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The Villages
Sunday, December 10, 2023

Grandfathering is best answer for homeowners stuck with stone

Miles Zaremski

With interest, although nowhere involved nor my property, I have been tracking the dispute involving homeowners that bought homes unknowingly not in compliance with deed standards, in this case where there should be sod instead of stone that was part of the purchase of the home.

Now that the affected homeowners are seeking injunctive relief, that takes it into my “ballpark.” While not providing any opinion or legal advice upon which anyone reading this post may or should rely (consult your own attorney) and absent a state law or statute on point (I am not licensed in Florida), first consider reviewing the contract for sale with the seller. What language, if any, provides that the seller acknowledges the home is being sold in conformance with all standards, rules and regulations, etc. put forth by governing authority, viz, like an HOA, though we know none exist in The Villages, instead there being CDDs. If there is such language in the contract for sale, then the seller should become a party defendant in any buyer legal action. Then there is the hullabaloo over the real estate agents, certainly representing that arm of The Villages corporate structure.  Without knowing more, I would be hard pressed to say any such real estate agent and the entity for whom she or he works should be responsible parties, unless, of course, there can be shown actual or objectively constructive knowledge that they knew of the deed non-compliance (sod, not stone) prior to the sale and did not advise their buyer client.  As if by analogy, a realtor asks a seller to attest to many items in a contract for sale, relying solely on the seller’s knowledge. If the seller is not forthright in correctly checking off the boxes in any such contract, the realtor in reliance thereon cannot be held responsible.   

My final thought is more pragmatic, since us lawyers are costly for our time and expertise and it takes months to resolve disputes in a court: for any CDD board of supervisors to impose daily fines for non-compliance without a buyer given sufficient time to correct the non-compliance is to deny the buyer due process of law guaranteed constitutionally under state and federal law. What should be done, more on a global scale, is to grandfather in all such affected home buyers without imposing any fines with a one-year grace period to remedy the non-compliance; alternatively, grandfather in all such affected homeowners without more, but that cannot be used as precedent for future sales where there is stone in lieu of sod issue. Moreover, consider resolving the dispute by alternative dispute resolution, i.e., by way of arbitration or mediation, instead of slogging through the court system. Just some food for thought.

Miles Zaremski is a resident of the Village of Dunedin.

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