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What’s Happening With Governor DeSantis’ Ban On Chinese Homeownership In Florida?

In May, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a bipartisan law, SB 264, which banned certain Chinese nationals from buying property within the state as a means of avoiding “the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.” 

According to reports from NBC, a group of Chinese immigrants that are backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and additional civil rights groups, have been working to invalidate the new law, and the Justice Department even backed their effort in an official court filing this summer. The Justice Department stated that the law is unconstitutional, however, a judge ruled against that challenge back in August and settled with an appeal. 

Many workers within the real estate industry have stated their disdain for the law, claiming that it’s ambiguous and is fueling a major risk for discrimination against Chinese buyers. According to the law, sellers who violate the restrictions knowingly could face up to $1,000 in fines and one year in prison while Chinese nationals who buy property in Florida face up to 5 years in prison and even higher fines. 

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Khalid Muneer of the Greater Orlando chapter of the Asian American Realtors Association recently spoke to the media regarding the discriminations and difficulties this law created. 

“Are we supposed to be FBI agents investigating people and asking them all kinds of questions?”

A veteran Florida real estate agent, Frank Lin, told the media that his business has been cut in half due to the fact that he has to turn down clients to comply with the law. 

Additionally, Chinese nationals who already own property in Florida “are required by the new law to register with the state’s Commerce Department, but they don’t even have a form yet or place or website, so that’s confusing everyone. Failure to register by 2024 could trigger fines of up to $1,000 a day,” Lin said

According to a Florida Commerce Department spokesperson, “a hearing is set for this week over a proposed rule on the registration requirement, the agency is dedicated to implementing SB 264 as outlined in law.” 

Muneer spoke further on the discriminations that this law has created and the potential hostility it could create. 

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“If somebody comes in and is Asian-looking, you’re automatically going to start asking questions about where you’re from, which never used to happen.”

Many Asian American community members are viewing the Florida law as resembling xenophobic “alien land laws” of the early 20th century, which were later deemed unconstitutional. 

The restrictions of the law cover both commercial and residential properties and apply to all Chinese nationals who aren’t US citizens or permanent residents and/or already owning property in China. 

“If somebody comes in and is Asian-looking, you’re automatically going to start asking questions about where you’re from, which never used to happen,” said Khalid Muneer, founder of Jupiter Properties in Central Florida and president of the Greater Orlando chapter of the Asian American Realtors Association.

“Is this racism? Is this stereotyping? We are very well aware of the fact that we can have issues. We can be accused of discrimination. Some of [my] associates with heavily Chinese or Venezuelan clientele have seen a major, major drop in business,” Muneer said.

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In recent months, some of the realtors are afraid to deal with [Chinese nationals] because they are looking at getting prosecuted for ‘not doing their job.’ But then again, are we supposed to be FBI agents investigating people and asking them all kinds of questions?” Muneer continued

“The law is upending peoples’ lives.”

Florida in general receives about 23% of all foreign buyers throughout the US, the highest percentage of any state, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

NBC reported that five percent of Florida’s closed sales were to foreign buyers, according to a separate report from Florida Realtors. However, the bulk of Florida’s foreign buyers are Latin American, at 46%, and Canadian, at 24%. Among Chinese buyers, California is the most popular destination, drawing 33% of Chinese buyers to Florida’s 16%.”

“When you get a situation like this, where your main cash buyers are not allowed to buy, it does start hurting the market as well as sales agents who will depend on those sales for their living,” Muneer stated. 

Gregory Burge, an economist, said “ownership bans like Florida’s don’t make a lot of sense from an economic standpoint. Top talent coming from these nations would certainly involve families wanting to retain their citizenship in their home countries, and then facing the barrier of buying in Florida under the new law,” he said. “That could act as a negative factor for slowing economic growth.”

background check

Florida Landlord’s Required To Background Check Workers Under New ‘Miya’s Law’ 

Miya Marcano was a student in Orlando, Florida who was tragically killed by a maintenance worker in her apartment who was able to break in using his universal key fob.

In response to this horrendous crime, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 898 into law, nicknaming it “Miya’s Law,” which requires all prospective employees working in rentals to endure a background check before they’re hired. 

The new law requires all landlord’s to use a consumer reporting agency (online databases) to screen prospective employee’s criminal records and sex offender registries within all 50 states and the District of Colombia. 

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According to the law, a landlord can choose to disqualify an individual from employment if they have been convicted, found guilty, or plead guilty to certain criminal offenses.

These offenses include any crimes that disregarded the safety of others that would also be considered a felony or misdemeanor in the first degree in the state of Florida. 

Additionally, any criminal offense that involves violence, such as murder, battery, sexual assault, robbery, carjacking, stalking, or home invasion, are grounds for disqualification. 

Before landlord’s are able to request a background check, they must provide the prospective employee with a document that discloses the background check requirement and obtain their written consent.

This requirement is a part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is used to regulate how background checks are conducted and used. 

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If the landlord receives information that would give them grounds to disqualify the individual from potential employment, they must provide a notice for the candidate and a copy of their background check. 

The prospective employee must be given a reasonable amount of time to review and potentially file a dispute regarding the accuracy or completeness of the background check, typically at least five business days.

Landlord’s must also provide the name, address, and telephone number of the background check vendor to the applicant with a statement that emphasizes “the consumer reporting agency did not make the decision to take the adverse action and is unable to provide the applicant the specific reasons why the adverse action was taken, and notifies the candidate of their right to obtain a free copy of their background report within sixty days and to dispute any information reported in the background check,” according to the law. 

“By signing this legislation, we’re making it safer to live in a rental unit and giving renters more peace of mind in their homes. Miya’s death was a tragedy, and our prayers continue to be with the Marcano family.”

“I am proud to act on their behalf to help prevent a tragedy like that from happening to another Florida tenant,” said DeSantis in a statement.