Glossary of Legal Terms – F





This glossary should not be relied upon as legal advice. It is provided for general informational purposes only. To properly advise on any given situation requires a knowledge of the facts surrounding that situation. Laws and the statutory definitions of terms will vary from state to state. Specific questions should be directed to an attorney licensed in your state.

Facade:   The part of a building facing the street or a courtyard.

Fact Question: Issues in a trial or hearing concerning facts and how they occurred, as opposed to questions of law. Fact questions are for the jury to decide, unless the issues are presented in a non-jury or bench trial, in which case the judge would decide fact questions. Questions of law are decided by a judge. Findings of fact are generally non-appealable, while rulings on questions of law are subject to appeal.

Factor: One entrusted with the possession of goods to be sold in the factor’s name. A factor is one who is in the business of receiving goods from a principal and selling them for a commission.

Failure to diagnose: A form of medical malpractice committed on behalf of a medical doctor.

Fair Credit Billing Act:   A federal law that governs credit and charge card billing errors. If a credit or charge card company violates any provision, consumers can sue to recover damages.

Fair Credit Reporting Act:   A federal law passed in 1971 that regulates the activity of credit bureaus. It is designed to prevent inaccurate or obsolete information from staying in a consumer’s credit file and requires credit bureaus to have reasonable procedures for gathering, maintaining and disseminating credit information. The act also requires credit bureaus to show a consumer their credit file if the consumer presents proper identification, although the bureau reserves the right to charge a fee for doing so.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:   A federal law passed in 1977 which outlaws debtor harassment and other types of collection practices. The act regulates collection agencies, original creditors who set up a separate office to collect debts, and lawyers hired by the creditor to help collect overdue bills. An original creditor–the company or individual that originally granted the credit–is not covered by the act, but may be covered by similar measures approved by state governments.

Fair Housing Act:   Landmark federal law passed in 1965 and amended in 1988 that makes it illegal to deny rent or refuse to sell to anyone based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The 1988 amendment expanded the protections to include family status and disability.

Family Allowance: A small amount of money set aside from the estate of the deceased. Its purpose is to provide for the surviving family members during the administration of the estate.

Family Practitioner: A physician who has a general health care practice and no specialization.

Fannie Mae:   The official name of the Federal National Mortgage Association, it is a congressionally chartered, shareholder-owned company that buys mortgages from lenders and resells them as securities on the secondary mortgage market.

Farmer’s Home Administration:   A U.S. Department of Agriculture agency that provides credit to farmers and rural residents.

Fascia:   A board that connects the ends of the roof rafters and provides a surface to support gutters.

Fault: Negligence; misconduct; deviation from standard of care.

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation law:   The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as Freddie Mac. The company buys mortgages from lending institutions, pools them with other loans and then sells shares to investors.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) :   This government agency operates a variety of home-loan programs. Its most popular is the Sec. 203(b), program, which provides low-rate mortgages to buyers who make a down payment as small as 3 percent.

Federal National Mortgage Association:   Now officially dubbed Fannie Mae, this federally chartered agency buys mortgages from lending institutions, pools them with other loans and sells shares to investors.

Federal Reserve Board:   A group of economists and other experts who set the nation’s monetary policy. Its chief tool to control inflation is the power to control interest rates.

Federal style:   The all-American home architecture style that evolved after the Revolutionary War. Details include bigger windows and a front doorway surrounded by glass and topped with an arched window.

Federal Trade Commission:   The government agency responsible for regulating a variety of companies and industries, from credit bureaus and collection agencies to timeshare operators and certain types of creditors. National headquarters: Sixth andPennsylvania Avenue NW,Washington,D.C.20580. Phone: (202) 326-2222.

Fee simple defeasible:   The owner of the property holds a fee simple title contingent upon certain conditions.

Fee simple:   This type of ownership is the maximum interest a person can have in a piece of real estate. It entitles the owner to use the property in any manner they see fit, in accordance with state and local laws.

Felony: Crimes of a graver or more serious nature than misdemeanors.

Feng shui:   An ancient Chinese belief that the physical characteristics of a house and the positioning of the home will affect the fortunes of the owner.

Fen-Phen: Short for fenfluramine phentermine, a drug combination used for weight loss purposes. Fen-Phen has been linked to heart valve disease in numerous cases, prompting the FDA to request that manufacturers recall the drug.

FHA loans:   Mortgages that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA’s 203(b) loan program provides low-rate mortgages to buyers who make a down payment as small as 3 percent. The agency also operates loan plans for investors and purchasers of rural property.

Fiduciary duty:   The relationship of trust that buyers and sellers expect from a real estate agent. The term also applies to legal and business relationships.

Fiduciary Relationship: The relationship between parties where trust or confidence is reposed by one and accepted by the other; a confidential relationship whereby one trusts in and relies on another, e.g., parent and child, guardian and ward, husband and wife, physician and patient, attorney and client.

Fiduciary: A person in a position of confidence who has the duty to act responsibly with respect to another’s money or property; a trustee; one acting in a fiduciary capacity or relationship.

Field changes:   Modifications made on the construction site that do not match blueprints.

File: To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court/court administrator to enter into the files or records of a case.

