Florida Senator Wilton Simpson wants to put a stop to home sellers lying about their dangerous sinkholes on real estate disclosure forms.
This follows multiple 8 On Your Side investigations into real estate disclosure fraud. Our investigation into a Spring Hill home sold by Glenn Jasen and his wife, Kathryn, led to the first federal criminal conviction of its kind.
Then 8 On Your Side went on to bust another home seller for pocketing a hefty insurance claim and failing to fix the sinkhole activity. Instead, in both cases, sellers lied about the sinkhole activity on the real estate forms.
Simpson (R-Trilby) wants to put a stop to this prevalent and dangerous type of lie. “I am looking forward to doing legislation that would close these loopholes,” he said.
Simpson wants to make lying about sinkhole activity an automatic criminal offense – with prison time. More controversial, he wants real estate agents and title companies held accountable too. That’s because a simple public records check will often catch this kind of lie, but many agents don’t bother checking for this kind of information.
“We’re going to protect the consumer, and it will come at a cost to the real estate professional standing between the consumer and the home,” Simpson said. “If you’re in the title insurance business, if you’re a realtor, this is your business. This is your business. This is how you make your livelihood. There’s a certain level of professionalism.”
Pasco real estate broker Greg Armstrong is all for the new legislation. “We probably don’t go two weeks without it happening to somebody,” Armstrong said.
He said he sees a steady stream of sellers who come to his Coldwell Banker office wanting to hide their big sinkhole payouts. “The chance for financial reward is so great because we’re talking tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars that people are willing to roll that dice on the chance that they might get away with it,” Armstrong said.
Simpson is working on the wording of the legislation, which he will propose during the next session.That legislative session begins in January.