Whether you are buying a boat for the first time, or simply have not been boat shopping in ages, it is important to understand the technicalities of purchasing a boat. Over the next several weeks, we will discuss a few issues to consider, including insurance, registration and documentation, surveys and contract terms. Today, we will begin the series discussing options to obtaining title to a new boat or vessel.

How to Obtain Title to a New Boat

All vessels on Florida waters, unless expressly exempted, are required to have a Florida vessel title issued by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. A purchaser of a new or used vessel has 30 days to title and register that vessel. During this 30 day period, the owner must have proof of the date of purchase aboard the vessel. Operating an unregistered vessel after 30 days is a second-degree misdemeanor. The requirement applies to stored vessels as well as those being operated.

Even if you plan to tie your vessel to a dock and never use it, the requirement still applies. However, there are exemptions. For example, vessels used exclusively on private lakes and ponds, non-motor powered vessels under 16 feet in length and federally documented vessels are exempt from the state title requirement.

Maritime Liens

The passage of vessel title works just like auto titles in Florida. When purchasing a vessel, there are many issues that a purchaser should be aware of regarding the title. Specifically, that a purchaser of a vessel takes that vessel with all maritime liens and encumbrances whether known or unknown. A lien is a cloud on title and may restrict the free transferability of a recreational vessel. An encumbrance, on the other hand, generally refers to mortgages or security interests created by written agreements.

Before purchasing a vessel, the prospective purchaser should obtain an Abstract of Title from the U.S. Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center. The Abstract of Title should identify any mortgages or claims of lien recorded with the Coast Guard. However, because some liens are secret, the Abstract of Title may not accurately represent all existing liens on the vessel. A purchaser should require, and almost all boat transactions include, a representation from the seller that the vessel is free and clear of all liens and encumbrances.

Unfortunately, sometimes there is no way to assure the purchaser that the vessel is being purchased lien free. Unlike real property, there are no title insurance companies nor are there mandatory requirements for recording maritime liens. Therefore, the only means by which a purchaser is assured of a lien free vessel is by the representation of the seller that the vessel is free and clear of all known liens and encumbrances. A purchaser should, to the extent possible, check with those who may have performed work or provided services to the vessel or with whom the vessel’s owner was dealing in the months preceding the sale. Additionally, the purchaser should demand written assurance that the seller will indemnify the buyer against all claims that may be brought against the purchaser for liens that attached prior to the sale.

Title Concerns When Purchasing a Boat with a Second Party

If you are married, or purchasing the vessel with friends or for a business, questions may arise about whose name should be on the title. Holding title to a vessel or personal watercraft in joint name with your spouse is not recommended. By doing this you open up all assets you hold in joint name to attack in the event of a lawsuit.
If you title the vessel in your name alone, you have exposed assets that only you own to a lawsuit. Because Florida has such strong asset protection laws for LLCs, ownership by a limited liability company (LLC) or a full corporation, is often advised over private ownership because ownership by an LLC protects, if not insulates, against liability.

Please feel free to contact me for additional information about purchasing a boat at amanda.ross@henlaw.com or by phone at 239.344.1249.

Rosen Hotels and Resorts, Inc. (“Rosen”) operates a number of hotel properties in the Orlando area. Rosen’s subsidiary company, Rosen Millennium, Inc. (“Millennium”) provides IT support to Rosen, including data security.

In early 2016, Rosen learned of a possible data breach involving customer credit card data. A forensic investigation located malware on the company’s payment network, which indicated a third-party had hacked into the system and determined that customer credit cards used between September 2014 and February 2016 may have been compromised. In March 2016, Rosen notified potentially impacted customers of the data breach.

Duty to Defend

Continue Reading Federal Court Clears Travelers of Liability in Hotel Data Breach Lawsuit

Join members of Henderson Franklin and Kena Yoke Consulting on October 31, 2018, at the Hilton Naples as they present “Play YOUR Game: Creating and Running a Championship Business.” Click here to download the seminar brochure.

Topics and Speakers

Continue Reading Registration is Open – Play YOUR Game: Creating and Running a Championship Business Seminar

Sales taxes have always been major revenue sources to the states, including Florida which has a state-wide 6% sales tax. However, for years, consumers have turned to the Internet to make purchases in part to be able to avoid this because most Internet sales transactions were not subject to any state or local sales tax. This changed on June 21, 2018 when the United States Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair overturning earlier decisions and paving the way for states to collect sales taxes from online retailers for sales of goods to in-state residents.

Previously, a state could not require an out-of-state or online retailer to collect sales taxes from its customers if that retailer did not have an actual, physical presence within the state. Over the last 20 years or so, Internet commerce and retailing has become a major part of the U.S. economy. Since online retailers without a physical presence in a state were not required to collect sales taxes, this led to trillions of dollars in online sales transactions going basically tax free. This had a direct impact on states’ sales tax revenue.

Impact of Wayfair Decision

In Wayfair, the Supreme Court recognized how the Internet has changed the economy and how consumers shop and also the realities that these changes have wrought to many states’ budget shortfalls. Now, under Wayfair, an online retailer does not need to have any actual physical presence within a state in order to be required to collect sales taxes. It will be up to the individual state to determine whether it wants the online retailer to collect sales tax or not.

