NOTABLE TAX DEED CASE
Sherri K. DeWitt, who has been practicing civil, real estate, and divorce law in Orlando for almost 25 years, argued and prevailed in a case before the Florida Supreme Court that may have far reaching impact on property owners in Florida.
Mrs. DeWitt’s clients, the Rosados, owned a house in Altamonte Springs, Florida that was being used by a disabled relative. Because of a mistake made by the clerk and the tax collector’s office, they lost the house in a tax deed sale despite their diligent efforts. The Rosados no longer lived at the house, so they notified the clerk of court and the tax collector’s office of their change of address via certified, return receipt U.S. Mail. Despite this double notice, the tax rolls were never updated with their correct address, so the clerk never sent notice regarding taxes on the property to the correct address. Because of this error by the county, the Rosados never knew that taxes were due until the investors that purchased the house at a tax deed sale, tried to clear title to the property. Naturally, the Rosados were shocked to find their house had been sold without their knowledge, and turned to Mrs. DeWitt to help them get their house back. Mrs. DeWitt argued that it was unjust and unconstitutional for her client’s house to be sold at auction for taxes without her client’s knowledge when they had made great effort to keep the tax authorities informed of their correct address. Such a sale was unfair to her clients and set the wrong precedent for the protection of property in Florida. At the time of trial, the law in Florida was against her clients. Mrs. DeWitt challenged that law.
Mrs. DeWitt received an en banc decision in favor of her clients from the 5th District Court of Appeals. The matter was then appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. Mrs. DeWitt and her clients believe that justice prevailed when the Florida Supreme Court decided in their favor, and would caution other Florida property owners to be sure to update their address with the tax assessor’s office. Most importantly, property owners must keep proof of mailing the change of address, as the Supreme Court ruling turned on just such proof of mailing.
For more information regarding this case please follow this link to Ms. DeWitt’s website.