In April I sold a home to a lovely client and friend. She immediately got to work in remodeling her new vacation property. This house sits on an odd corner where it kind of touches 4 different streets. Three of those streets are in our countys Special Services District for road maintenance and plowing; etc. It’s close to the lake, surrounded by trees, a very nice spot. This month my friend received her semi-annual property tax bill. The bill had an assessment of $1,900, the first half of a $3,800 road assessment to repave on Special district streets. This was the first she had heard of this large sum and was shocked to say the least.
I called the selling agent, who called the sellers. Neither party claims to have had any knowledge of this assessment. I called the neighborhood organizer of this project. He gave me the phone number for the person at SB County handling it as well as the project name. He says he sent many emails to my friend letting her know how excited he was about the paving project. She says, yes, within 4 days of her closing escrow he came over and asked for her email. She shared his excitement about the maintenance and beautification of the roads. He never mentioned the cost. She never got anything from the county. He did say one interesting thing to me, however. He mentioned he was surprised this home was not exempt because of the placement, he wasn’t sure she would benefit from the project.
The county was able to disclose the mailing info (survey, ballot, results, notices) all went to the sellers mailing address. Seller says they didn’t see anything. I asked the county if this property could be exempt. Initially I was told, “no.” My friend took over with the county and worked with them. The county revisited the property and changed their minds about the exemption. So in the end my friend will be exempt from the $3,800.
My question is, should the seller have been responsible for the non-disclosure if, in fact, someone did have to pay? Are people responsible for reading their mail? The survey went out during the escrow period, the results were sent after we had closed. So, technically it was not a done deal. I think if one has knowledge of a possible fee coming down the pike it should be mentioned. I think my client would have purchased the home anyway. Tax bills should not be a shock. Property taxes are something we check into during our discovery period based on public record. Since this was not yet enforced, there was no way of knowing for the buyer.
In the future, when I sell houses on these small roads, known to be in the Special Services District, I think I’ll give them a call and ask if there are any proposed fees. Just like I have to call the Weed Abatement department to ask if there are any outstanding notices or liens on a property. I learned a new lesson here.
Coincidentally, my partner in the office also sold a vacant lot during the same period on the same street. In her case it is not exempt and was also not disclosed. I have yet to see what will come of that scenario.