You and your significant other purchased and jointly titled an investment home together. The investment home is a big commitment, but the love is strong…for a time. Thereafter, the partnership fails and you move-out. The decoupling is amicable and your ex agrees to make all future mortgage payments. Subsequently, you purchase a new homestead property. Next comes marriage and then a welcome addition to your family. However, you need a bigger home so the homestead is listed and within a day the property is under contract for the listing price! Shortly afterwards, the title agent informs you there is a code enforcement lien on the homestead property for $10,000.00 due to an unpermitted, second-story hot-tub time machine built on your old ranch investment home and the buyer is giving notice for you to cure the title defect!
Florida law states co-owners of real property are equally responsible for the maintenance and care of the premises. This duty of care goes beyond taxes, mortgage payments, and upkeep, but also applies to any applicable local government codes pursuant to Fla. Stat. 162.09. A real property in violation of any local government codes can be subject to a local government board legal proceeding that seeks to bring the property up-to-code and impose fines. To begin the legal process, Florida requires notice be given to a property owner. Generally, notice is sent via certified mail to the mailing address listed in the tax collector’s office for tax notices or to the address listed in the county property appraiser’s office.
Consequently, there is a real risk that one co-owner may receive “legal notice” of the property code violation but have no real knowledge whatsoever because the other co-owner failed to communicate receipt of the notice! Additionally, an order imposing a fine shall not exceed $250 per day for a first violation and shall not exceed $500 per day for a repeat violation, unless said violations are irreparable or irreversible in nature. Irreparable or irreversible violations may result in a fine not to exceed $5,000 per violation. These fines apply to all listed title holders of the property and when a certified order imposing a fine is recorded in the public records it constitutes a lien against the property against any real property or personal property of the violator in said county.
Local government codes and regulations differ from county to county. The same with municipalities. Complicating matters further is that each county and municipality possess their own set of standards for remedy and relief. A title and municipal lien search is an inexpensive means to avoid future legal expenses and heartache. Additionally, if you are a property co-owner and move-out, but remain on title, it may be wise to provide your mailing address to the tax collector’s office or county property appraiser’s office to avoid the Ex’s and Oh’s surprise. And as always, should you have any questions regarding the foregoing, please consult with your real estate attorney.
Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC
Article Authored by Michael E. Schuchat, Esq. firstname.lastname@example.org
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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