Florida Public Notices: Search for Public and Legal Notices in FL newspapers

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HB937 FAQ's

Question: What happens if my newspaper doesn’t comply with the new law?
Answer: It is a misdemeanor to not comply with the amounts chargeable section and noncompliant notices may be challenged by third parties seeking to defeat the underlying action.


Question: I don’t know how to upload my notices to www.floridapublicnotices.com. How do I get started?
Answer: Contact Kendra Schubert via email at kschubert@flpress.com.


Question: How do I know if my newspaper qualifies to publish public notices?
Answer: For the vast majority of notices, newspapers must have a current Periodicals Permit as issued by the United States Postal Service. (This was previously known as the Second Class Mailing Permit.)


Question: How can my newspaper get a Periodicals Permit?
Answer: You must comply with the specific requirements of the Postal Service. The basic requirements are: to have been in business for one year; publish at a minimum on a weekly basis; have at least 25% news content and a list of paid subscribers (or requestors).


Question: Can I continue to charge the same rate I have been charging for public notice ads?
Answer: Yes, the same charges apply. The statutes stipulate that newspapers must either a) charge their minimum commercial rate (or lower) or b) follow a formula that is based on a specified per inch rate, but as the rates were set in the 1940s, this formula is not used. The only exception is that notices that are paid for by government and not paid for (or recouped) by private parties shall be charged at no more than 85% of the original cost for a second and subsequent insertion of the same notice. You may not charge additional fees for online publication.


Question: What is the “regular established minimum commercial rate per square inch?”
Answer: This is considered the lowest established rate available. As newspapers use “rate cards” to communicate their rates, the rate charged for public notices should not be higher than the lowest available commercial rate shown on the rate card. The alternative pricing option of 70 cents per inch (40 cents for each subsequent insertion) was determined decades ago, and to our knowledge, is no longer used by any newspaper.


Question: Effective July 1, 2012--If we are already uploading our legal ads to floridapublicnotices.com (including maps), the only change we need to look at is removing our current charge to post the notices online.
Answer: Correct, the law prohibits such additional online charges.


Question: Effective July 1, 2013--We must have a link on our homepage to the legal notices and the notices must appear online the same day they are in print. Can we simply use the available widget from floridapublicnotices.com to allow the public to search the notices or do we also have to actually display them on this page?
Answer: The new law requires that as of July 1, 2012, newspapers must upload legal notices to the statewide site (floridpublicnotices.com). In addition, as you note, the newspaper must by July 1, 2013, begin to post them (display them) on the newspaper’s own website. You can use the FPN search widget (www.floridapublicnotices.com/widget) to fulfill the requirement that you provide a search function on your own website. You cannot use the widget alone as a substitution to displaying the notices on your own website.


Question: Can the required search function be the widget and pull from floridapublicnotices.com or must it be pulling from our site?
Answer: Yes, the search function can be the widget from www.floridapublicnotices.com/widget and pulls from that site.


Question: Do we only have to upload government legal ads and public notices, and then only government legal ads and notices that are not ultimately being paid by another entity?
Answer: You will need to upload all legal advertising and public notices published in your newspaper to FPA’s floridapublicnotices.com site by July 1, 2012.  They must be posted to your newspaper’s website by July 1, 2013.


Question Do we have to upload and post both classified and display legal ads?
Answer: Yes, all legal ads in whatever format—classified, display, or other—must be uploaded to the statewide site and posted to the individual newspaper site.


Question: If a government runs a standard ad, like a help wanted, that doesn't count as a "legal ad" does it?
Answer: Right, government help wanted ads are not traditional legal notices that a government must place in newspapers pursuant to Chapter 50—unless there is a particular requirement that they do so. (Legal notices usually describe some form of official action being taken by the governmental entity itself that affects the public.)


Question: Does the new 85% cap on charges for the second and subsequent legal ad only apply to legal advertising that meet the criteria to be uploaded?
Answer: The 85% cap applies to all multiple government notices (paid by the government and not refunded by private parties) beginning July 1, 2012.  All these multiple notices (as with legal notices in general) must begin to be uploaded (if they are not already being uploaded) to the FPA site by July 1, 2012.


Question: I need help in clarifying the email notification requirement that goes in to effect next year, July 1, 2013.  The document states we must notify anyone that has requested information on new legal notices when they publish and that the registry is to be set up on the legals page.  I am uncertain as to how this needs to be addressed.  Are we required to maintain a database of requests and send them specific legal ad notification each time such a notice publishes?  Do we send the actual legal notice or just a notification of publication?  Is there a time frame in which a request can be purged from the database? Could you elaborate on this point a little more to clear up our confusion?
Answer: The email notification is intended to notify interested parties when a public notice of interest has been published. We currently have such a feature available on our website at floridapublicnotices.com/widget. I would encourage you to review it as this feature meets the intention of the law. The user registers for membership and then they are able to set up search favorites and have an email sent to them each morning.  Of course, you don’t have to use the widget that we provide, you may create one yourself.


Question: The new law allows, as of July 1, 2012, electronic notarization of the publisher’s affidavit as an alternative to the printed affidavit now in use. How is electronic notarization accomplished?
Answer: This cannot be accomplished unless the local clerk of court has the functionality in place to accommodate electronic affidavits. This is only currently completed in a couple of counties.

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