The answer will probably surprise you. Most people will not hire an attorney or do a title search when they are entering into a residential lease for a single family residence. Many tenants have their guard down and “assume” that the landlord is legitimate and has no issues. Most tenants are relieved to have found a house in the right location at the right price.
In many cases, the home is being rented by a management company hired by the owner of the property. Since you are just a tenant, many people feel that a title search is not necessary. To the contrary, we have run into many situations where parties have entered into a residential lease, paid first and last month’s rent and a sizable security deposit only to find out, a few months into the tenancy, that the property owner was in foreclosure.
Prior to its expiration in December, 2014, a federal law known as the “Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act,” granted some protection to residential tenants who entered into a lease in good faith. However, that federal law expired at the end of 2014, and the current state law, Section 83.561, Florida Statutes, essentially gives tenants 30 days to vacate the property after a foreclosure sale.
How would a title search have helped? If the property is in foreclosure, the foreclosing lender must file a Lis Pendens which gives a recorded notice of the foreclosure action. A simple title search would reveal the Lis Pendants and put you, the prospective tenant, on notice of the potential for having to vacate the property prior to expiration of the lease. A title search would verify whom the owner of the property is, so that you can know that you are leasing from the true owner.
If you have any questions, contact one of our real estate attorneys and ask them to do a simple search. It may save you in the long run. While you’re at it, you might want your real estate attorney to review your lease, too.