The attorneys at WeidnerLaw have a vast range of experience in contract and business disputes, including a particular focus on Florida real estate transactions. One of the more common disputes that occurs in real estate are disputes over real estate purchases. Frequently a purchaser claims that a seller did not adequately disclose known conditions that impact the value of the property and often the purchaser brings suit against the seller, the realtor and all parties involved. The case, known as Billington v. Ginn-La Pine Island that was just released from the Fifth District Court of Appeals in south Florida just eliminated a vast majority of these types of claims. The lesson from this case is very clear and very simple:
MAKE SURE YOU HIRE AN EXPERIENCED REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT YOU IF YOU PURCHASE REAL ESTATE!
I want to make one other point that is very simple and very, very clear…but it’s a point that the vast majority of people do not understand…..
YOU CANNOT SUCCESSFULLY SUE YOUR REALTOR IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG WITH YOUR PURCHASE TRANSACTION!
Understanding this point is very important because the Realtor, whether they be buyer’s agent, seller’s agent or transaction broker is most involved in the transaction. They guide buyers and sellers, and engage in the most pre-purchase communication. But here’s the thing….nothing about what that Realtor is saying can be relied upon. In one case that I litigated for years, the Realtor walked my client through the entire property…confidently showing the four buildings that were clearly identified on the MLS listing. Only after my client closed on the property did he learn that he did not in fact purchase 4 units, but only purchased 2 units. But there was no way to sue the Realtor for damages. The lesson is simple….
MAKE SURE YOU HIRE AN EXPERIENCED REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY!
And now, we get to the case at issue in this post:
Accordingly, we hold that the “non-reliance” clauses in this case negate a claim for fraud in the inducement because Appellant cannot recant his contractual promises that he did not rely upon extrinsic representations.
We also conclude, pursuant to Oceanic Villas, that an express waiver of the right to base a claim on pre-contract representations renders the contract “incontestable . . . on account of fraud.” Oceanic Villas, 4 So. 2d at 690. We emphasize that the disclaimer clauses here are as clear and conspicuous as they are comprehensive. If these clauses are insufficient to render a claim for fraud “incontestable” within the contemplation of the Oceanic Villas court, then no disclaimer can possibly accomplish that objective—an objective that is both reasonable and essential in our complex and litigious society. Written contracts are intended to head-off disputes. Public policy strongly favors the enforcement of contracts. Although our decision might benefit those who would use a disclaimer clause to cleverly avoid the consequences of a deliberate fraud, contracting parties can protect themselves against such fraudulent practices by respecting the gravity inherent in the contracting process and carefully reviewing a contract to ensure that material representations are expressed in the instrument. The law necessarily presumes that parties to a contract have read and understood its contents.