On one hand, consumers stand to lose a bit under Wayfair because now Internet purchases can be subject to sales taxes at the point of checkout. In Florida such purchases have been subject to tax all along, since the state technically requires the consumer to report and pay a “use tax” on any items where sales tax was not paid at the time of purchase. However, this regulation has not been vigorously enforced rendering Floridian’s Internet purchases essentially tax free. Going forward, if Florida requires online retailers to collect the sales taxes, those taxes will be added directly to the purchase price in the online shopping cart and paid by the consumer at checkout. This makes goods more expensive to the consumer.

On the other hand, many view this as a benefit to small business because small, local businesses with physical locations often lost sales to online retailers from consumers seeking to avoid sales tax. Post Wayfair, if the online retailer is required to collect sales tax at checkout, the playing field becomes a bit more level by making online purchases potentially little less attractive and bringing consumers back to local businesses, where at least they may not have to pay shipping costs as well.

Similarly, under Wayfair, states stand to benefit because they will be able to capture a tax revenue stream more efficiently than leaving it up to the consumer to voluntarily report and pay via use tax. This new revenue can help significantly to narrow budget gaps in some states.

Bottom Line

Regardless how one looks at the costs or benefits of Wayfair, the decision does significantly alter the current sales tax environment. While it may be some time yet before we see how Florida—or any other state—will react and how it will implement any new sales tax scheme, the landscape is certainly going to change. Henderson, Franklin will continue to monitor how things may change and our attorneys are available to discuss how these changes might impact your business.

On June 21, 1788 the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It contains a clause in Article I, Section 8 providing that Congress shall have the power to

promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

This led to the Patent Act of 1790, signed into law by George Washington in April of that year. Since the founding, patent protection has been afforded to “new and useful” processes, machines, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter, ornamental designs and even plant strains. Patent protection provides inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing an invention throughout the United States without the inventor’s consent.

Continue Reading Ten Million Patents – What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Just in time for the start of the 2018 hurricane season, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has launched a new website, FloridaDisaster.biz, to help Florida businesses prepare for and recover from hurricanes and other disasters.

In a recent press release published by Florida Trend Magazine, Governor Rick Scott said:

Floridians understand the importance of being prepared for disasters, especially during hurricane season. This new website will help businesses make safe and informed decisions for themselves, their employees and their customers. Every Florida business can visit FloridaDisaster.biz, make a disaster plan and stay updated as we move further into hurricane season.”

The website focuses on three main areas: Continue Reading State Launches FloridaDisaster.Biz to Help Florida Businesses

5Pointz

The building once known as 5Pointz was a block-long warehouse structure in Queens, NY. During the ‘90s, the area was rundown and crime-riddled. As a way to discourage vandalism to the building, the owner allowed graffiti artists to paint on the walls, giving them a canvas to display their works. Ultimately, the 5Pointz building became well known among graffiti artists and tourists and artists traveling from all around the world to add their art to the structure. For almost 20 years the developer and the artists existed this way. However, wanting to take advantage of rising real estate prices, in 2010 the owner of the building decided to redevelop it as a residential complex. The owner ultimately obtained permits to demolish the buildings and redevelop the parcel.

The Litigation

Continue Reading Landowners and Artists: Be Careful Before You Remove Street Art

Congratulations! You were awarded a judgment against the defendant in your lawsuit, all appeals are exhausted, and the judgment is now final. In theory, once the judgment is final, the defendant pays the judgment and the matter is resolved. This, however, rarely happens and additional steps are needed in order to obtain the monies owed.

Bank Garnishment in Florida

One way to collect the judgment is through garnishing the debtor’s bank account by the issuance and service of a “Writ of Garnishment.” The Writ allows a bank to freeze the debtor’s assets in its control and creates a lien upon the debt or property garnished at the time of service of the Writ. Below are the steps needed to take under Florida Statutes:

  • Provide the location and name of the debtor’s bank;
  • File a Motion for Garnishment and Writ of Garnishment Order with the Clerk of Court; and,
  • Once the Order is issued, serve the Writ of Garnishment on the debtor’s bank (the “garnishee”) by a process server.

The garnishee must then file an answer within twenty (20) calendar days of being served, stating what sum and what tangible or intangible personal property of the debtor it has or had in its possession or control at the time of filing the answer. Failure to file an answer may entitle the creditor to judgment against the garnishee.

Notice to Judgment Debtor

Continue Reading How Can I Collect a Judgment?

Guest post by: Richard Akin, Esquire

Whether you are a realtor, a contractor, a health care professional or a licensed professional of any kind, maintaining your professional license is vital to your livelihood. While each type of license has different requirements for initial licensure and continuing education, certain types of conduct will inevitably subject your license to discipline no matter your professional field.

You likely know the big/obvious violations to avoid, but often times it’s the smaller violations that can cause problems for the average professional. Continue Reading Five Ways to Endanger Your Professional License

As the laws change, we strive to share how they will affect our clients and readers of this blog. Thus, we are pleased to share the following guest post by Florida Bar Board Certified Wills, Trust and Estate Planning Attorney Eric Gurgold.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act does not repeal the Federal estate tax. Instead, the Act doubles the amount of wealth that is exempt from the estate tax. In 2018, the new estate tax exemption will be $11,200,000 per individual. A married couple may be able to shield $22,400,000 from Federal estate taxes. The exemption is indexed to increase each year with inflation. However, the changes to the exemption will sunset and revert to today’s numbers after 2025.

Given the high estate tax exemptions, it is possible that not enough estate taxes will be paid to justify retaining the Federal estate tax; and Congress may repeal it.

Would Repeal of the Estate Tax be Good for Your Bottom Line?

Continue Reading The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Does Not Repeal the Federal Estate Tax!