Does a Real Estate Contract Need a Specific Property Description?
Real estate is one area where you always want to be as clear as possible. In Florida, a contract for the sale of real property must contain a “sufficient” description of the land being conveyed from the seller to the buyer. Ideally, the most recent deed to the property will contain a sufficient description that can be used when the current owner sells.
But there may be cases where a prior description is insufficient or no longer applicable. For example, if multiple adjacent parcels of land have been consolidated or subdivided, a revised description may be necessary. It is important to be as specific as possible, because a court can reject a sales contract without a sufficient property description.
Appeals Court Rejects Call to Decide Which Land Fulfills a Contract
Here is an example from a recent Florida lawsuit. This case actually involves a property sale forced by eminent domain. A private developer, acting in concert with the City of Daytona Beach, acquired a piece of property from its owners, who we will identify here as the “plaintiffs” for the sake of convenience. The developer and the plaintiffs reached a mediated settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, the plaintiffs sold their existing property to the developer for $250,000 and an option to purchase a separate lot elsewhere on the Boardwalk from the developer.
The agreement only described this new lot as “sufficient to build a 7500 square foot, one story building.” It did not identify any specific lot or street address. The parties ultimately identified three different lots that met this description but they could not agree upon which specific lot should be sold to the plaintiffs.
Litigation ensued. The plaintiffs asked a Florida judge to order “specific performance” by ordering the developer to convey one of the three identified parcels. The developer argued the agreement was unenforceable because it failed to specifically identify any of the parcels specifically. The judge sided with the plaintiffs, relying on outside or “parol” evidence to essentially fill in the gaps in the contract.
But this was not appropriate, according to the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal, which reversed the trial judge and entered judgment for the developer. “Neither law nor equity can furnish a sufficient description of land to be conveyed where the parties have failed to do so,” the Fifth District said. A court may only order specific performance of a real estate contract when the land involved “is specifically described in the parties’ agreement alone or where its identity is clear from an agreement that is appropriately supplemented by parol evidence.” Here, the parol evidence did not clarify matters; the plaintiffs basically asked the trial judge to pick one of three parcels to fulfill the contract. The Fifth District said that was not permissible under Florida law.
Need Help With a Florida Real Estate Transaction?
Details matter in any contract, especially one that involves real estate. If you are buying or selling property, it is important to make sure every term of the deal is properly drafted to ensure the final agreement is enforceable in court. Contact the offices of Carnal & Mansfield, P.A., if you need assistance from an experienced St. Petersburg real estate attorney.