Is a Verbal Option to Purchase Real Estate in Florida Enforceable?

Daniel PascaleBy: Daniel T. Pascale, Esq.

Offices located in Delray Beach and Coral Gables, FL

Consider a scenario where you have been leasing a residential property in Miami on a month-to-month basis for a little over a year but would like the eventual opportunity to purchase the property.  Over the course of several lengthy conversations between you (the tenant) and the property owner (the landlord), the landlord ultimately agrees to give you the exclusive option to purchase the property once you resolve some old credit issues associated with a prior foreclosure.  After your landlord gives you at least two verbal assurances in one week alone that you have an option to purchase the property and you shake hands on the agreement, you believe that the “deal is done.”  However, after searching on Zillow one week later, you discover that your landlord has listed your property for sale with a broker.  You immediately contact the listing broker and are told that the property is now under contract for sale to someone else and that you have one month to leave.

What are your legal rights in this situation?  Can you sue your landlord to enforce the verbal option agreement that you accepted? Do you really only have one month left before you have to leave when you have lived at the property for over a year? Sadly, the answer to all of these questions is that you have no right to purchase the property or legal recourse against your landlord.  To make matters worse, it’s also true that you have no legal right to stay in the property for anything longer than the thirty days that the landlord provided.  Here is why, and here is how to prevent this tragic situation from playing out in the first place:

One of the most basic tenants of all real estate law is that in order for a contract for the purchase of real property to be enforceable, it must be embodied in one or more written documents or memoranda signed by the party against whom enforcement is sought, and the writings must include all of the essential terms of the purchase and sale. Those terms may not be provided by resort to parol evidence. “Parol Evidence” refers to verbal expressions or words – like the conversations that you had with your landlord which were not memorialized in writing.

Therefore, under the parol evidence rule, the verbal option to purchase the leased premises was unenforceable because the verbal agreement lacked essential elements such as the term and purchase price of the property. There was no written agreement between you and the landlord with regards to how long you would have to purchase the property or how much the property was being sold for.  Making matters worse, because the statute of frauds also applies to lease agreements that exceed one year in length and because you were paying on a month-to-month basis, the landlord was also justified in terminating the lease in thirty days.

By hiring an experienced real estate lawyer in Miami, the tenant could have prevented the entire situation from playing out.  An experienced real estate lawyer in Miami would have ensured that the agreement to purchase was in writing, was definite in its terms, and allowed the tenant to stay in the property until the property was sold to the tenant.  An experienced real estate lawyer could have drafted this agreement for a nominal cost putting you in the driver’s seat rather than in a ditch.

If you have questions or are looking to speak with experienced real estate lawyers in Miami-Dade or Broward County, contact Jordan + Pascale, P.L. at 305-501-2836 or visit us at JordanPascale.com.