Miami, Florida – In a bold move to strengthen state security and regulate foreign influence, Florida has enacted a law requiring citizens of certain countries to register their real estate holdings with the Florida Department of Commerce. This significant legislation, primarily targeting nations considered “countries of concern,” has sparked a mix of support and controversy, reshaping the landscape of property ownership in the state.
The law, which became effective earlier this year, mandates that citizens from Cuba, China, Venezuela, Russia, Syria, North Korea, and Iran register certain real estate properties with the Florida Department of Commerce by the end of January. This includes companies and government entities from these countries. The primary focus is on individuals who do not possess permanent residency or citizenship in the U.S.
Governor Ron DeSantis emphasized the importance of this law, stating, “Protecting Floridians and Florida’s infrastructure from agents like the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign adversaries is important to our state’s security.” He further expressed pride in signing what he called “the strongest legislation in the nation to fight back against foreign malign influence.”
The law is stringent regarding agricultural land, requiring registration even if the concerned citizen or business entity owns only a minority stake. Moreover, the acquisition of agricultural land by individuals from these countries is almost entirely prohibited, with a few exceptions for diplomatic or federally-approved purposes.
Another crucial aspect of this law is the registration requirement for real estate owned by a “foreign principal” from one of the listed countries, especially if the property is within 10 miles of any military installation or critical infrastructure in Florida. In a densely populated area like South Florida, this stipulation encompasses a vast majority of the region.
The most severe restrictions are imposed on Chinese nationals, a move that has led to significant opposition and protests in Miami. Leading real estate groups are pushing back against the law, fearing its impact on the industry and foreign investments, particularly from China. Instances like the halting of major construction projects funded by Chinese capital illustrate the law’s far-reaching implications.
Florida Secretary of Commerce J. Alex Kelly voiced support for the law, acknowledging its importance for national and state economic security. The legislation passed with a strong majority in both the Florida House and Florida Senate, despite opposition from a minority of Democrats.
Property owners who fail to comply with the registration requirement face severe penalties. A fine of $1,000 per day and the potential seizure of properties deemed to be in violation of the law are among the consequences. The law stipulates that properties acquired before July 31 must be registered by December 31, with the final deadline set for January 31, 2024.