Who Owns The Home
Periodically, when a violation occurs (assessment or otherwise), a question arises as to who really owns the subject home and who should be contacted. To help with this question, both Chapter 718 and Chapter 720 address this issue in the following way:
Section 718.103 states: 'Unit owner' or 'owner of unit' means a record owner of legal title to a condominium parcel.
Section 720.301 states: 'Parcel owner' means the record owner of legal title to a parcel.
This requires us to understand the term 'record owner of legal title'.
'Record owner' simply means the persons whose names appear in the public records. The concept of 'legal title' is a little bit more complicated.
Florida law permits the ownership of land to be split into 'legal title' and 'equitable title'. However, in the vast majority of cases, both the legal and equitable title rest in the same persons. For instance, if Richard and Sally Row buy a house, the deed generally lists both of their names and they are generally the only people who claim any interest in the home.
Still, occasionally the legal and equitable interests are separated for reasons unique to that home. The most common example of this split is when someone owns property as a trustee for the benefit of someone else (e.g Richard Row as Trustee for Sally Roe). In that case Richard would hold the legal title and Sally would hold the equitable title.
Another such instance is when someone 'sells' their home using what is generally referred to as an Agreement for Deed (AFD). With AFD’s, the seller enters into a contract with the purchaser whereby the seller agrees to deed the home to the purchaser, but only upon the purchaser’s completion of designated obligations (usually the payment of the purchase price over an extended period of time). During this contract period, the seller continues to hold the legal title on behalf of the purchaser, who hold the equitable title. When the obligations are completed, the seller deeds the home to the purchaser, who then becomes the owner of both the legal and equitable title.
So who do you contact when there is a violation?
Based on the above, the Association would contact the husband and wife, the trustee and the AFD seller, because they are the holders of the legal title and the persons primarily obligated to comply with the documents. From a practical side, however, it is usually appropriate to also contact the equitable owner(s), especially if they actually reside in the home.