Judge's gavel, scales of justice and Florida flag
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Judge rebuffs Chinese homebuyers’ push against Florida law 

The law, which took effect July 1, prohibits “foreign principals” from a number of countries from buying real estate in Florida.

August 18, 2023
3 minutes

Key points:

  • The owner of Multi-Choice Realty, a plaintiff in the case, said the restrictions hurt “immigrants who are trying to build lives in Florida.”
  • U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor said that the plaintiffs did not show a “substantial likelihood” that they will win their case.
  • The plaintiffs plan to appeal.

A new Florida law that restricts citizens or companies from specific countries from buying real estate in the Sunshine State has survived its first major legal challenge. Thursday, a federal judge denied a request by four Chinese citizens and a brokerage to stop the state from enforcing the law that prevents them from purchasing homes or land in Florida, Reuters reported

The ruling came after U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor listened to more than two hours of arguments from the plaintiffs in July, the Tampa Bay Times reported. At the time, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) lawyer Bethany Li told reporters that the law leans on "stereotypes and really tired tropes" that governments use to perpetuate the idea that Asians — in particular, Chinese nationals — are "enemies of the state."

The plaintiffs had asked for a temporary injunction to stop enforcement of the law pending the outcome of the suit. But on Thursday, Winsor said they had not shown a "substantial likelihood" that they will prevail and declined to block the state from enforcing the law.

"This law is hurting immigrants who are trying to build lives in Florida," said Jian Song, owner of Multi-Choice Realty LLC, a plaintiff in the case. "As a Chinese American who has called Orlando my home for over 20 years, I've been extremely worried since this law went into effect."

In addition to the AALDEF, the plaintiffs were also represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Florida, DeHeng Law Offices PC, and the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance (CALDA).

Defendants included Florida's Agriculture Commissioner, Economic Opportunity Secretary, the Real Estate Commission Chair, as well as the State Attorneys for Florida's Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Judicial Circuits. 

The law, Florida Senate Bill 264, was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May and took effect on July 1. It prohibits organizations and "foreign principals" from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria from taking government contracts and owning Florida real estate. Specifically, the law expresses that it limits "Chinese business organizations, and persons domiciled in China, but who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S." from purchasing property.

Judge Winsor said the ban likely does not violate the Constitution or laws banning housing discrimination because that because it is based on citizenship and not race or national origin, Reuters reported.

Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney at ACLU's National Security Project, said "Florida's law legitimizes and expands housing discrimination" and that the plaintiffs will appeal the judge's ruling.

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