Fill dirt:   Soil brought in to solidify a finished foundation.

Filled land:   An area where the ground has been raised by adding dirt, gravel or other fill material.

Final discharge: Extinguishing the debtor’s personal liability on certain debts, through the granting of a permanent injunction protecting the debtor from efforts to collect such debts as a personal liability.

Final Judgment: The written ruling on a lawsuit by the judge who presided at trial. This completes the case unless it is appealed to a higher court. Also called a final decree or final decision.

Final Receipt: In a workers’ compensation case, it’s the form presented by the insurance carrier for the injured employee’s signature so that benefits will stop upon return to work.

Finder’s fee:   A fee in any amount that is paid to someone.

Finding: Formal conclusion by a judge or regulatory agency on issues of fact. Also, a conclusion by a jury regarding a fact.

Finish grade:   A finish that prepares a lot for landscaping.

Fire wall:   A buffer composed of fire-resistant material.

Firm commitment:   A promise made by a lender when it agrees to loan money for the purchase of property.

First Amendment: A guarantee of freedom of speech, assembly, press, petition, and free exercise of religion contained in the Bill of Rights.

First Appearance: The initial appearance of an arrested person before a judge to determine whether or not there is probable cause for his or her arrest. Generally the person comes before a judge within hours of the arrest. Also called initial appearance.

First mortgage:   The primary mortgage on a property that has priority over all other voluntary liens.

First Party Benefits: In insurance law, first party benefits include medical benefits, income loss benefits, accidental death benefit, funeral benefit, and extraordinary medical benefits.

Fixed installment:   The monthly payment on a home loan.

Fixed time:   The specific weeks in a year an owner of a timeshare arrangement has access to accommodations.

Fixed-rate mortgage:   A home loan with an interest rate that will remain at a specific rate for the term of the loan. About 75 percent of all home mortgages have fixed rates.

Fixer-upper:   A house that needs refurbishment or remodeling It usually sells at a below-market price.

Fixture:   Personal property permanently attached to a house, such as drapery rods, toilets, built-in bookcases or a furnace.

Flashing:   Metal strips placed around chimneys, skylights, vents, windows, doors, beneath shingles and along seams in the roof to prevent water seepage.

Flat fee:   A set fee charged by a broker instead of a commission.

Flat roof:   A roof with a level surface.

Float floor drain:   A drain that diverts water from the basement to a collection area. Water is then removed with a sump pump.

Floating wall:   Walls built to withstand movement in the basement floor.

Flood insurance:   Hazard coverage that is required in designated flood areas.

Flood plain:   Flat, flood-prone areas located along waterways.

Floor area ratio:   The calculation of the floor area of all homes or buildings in a project. It is used in the planning and development of a site.

Florida rooms:   Enclosed porches built on the side or back of a home.

Footings:   Concrete foundations that support a structure.

For Cause: With sufficient legal justification to perform an act.

For Sale By Owner (FSBO) :   The owner acts as the agent to avoid paying a sales commission.

Forbearance:   A course of action a lender may pursue to delay foreclosure or legal action against a delinquent borrower.

Foreclosure: Foreclosure occurs when a property owner has defaulted on a mortgage or installment agreement the process of a mortgagor or other holder of an encumbrance on the debtor’s property, seizes and sells the property to pay off the debt.

Foreclosure:   The legal process reserved by a lender to terminate the borrower’s interest in a property after a loan has been defaulted. When the process is completed, the lender may sell the property and keep the proceeds to satisfy its mortgage and any legal costs. Any excess proceeds may be used to satisfy other liens or be returned to the borrower.

Forfeiture:   The relinquishing of property rights by a delinquent borrower.

Fornication: Sexual relations between unmarried persons or between persons who are not married to each other.

Foundation:   The support structure of a house.

Foyer:   The entrance hall to a home or building.

Fracture: A break or crack in a bone.

Framing:   The construction of the skeletal framework of a house.

Fraud: Intentional deception resulting in damage to another, whether to his or her person, rights, property or reputation. Fraud usually consists of a misrepresentation, concealment or non-disclosure of a material fact. Can also be misleading conduct, devices or contrivance.

Fraudulent transfer or conveyance: a debtor’s conveyance or transfer of an asset, without adequate consideration, primarily for the purpose of concealing it from his creditors or the bankruptcy estate.

Freddie Mac:   The common name for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, a congressionally chartered institution that buys mortgages from lenders and resells them as securities on the secondary mortgage market.

Free-market lots:   Owners of these types of lots may hire any builder to construct their home.

French doors:   Two adjoining doors inlaid with glass that open from the middle.

Frontage:   The portion of property that borders a roadway or body of water.

Full Tort Option: Purchasers of motor vehicle insurance can choose “full tort,” which gives the insured the unrestricted right to seek money damages for all injuries sustained in an accident caused by another driver, including economic loss, pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages. Compare with limited tort option.

Fully amortized adjustable-rate mortgage:   A mortgage that amortizes, or pays down, the balance of a loan.

Furnace:   An enclosed heating device powered by coal, oil, propane or natural gas.

Fuse:   A device that allows power to be channeled into a home