THE END OF THE TWO SUBSCRIBING WITNESSES REQUIREMENT FOR FLORIDA LEASES



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The Florida Legislature passed a bill in the 2020 session amending F.S. §689.01 (known as the statute of conveyances) so that two witnesses will no longer be required for a lease of real property. On June 27, 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law. This change brings Florida in line with the vast majority of other states, simplifies the lease execution process, and cuts down on parties seeking to get out of deals on technical grounds.

Until now, F.S. §689.01(1), which has existed in its present form since 1829 — before Florida became a state — provided that a lease for a term of more than one year could be created only by an instrument in writing signed in the presence of two subscribing witnesses. As a practical matter, the witness requirement in §689.01(1) infrequently applied to the landlord’s execution of a Florida residential lease because many of those leases are written for a term of one year or less. Non-residential leases, however, are usually for a longer term, and this requirement almost always applied to them.

Under the amended version of §689.01(1), no subscribing witnesses will be required for leases at all, with leases specifically exempted from the requirement of subscribing witnesses to transfers of property interests (changes are underlined and indicated via strike-through, as appropriate):

No estate or interest of freehold, or for a term of more than [one] year, or any uncertain interest of, in, or out of any messuages, lands, tenements, or hereditaments shall be created, made, granted, transferred, or released in any other manner other than by instrument in writing, signed in the presence of two subscribing witnesses by the party creating, making, granting, conveying, transferring, or releasing such estate, interest, or term of more than [one] year, or by the party’s lawfully authorized agent, unless by will and testament, or other testamentary appointment, duly made according to law; and no estate or interest, either of freehold, or of term of more than [one] year, or any uncertain interest of, in, to, or out of any messuages, lands, tenements, or hereditaments, shall be assigned or surrendered unless it be by instrument signed in the presence of two subscribing witnesses by the party so assigning or surrendering, or by the party’s lawfully authorized agent, or by the act and operation of law; provided, however, that no subscribing witnesses shall be required for a lease of real property or any such instrument pertaining to a lease of real property. No seal shall be necessary to give validity to any instrument executed in conformity with this section. Corporations may execute any and all conveyances in accordance with the provisions of this section or ss. 692.01 and 692.02.

With this change, Florida has removed an anachronistic, formalistic, and infrequently enforced procedural hurdle to the execution of leases and joins the many states that removed such requirements long ago.

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