appraiser. Each office can have varying requirements to prove your new permanent residency, potentially creating additional steps that must be completed before submitting your application.

The best place to start gathering information is your County’s Property Appraiser’s Office and not the tax collector’s office. You can do this on their website or in person. Access to the recorded deed will be necessary to gather some of the required application information. If your title company has not mailed the original deed yet, or if it has been misplaced, you can access a copy by searching for your property through the property appraiser’s website or searching your name in the county’s official records online.

Commonly requested proof of residence includes your Driver’s license with the updated address, evidence of relinquishing your out-of-state Driver’s license, Florida vehicle tag number, Florida voter registration number, proof of payment of utilities, and bank account mailing address.

Closer to the deadline, lines can get hours long if filing in person, and the online registration process can get bogged down – and after last year’s surge in residents, who knows what to expect! So beat the rush and save some time and money by filing online or taking a trip down to your county’s government center to get ahead of the curve.

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Changes Are Coming to Construction Defect Laws

Proposed Legislative Changes to 558 & the Statute of Repose

America’s Founders in 1776 desired change – change in their government and the laws affecting them and their businesses. They used the power of the pen to craft a representative government where positive change could be made by those willing to serve at the forefront of issues facing their community.


Construction is our community, and we have always served at the forefront of positive change, particularly legislative change. Our legal professionals serve on and participate in legislative committees of the Florida Bar and the major construction trade associations, such as Florida Homebuilders Association and Associated Builders and Contractors.

We are a part of the bill drafting process and speak with legislators and their staff about important issues affecting the construction industry. We do not sit on the sidelines, complain about the process, and wait for a response; we go on the offensive to take action.

Desperate for Change | Senate Bill SB 736

On November 2, 2021, Senator Hutson from District 7 filed a Senate bill known as SB 736. This bill can bring much needed change to the Construction industry as follows:

Amends 95.11

  • Amends § 95.11(3)(c) Fla. Stat. to eliminate the extended (or tolling) statute of limitations for actions founded on the design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property based upon latent defects and eliminates the 10-year statute of repose.
  • Under the current statute, when the action involves a latent construction defect, the time runs from the time the defect is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence. 
  • The current statute includes a 10-year statute of repose such that the action must be commenced within 10 years after the date of actual possession by the owner, the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, the date of abandonment of construction if not completed, or the date of completion of the contract or termination of the contract between the professional engineer, registered architect, or licensed contractor and his or her employer, whichever date is latest.
  • This proposed revision eliminates the 10-year period, effectively reducing the deadline to file a claim to 4 years.

AMENDS 558.004

Amends the Florida Construction Defects Statute, specifically § 558.004 Fla. Stat., by adding the following provisions:

  • Requires a claimant who rejects a settlement offer to include the reasons for rejecting the offer within the notice rejecting the offer. The claimant must identify any items that were omitted from the offer and state in detail all known reasons why the claimant believes the settlement offer is unreasonable.

  • Allows the person served with a notice of rejection of a settlement offer 15 days to make a supplemental offer and requires the claimant to serve a notice of rejection of this supplemental offer, including reasons for the rejection.

  • Extends the court’s stay of any action until the supplemental process is concluded.
  • Limits claimant’s right to recover attorney’s fees unless the claimant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that, at the time of the offer, additional repairs beyond those offered were necessary to remedy the defect. Also, the attorney’s fee limitation does not apply to any claim for attorney’s fees based on a contract between the claimant and the offeror.
  •  If a claimant accepts an offer or supplemental offer, the claimant must, within 90 days after the acceptance, enter into a contract with one or more appropriately licensed contractors to correct the construction defect(s). The offeror or insurer shall pay the contractor directly for said repairs and the repairs must be completed within 12 months after claimant enters into the contract with the contractor, unless the offeror or insurer and claimant mutually agree otherwise.
  • Creates a new § 558.0045 Fla. Stat., which requires the court, in construction defect litigation, to appoint an expert (e.g. engineer, contractor, etc.) to examine the alleged defect.  The court may not appoint an expert if all the parties object or if the court finds that the cost of the expert outweighs any potential benefits to resolution of the action.  Within 15 days after conducting the examination, or otherwise determined by the court, the expert shall submit a written report with detailed findings to the court and to the parties.  The parties shall compensate the expert, but the prevailing party is entitled to reimbursement from the non-prevailing party.  The expert may not be employed to do the repairs.
  • The claimant must repair a construction defect if claimant receives full compensation for such a repair.  If a claimant receives full compensation and fails to repair the construction defect, claimant is liable to a purchaser of the property for any damages resulting from the failure to disclose the defect.
  • Requires the claimant to serve a notice of claim for any construction defect, by certified mail, return receipt requested, on a mortgagee or assignee within 30 days after service of the notice of claim upon the contractor, subcontractor, supplier or design professional.  If repairs relating to the defect are completed after notice to a mortgagee or assignee is provided, or if any settlement, partial settlement, arbitration award, or judgment is obtained by the claimant, the claimant must provide an additional notice to the mortgagee or assignee, by certified mail, return receipt requested, within 60 days after completion of the repairs or any settlement, partial settlement, arbitration award, or judgment, whichever is later.

What Happens if it passes?

If passed by the legislature, it is important to note these amendments are effective for any action commenced on or after July 1, 2022. However, with respect to any action that would not have been barred under § 95.11(3)(c) Fla. Stat., which is the discovery rule statute of limitations for latent construction defects or 10-year statute of repose, such an action must begin on or before July 1, 2023.

We are encouraged at Team Z, as we see the potential for positive change for our clients. SB 736 is a piece of that potential change, despite being only in its earliest form of a pre-filed bill.  Every year, there are competing, and complimentary bills filed. This bill has to make it through the legislative process, as bills advance, modify, negotiate, or die in committee, on its journey to make it to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Team Z will do all we can to stand for our clients and for their pursuit of happiness.

If you would like more information about the pending legislation, or what you can do to protect your construction company from construction defect claims, Zinzow Law is here to help.  We protect those who Build America.

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