Combining Parcels

There are several benefits to combining parcels of land, including 1) the ability to protect more property with a homestead exemption, 2) simplification of the property tax bill payment process, and 3) unlocking future land development possibilities. Property owners looking to combine parcels of land often find that local land use regulations, tax regulations, and lender imposed restrictions, may complicate the parcel combination process. Before attempting to combine parcels, it’s important to consider the following generally applicable rules:

  1. The parcels to be combined must be owned by the same owner prior to filing a parcel combination application.  If the parcels are owned by separate and distinct owners, a transfer of title must take place prior to combining the parcels so that title to both parcels is in the same name. In many jurisdictions, a single owner must own all of the parcels to be combined by January 1st of the current year for the parcel combination to be effective for the current year.
  1. Each parcel must be located in the same jurisdiction. For example, one cannot combine two parcels if one of the parcels is located within city limits, and the other parcel is located outside of city limits. The same is true for parcels located in two separate counties. That being said, if one wishes to combine parcels located in separate jurisdictions, one may be able to do so by annexing one parcel into the other parcel’s jurisdiction.
  1. In most cases, the parcels to be combined must be contiguous to one another.
  1. In order to combine parcels, one must ensure that all real estate taxes currently due, payable, or delinquent, are paid in full.
  1. Parcel combinations must comply with the applicable zoning requirements of the jurisdiction in which the parcels are located. The party looking to combine parcels should have a detailed understanding of the applicable requirements related to minimum lot size, minimum buildable area, yard measurements, road access, utility access, drainage, and other restrictions imposed by the local zoning authority. Every zoning authority imposes unique requirements, so there is no uniform approach to achieving zoning compliance. Even if a parcel combination is legally permissible, the owner(s) may not be able to develop the new parcel as intended because of land use regulations which are beyond the scope of this limited blog topic.
  1. Parcels that are located within a subdivision are frequently subject to restrictions and covenants that may prevent the combination of parcels.
  1. If any of the parcels to be combined are subject to a mortgage, one will need to seek written approval and consent from the mortgage lender to combine the parcels. This approval process is critical, as a failure to seek the mortgage lender’s approval may result in the mortgage lender declaring a non-monetary default and calling your mortgage due.
  1. In Florida there are limitations to the amount of property that can receive homestead protection, especially within a municipal jurisdiction. Up to 1/2 acre (21,780 sq. ft.) can receive homestead protection within city limits, and up to 160 acres can receive homestead protection outside of a municipal jurisdiction.

Before attempting to combine parcels, it would be prudent and recommended to contact a knowledgeable land use attorney who can guide you through the parcel combination process.

Article Authored by Benjamin T. DeMarsh, Esq. bdemarsh@berlinpatten.com

This communication is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship, and to the extent anything contained herein could be construed as legal advice or guidance, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your own attorney before relying upon any information contained herein.

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