Home Addresses and Public Records
For those who have noticed records blinking out in the public government web-sites, the reason is Senate Bill 248, signed into law recently by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and effective July 1, 2019.
It has been true for a long while that the home addresses of many classes of individuals may be, on request of that individual, redacted from documents returned as a result of public records requests. This is quite laudable - certainly not every judge wants every person he or she has incarcerated to know their home address.
To date, for sites like the public County Property Appraiser sites, the implementation has been to remove just the name and home address from the record or else, in a few cases, the whole record. With the new law, and under direction of the Florida Department of Revenue, County Property Appraisers are removing the whole record.
Many industries rely on this data feed to allow them access to property characteristics and price/value information - banks, appraisers, real estate professionals and those in the insurance industry are some. Not having this information makes it much harder to approve insurance or a loan quickly or over the phone, and a missing sale can expose a real estate appraiser to liability for a faulty appraisal. Suppose the house just next door to your subject property, a home almost identical, just sold and you were not aware of it?
More so, it may be more an inconvenience to those whom the law is meant to protect.
The intent of the new law was to prevent an aggrieved individual seeking the parcel number or legal description associated with someone he/she was looking for and thence the home address from other public sources. To block this is also laudable, but the connection can be severed quite simply by removing the protected individual's name from the record. It makes no sense for all the collateral damage to the rest of the data elements.
A record being exempt, as against confidential, means that seomone who requests it can not demand it - the data custodian may withhold it. But the guidance from the Department of Revenue is that the custodian, if a Property Appraiser, shall withhold it. This appears to be a mistaken interpretation of the law, and even it not, a regulatory overreach by the DOR. It is the record custodian, not the DOR who has the discretion under the statute.
Here at MicroDecisions, Inc., we have these records that are exempt but not confidential, and we will continue to provide them to our customers within the closed subscription service we offer, albeit with the name redacted, but not the rest of the record.