Tax Deed Purchasers Acquire Property Free and Clear of Liens for Assessments

Cricket Properties, LLC v. Nassau Pointe at Heritage Isles Homeowners Association, Inc., 2D12-6194 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013):

Cricket sought review of the final judgment in its action to quiet title to real property it acquired by purchase of a tax deed. The final judgment did not quiet title as to any lien Nassau Pointe may have had for unpaid assessments. Nassau Pointe successfully raised the defense to the trial court that Cricket was liable for all unpaid assessments that came due up to the time of transfer of title under §720.3085(2)(b). Cricket argued that the statute was inapplicable and that §197.573(2) applied.

The plain language of §720.3085(2)(b) provides that new parcel owners are jointly and severally liable with prior owners for all unpaid assessments that came due up to the time of transfer of title. The Second District determined the statute’s intent is to impose liability for previously accrued assessments on a new parcel owner who acquires property by transfer of title. Further, the statute omits any mention of the survival of liens and therefore does not safeguard liens for unpaid assessments from being extinguished under §197.573(2) by the issuance of a tax deed. It is well-settled that a tax deed does not represent a transfer of title but constitutes the commencement of a new, original and paramount title. Blume v. Giles, 197 So. 344, 346 (Fla. 1940).

The trial court erred in determining that §720.3085(2)(b) provides that liens for unpaid assessments survive the issuance of a tax deed. §720.3085(2)(b) does not supersede §197.552 and §197.573(2). Under §197.552 and §197.573(2), liens for unpaid homeowners assessments do not survive the issuance of a tax deed and are extinguished. § 720.3085(2)(b) does not save such liens from extinguishment when parcel owners acquire title by tax deed.