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The Florida Statutes

The 2017 Florida Statutes

Title XXIII
MOTOR VEHICLES
Chapter 320
MOTOR VEHICLE LICENSES
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F.S. 320.643
320.643 Transfer, assignment, or sale of franchise agreements.
(1)(a) Notwithstanding the terms of any franchise agreement, a licensee shall not, by contract or otherwise, fail or refuse to give effect to, prevent, prohibit, or penalize or attempt to refuse to give effect to, prohibit, or penalize any motor vehicle dealer from selling, assigning, transferring, alienating, or otherwise disposing of its franchise agreement to any other person or persons, including a corporation established or existing for the purpose of owning or holding a franchise agreement, unless the licensee proves at a hearing pursuant to a complaint filed by a motor vehicle dealer under this section that the sale, transfer, alienation, or other disposition is to a person who is not, or whose controlling executive management is not, of good moral character or does not meet the written, reasonable, and uniformly applied standards or qualifications of the licensee relating to financial qualifications of the transferee and business experience of the transferee or the transferee’s executive management. A motor vehicle dealer who desires to sell, assign, transfer, alienate, or otherwise dispose of a franchise shall notify, or cause the proposed transferee to notify, the licensee, in writing, setting forth the prospective transferee’s name, address, financial qualifications, and business experience during the previous 5 years. A licensee who receives such notice may, within 60 days following such receipt, notify the motor vehicle dealer, in writing, that the proposed transferee is not a person qualified to be a transferee under this section and setting forth the material reasons for such rejection. Failure of the licensee to notify the motor vehicle dealer within the 60-day period of such rejection shall be deemed an approval of the transfer. No such transfer, assignment, or sale shall be valid unless the transferee agrees in writing to comply with all requirements of the franchise then in effect, but with the ownership changed to the transferee.
(b) A motor vehicle dealer whose proposed sale is rejected may, within 60 days following such receipt of such rejection, file with the department a complaint for a determination that the proposed transferee has been rejected in violation of this section. The licensee has the burden of proof with respect to all issues raised by the complaint. The department shall determine, and enter an order providing, that the proposed transferee is either qualified or is not and cannot be qualified for specified reasons, or the order may provide the conditions under which a proposed transferee would be qualified. If the licensee fails to file such a response to the motor vehicle dealer’s complaint within 30 days after receipt of the complaint, unless the parties agree in writing to an extension, or if the department, after a hearing, renders a decision other than one disqualifying the proposed transferee, the franchise agreement between the motor vehicle dealer and the licensee is deemed amended to incorporate such transfer or amended in accordance with the determination and order rendered, effective upon compliance by the proposed transferee with any conditions set forth in the determination or order.
(2)(a) Notwithstanding the terms of any franchise agreement, a licensee shall not, by contract or otherwise, fail or refuse to give effect to, prevent, prohibit, or penalize, or attempt to refuse to give effect to, prevent, prohibit, or penalize, any motor vehicle dealer or any proprietor, partner, stockholder, owner, or other person who holds or otherwise owns an interest therein from selling, assigning, transferring, alienating, or otherwise disposing of, in whole or in part, the equity interest of any of them in such motor vehicle dealer to any other person or persons, including a corporation established or existing for the purpose of owning or holding the stock or ownership interests of other entities, unless the licensee proves at a hearing pursuant to a complaint filed by a motor vehicle dealer under this section that the sale, transfer, alienation, or other disposition is to a person who is not, or whose controlling executive management is not, of good moral character. A motor vehicle dealer, or any proprietor, partner, stockholder, owner, or other person who holds or otherwise owns an interest in the motor vehicle dealer, who desires to sell, assign, transfer, alienate, or otherwise dispose of any interest in such motor vehicle dealer shall notify, or cause the proposed transferee to so notify, the licensee, in writing, of the identity and address of the proposed transferee. A licensee who receives such notice may, within 60 days following such receipt, notify the motor vehicle dealer in writing that the proposed transferee is not a person qualified to be a transferee under this section and setting forth the material reasons for such rejection. Failure of the licensee to notify the motor vehicle dealer within the 60-day period of such rejection shall be deemed an approval of the transfer. Any person whose proposed sale of stock is rejected may file within 60 days of receipt of such rejection a complaint with the department alleging that the rejection was in violation of the law or the franchise agreement. The licensee has the burden of proof with respect to all issues raised by such complaint. The department shall determine, and enter an order providing, that the proposed transferee either is qualified or is not and cannot be qualified for specified reasons; or the order may provide the conditions under which a proposed transferee would be qualified. If the licensee fails to file a response to the motor vehicle dealer’s complaint within 30 days of receipt of the complaint, unless the parties agree in writing to an extension, or if the department, after a hearing, renders a decision on the complaint other than one disqualifying the proposed transferee, the transfer shall be deemed approved in accordance with the determination and order rendered, effective upon compliance by the proposed transferee with any conditions set forth in the determination or order.
(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a licensee may not reject a proposed transfer of a legal, equitable, or beneficial interest in a motor vehicle dealer to a trust or other entity, or to any beneficiary thereof, which is established by an owner of any interest in a motor vehicle dealer for purposes of estate planning, if the controlling person of the trust or entity, or the beneficiary, is of good moral character.
(3) A licensee may not condition any proposed transfer under this section upon a relocation of a dealer, construction of any addition or modification to, or any refurbishing or remodeling of any dealership structure, facility, or building of the existing motor vehicle dealer, or upon any modification of the existing franchise agreement, except for the change of ownership.
(4) During the pendency of any such hearing, the franchise agreement of the motor vehicle dealer shall continue in effect in accordance with its terms. The department shall expedite any determination requested under this section.
(5) Notwithstanding the terms of any franchise agreement, the acceptance by the licensee of the proposed transferee shall not be unreasonably withheld. For the purposes of this section, the refusal by the licensee to accept, in a timely manner, a proposed transferee who satisfies the criteria set forth in subsection (1) or subsection (2) is presumed to be unreasonable.
(6) It shall be a violation of this section for the licensee to reject or withhold approval of a proposed transfer unless the licensee can prove in any court of competent jurisdiction in defense of any claim brought pursuant to s. 320.697 that, in fact, the rejection or withholding of approval of the proposed transfer was not in violation of or precluded by this section and was reasonable. The determination of whether such rejection or withholding was not in violation of or precluded by this section and was reasonable shall be based on an objective standard. Alleging the permitted statutory grounds by the licensee in the written rejection of the proposed transfer shall not protect the licensee from liability for violating this section.
History.s. 7, ch. 80-217; s. 2, ch. 81-318; s. 8, ch. 84-69; ss. 13, 20, 21, ch. 88-395; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 374, ch. 95-148; s. 23, ch. 2001-196; s. 4, ch. 2003-269; s. 3, ch. 2009-93; s. 3, ch. 2017-187.