Before closing on a real estate transaction, your title company will do some investigating to ensure the title is clear and the property has a clean history. The searches done by the title company are to verify that there is no outstanding debt nor any claims, defects, or other rights or burdens already on the property. A traditional title search in Florida, however, may not uncover everything. This is why you should be sure your title company also runs a municipal lien search.

What is a Municipal Lien Search

Whereas a title search produces results based on County recorded public records, a municipal lien search is much more thorough. Issues like open or expired permits on a property, unpaid utility bills, or code enforcement violations are often not recorded publicly, so they may not be revealed during a title search. 

If there are any unrecorded violations, debts or open permits on the property, you, as the new owner, could end up dealing with the consequences. Whether or not you know about the issues, you will inherit the problems.

How an Open Permit or Other Liens Can Become an Issue at Sale

Florida municipal lien searches can reveal unrecorded issues including 

  • Code enforcement violations and fines 

(which could eventually lead to a lien)

  • Open or expired permits
  • Utility debts
  • County debts
  • And other fees or debts assessed by any municipality 

If your property ends up having an open permit or code violation, you could be faced with extra costs or delays when you try to pull a new permit and face legal liability for the lien.

In some instances, the seller may not even know if there is an open permit on their property dating back 6+ years. Perhaps the contractor never closed it out, and then the issue rears its head just prior to closing. These issues can result in closing delays and/or the need for renegotiations, which no one wants to deal with, especially when they are unexpected and at the 11th hour. 

For help identifying and dealing with real estate closing conundrums like an open permit or other title issues, our team at ADS Title Services, Inc. is here for you. Contact us today to ask your South Florida real estate law questions and learn more about our title services.