Guest Commentary: Sellers must disclose pending assessments
Last Monday the residents of Cape Coral who reside in the area which has been labeled as “North 1 West” received a present in their mailboxes. The present was for all intents and purposes a bill for approximately $33,000 for a single-family home on a typically-sized plot of land to be paid no later than Sept. 30, 2023 to avoid any additional costs.* An extension on payment until July 31, 2024 would cost almost $3,000 more for the same single-family home. If the homeowner is not able to pay the bill in full by then, he/she/they would need to choose the 20, 25, or 30 year amortized payment options. These cost approximately $3,700-$4,300 per year, or approximately $300-$350 per month. Looking at the lifetime of the payments, this means the homeowner can expect to pay approximately $86,000-$111,000 over the course of the assessment payments.
The author has been informed that residents of this area were sent a notice sometime in 2021-2022 informing them that these assessments were coming, but not providing any amount. And to be fair, the assessments have not yet been fully passed — there is a City Council Meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on March 22 at the City of Cape Coral Council Chambers to put the matter to a vote. At this meeting the residents of North 1 West will have an opportunity to provide their input on the matter, and ultimately it will be determined whether the assessments will pass at this time. However, if the assessments do pass, there is one particular cohort of North 1 West residents who are likely to be most caught off guard: the new homebuyers.
In Florida, a seller is required to disclose “any facts or conditions they know about that materially affect the value of the property.” If the seller fails to do so, the buyer may have a claim against the seller for failure to disclose. Under certain circumstances the real estate agent who offered the property may also be liable. Thus, it is important for a new homebuyer to review if their Seller’s Disclosure Form disclosed the existence of the pending assessment. If not, the buyer may have a claim against the seller.
If a seller fully disclosed the contemplated assessment to the purchaser of their home, they were well within their rights to sell. The problem, however, is that some sellers neglected to inform buyers that there was an assessment coming to the area and that they had received notice that work would be beginning in North 1 West imminently.
This has left many purchasers holding the bag on a $33,000-plus tax assessment that they were completely unprepared for, or at the very least, had no idea was already scheduled to commence in 2023. Add to that the devastation of Hurricane Ian, and there are now many new homeowners whose dream has turned into a nightmare.
If you received a notice regarding the upcoming assessments for the utilities expansion project (UEP) and have questions or concerns, you should seek counsel as soon as possible to discuss whether the assessment was properly disclosed or not.
* This figure is based on the bill of a single homeowner provided to the authors and is only a representative sample. Bill amounts will vary based upon property size and other characteristics. Numbers have been rounded to the nearest whole figures for ease of demonstration.
–Robson D.C. Powers, Esq. is a Litigation Partner with Burandt, Adamski, Feichthaler & Sanchez, PLLC