Law In The Time Of Covid

Florida is one of the nation’s most popular places to live. It is attractive to sun-seeking relocators from the Northeast, Midwest, and all points overseas. The consistent influx of newcomers has created a robust real estate market. According to the National Association of Realtors, the real estate industry accounted for $240.3 billion or 22% of Florida’s gross state product in 2019. Simply the Best was curious to know how COVID-19 was impacting our lucrative real estate industry, so we spoke with real estate attorney Gregory Gefen to learn more.

Mr. Gefen, an approachable and erudite gentleman, earned his JD from the University of Miami. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1991 and twenty-five years ago he founded The Gefen Law Firm in Boca Raton. Today, this boutique practice is a leader in their field. Gefen, and fellow attorney Benjamin Werber, collaborate with a sta„ of twelve paraprofessionals to close real estate property contracts. Greg also serves as the Managing Member of Signature Title Group, LLC.

Greg agrees that the virus has had a monumental, and often tragic impact, on everyone’s personal and professional lives. He adds that “The pandemic has been very disruptive for all parties involved in the closing and funding process. They did not teach us about this in law school! It has been a tremendous learning experience, and much it by the seat of our pants.”

Gefen and his team are “essential workers” as dened by local and state guidelines. He felt that it was paramount to put safety protocols in place to minimize the risk of potential infection to sta„, clients, and necessary visitors. This initially included some measure of remote work but, as Mr. Werber pointed out, “it is very difficult to do what we do remotely, so we had to put protocols in place as best as we could.”

On the transactional side other “new normal” challenges presented themselves. Gefen says “It is important that people understand how the standard contracts that govern Florida real estate property transactions are vastly different from those in other locales. Florida law uses time is of the essence contracts. This means that there are hard dates assigned to closings and that the failure to close could result in default and, ultimately, loss of deposits. We learned quickly that a global pandemic was not necessarily included in the force majeure (“act of god”, etc.) clauses. We spent a lot of time trying to help people in di‘cult situations navigate this storm and identifying solutions which met their needs in a complex and uncertain time.”

Greg added “Fortuitously, on January 1, 2020, the Florida Legislature adopted laws that now allow for the electronic notarization of certain documents, like Deeds and A‘davits. Prior to this, only in person ink signatures were permitted by law for documents requiring notarization. The process is a bit more complex than it sounds, particularly with our tech-challenged senior clientele, but it was a tremendous help early on. I welcome this change, but I believe it will take time for other associated stakeholders — such as lenders — to fully embrace this technology.”

The Gefen Law Firm is located at 1801 North Military Trail, Suite 203, Boca Raton, Florida. You can reach Mr. Gefen via email at greg@gefenlaw.com or by calling (561) 988-0088.

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