Buying a spanking new home or a recently built used home in a housing development? CAUTION! Beware of developer 99 year “resale fees” hidden in the covenants.

The NY Times reported on September 12, 2010 that "re-sale" fees creeping into the fine print development covenants, as reported by Janet Morrissey. See Business Section 9/12/10, front page NY Times.

A WHAT????

A "re-sale fee" is a 1.0% fee that must be paid to the developer for 99 years at any time the home changes hands after the original sale to homeowner #1. They are terms that are now being quietly and sneakily drafted into the Homeowners’ Association covenants and/or sales contracts all over America.

Ms. Morrissey reports that "A growing number of developers and builders have been quietly slipping "re-sale fee" covenants into sales agreements of newly built homes in some subdivisions. In one case detailed by Ms. Morrissey concerning a family of seven (five children) who purchased in Utah, the "re-sale fee" language was ina aseparate 13-page document – called the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions – that wasn’t even included in the closing papers and did not require a signature by the buyers.

Sometimes the "re-sale fee" is labeled in a difficult to understand nomenclature and is then called a "capital recovery fee" or a private transfer fee".

Ms. Morrissey presents the scenario: "Someone selling a home for $500,000, for example, would have to pay the original developer $5,000. If the home sold again two years later for $750,000, the second seller would have to pony up $7,500 to the developer, and so on." Even if a home declines in value, the seller still must pay the 1.0% fee to the original developer, even years and years later.

Ms. Morrissey reports that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHA) is considering a proposal to prohibit the transfer fees on all mortgages financed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks. 17 states have already placed limitations or bans on such "re-sale fees". However, even should such practices be eventually curtailed by a rule or law, the rule/law is unlikely to apply retroactively to older "re-sale fee" terms.

As a lawyer, I would comment wrly how ironic it is that it is often so difficult for homeowner #2 or #3 to sue a builder/developer for shoddy construction and defects in the home, yet that same shoddy contractor/developer may be able to reap rewards for 99 years from each and every homeowner that comes to own and sell the shoddily constructed residence.

See link to NY Times article:

IDEAS FOR ACTION: Whenever you purchase a home: (1) secure a written acknowledgement and written representations from the selling homeowner that there is no such "re-sale fee" tassociated with the residence or condominium. (2) ensure that you closely review the "exceptions page" of the title insurance policy and all of the homeowners’ association covenants to carefully look for such "re-sale fee" language. or documents. I(3) if you are going to be the 3rd, homeowner, ask the 2nd homeowner (from whom you are purchasing) to produce a copy of the settlement statement from the prior transaction between 1st homeonwer and 2nd homeowner which should disclose any such fee paid to a developer. (4) ensure that you obtain a written representation from the seller that you have been provided with a copy of any and all documents which govern and affect your purchase, use, enjoyment, future/ongoing fees to be paid with respect to the parcel and sale of the parcel.

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