Moving to Florida and buying a waterfront condo is the American Dream for plenty of folks (especially those in snow-storm prone areas). Imagine that you finally found the perfect condo- it was a hop, skip and a jump from the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal, had beach access, and would make all your dreams of living in South Florida a reality.
Your closing date is approaching when you receive a nightmare call from your title company/real estate attorney/selling agent- they recently hired a research company to conduct a municipal lien search on the property and the results just came back : there is an outstanding lien in the amount of $519,500.
This was the recent case for a property being sold in Sunny Isles Beach, FL. According to the City:
A Warning Notice of Violation was issued on March 5, 2009 in the amount of $500 per day to wit: violation of 8-1 FBC 1-5.1: Failure of owner or contractor to obtain a permit…A Special Master’s Order found the violator guilty and imposed a lien for continuing penalties effective June 3, 2009…
Total outstanding lien amount for said non-corrected violation is $519,500.
Like most municipalities, the City of Sunny Isles Beach imposes penalties for code violations that go uncorrected. The local ordinances (S.I.B. Code of Ordinances §14-13) and Florida Statutes Chapter 162 provide that these penalties become liens that run with the property, which means that the property can change owners but the new owners would be responsible for the lien amount.
Here, the proposed buyer would have bought the condo and unknowingly, assumed responsibility for the $519,500 lien. Luckily, a municipal lien search was conducted and the proposed buyer was empowered to make a decision how to proceed with the transaction. Make sure a lien search is conducted before you close on a property!! One reputable company that searches the entire state of Florida is Premier Lien Research, LLC.
If you were in this situation, what would you do? Walk away from the transaction? Negotiate with the seller to pay off the lien amount pre-closing? Proceed with the purchase (heck, it’s a waterfront condo!)