D.R. Horton's decision to return mineral rights to any Florida homeowner who asks for them back is good public relations for the nation's largest home builder and a credit to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. But it also provides a narrow window of opportunity for the 2014 Legislature to pass new consumer protections. Long before reaching the closing documents, property sellers should be required to disclose they plan to retain mineral rights to a property they are selling.
D.R. Horton's practice of retaining the underground mineral rights when it builds a new home first came to light locally when the Tampa Bay Times' Drew Harwell reported last month that the company had retained rights on at least 2,500 homes in the Tampa Bay area in the past six years — to the surprise of some of the people who bought the homes.
In response, Bondi's office followed up with the builder. Last week the company told Bondi it will suspend the practice until January 2015 and return rights to Florida buyers who request them and still own their D.R. Horton home. Now lawmakers' job in the session that begins in March is to pass new disclosure requirements to protect future home buyers: Sellers should have to disclose up front when a purchase price doesn't include mineral rights.