Florida Removes Requirement For Witnesses In Commercial And Residential Leases

Signed into law on June 27, 2020 and effective July 1, 2020, Florida House Bill 469 removed the Florida requirement that two witnesses must sign residential or commercial leases for longer than a year. The removal will help streamline real estate transactions, especially in light of COVID-19 where in-person interaction is difficult.

The new law

The law amends Florida Statute § 689.01, which previously required 2 witnesses for any transfer of real property for more than one year to be valid (transfers for one year or less did not require witnesses). The new statute makes and exception for leases, and provides that “no subscribing witnesses shall be required for a lease of real property or any such instrument pertaining to a lease of real property.”

The impact of the change

Previously, the statute required any conveyance of property for more than one year, including a leasehold interest, to be in writing and contain the signature of 2 witnesses. However, application of the law was somewhat unclear as to whether a landlord or tenant could recover on/enforce a lease for longer than a year without two witnesses, with courts inconsistently applying estoppel theories to uphold or reject the validity of the lease. The new law makes it clear that leases signed on or after July 1, 2020 are enforceable without the need for any signing witnesses.

How this helps landlords and tenants

Due to prior changes in Florida law to allow for electronic signatures on leases, the burden of signing with two subscribing witnesses had become a significant issue. That burden became greater given the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns. Now, execution of the lease is easier than ever, with the somewhat antiquated witness requirement removed. Landlords can remove the witness requirement from their forms. Both landlords and tenants can sign the lease electronically without concern for having two witnesses present.

If you need any assistance or guidance on any of these matters, we are here to help.

Michael I. Kean, Bruce E. Loren, and Brandon J. Camilleri of the Loren & Kean Law Firm are based in Palm Beach Gardens and Fort Lauderdale. Loren & Kean Law is a boutique law firm concentrating in construction law, complex commercial litigation including commercial landlord/tenant disputes, and employment law. Mr. Loren has been certified in construction law by the Florida Bar since 2004, exemplifying the Bar’s recognition of his expertise. Mr. Kean, Mr. Loren and Mr. Camilleri can be reached at: [email protected] , [email protected] and [email protected] or 561-615-5701.

Contributing Advisors