July 26, 2016   Another notice from the Attorneys handling the latest appeal

Please see comments from Mr. Fleming regarding recent developments with the Portofino tax litigation below.

The Florida Supreme Court issued an order today
DENYING REVIEW of the Island Resorts case! The Order expressly stated that "No motion for rehearing will be entertained by the Court."
This means that Island Resorts is now the "law of the land" for taxation of land at the Beach. Jones has said, however, that he will NOT apply that ruling to condominiums, claiming that under Chapter 718, the land and improvements are inseparable.  That argument was made, and REJECTED, in Portofino v. Jones, and that rejection
by the trial court was affirmed with written opinion on appeal. Thus, we are confident that we will win the challenge of taxation of land for Portofino and Beach Club, and that ruling will be retroactive back to 2011, the first year Jones started taxing the land.
This ruling came sooner that I had anticipated, and -- I believe-- indicates that the Florida Supreme Court had no problem in following the ruling and rationale by the unanimous First DCA panel in Island Resorts. The First DCA, obviously, will follow its own precedent.

DISCLAIMER. The following are only my opinions. It cannot be relied upon as factual. It is based on the most recent results from appeals reported to the public. Some of the verbiage is from other sources.

Over the years, I have tried to keep folks informed and updated on the on-going legal battle between the Leaseholders on Pensacola Beach and the Escambia County Property Appraiser. After the Supreme Court of Florida ruled against the Leaseholders most thought it was the end of discussion. Now there has been yet another twist in this matter. A three-judge panel unanimously ruled for Leaseholders in that ‘true leases’ with a finite duration of less than 100 years are not taxable.

Ed Fleming who is the top dog in this hunt has spoken to several groups to address these issues. I attended one of those meetings last evening and will attempt to give in layman’s terms highlights that I feel will have the most interest for beach residents.

I have had many email requests asking for my take on the new issue and how it will effect a leaseholder. Below are MY answers and opinions to these FAQ.

Will I be reimbursed for past taxes paid and penalties? No. IF these new suits are finalized it will only go forward.
In winning this appeal will it be for all condos? The appeal won was only for the yet to be built final phases of building 6-7 at Portofino, named as Island Resorts.
Why is Portofino going to get some ‘refunds’?  In a separate suit that was successfully challenged, the Property Appraiser was found to be overtaxing improvements to Portofino as much as four times actual value from 2004-2010.
Are there outstanding or pending issues? Yes. Beach Club and Portofino.  Because of the opinion in Island Resorts it is likely that the pending litigation will prevail.
Will the Property Appraiser appeal? Probably, but having another appellate court overturn a three judge panel is said to be difficult at best, and the Florida Supreme Court would probably not hear another appeal.
 How will this affect other condos on the beach? This is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Because of the ruling there will certainly be far reaching ramification.
What now? Condos are being contacted by the law firm to review their lease and if choosing to participate would be one rather than multiple suits.
Is my condo ‘signed up’?  It is early in the game, but you would need to contact your HOA.
How much will it cost me? Last time I checked lawyers don’t work for free, so that will be determined.
Are all leases the same in beach condos? No. That is why the law firm is reviewing each lease.
If the leaseholders prevail, will we revert back to when there was no property tax on the beach?  No. This is the bottom line as I see it. IF the leaseholders prevail then there will be no tax on the land, because it is a true lease. However, there will be tax on improvements.
How will it be divided? Because of the higher than usual value of land on the beach it is a general rule that land/improvements are typically split 50/50.
So will my tax bill would be cut in half? Perhaps, if all goes well, that would be the general idea.
Will my lease fee be affected? No answer
Are single family homes involved in this suit? It is my understanding that this lawsuit requires that each entity would require a separate suit. With hundreds of homes on the beach this would be a large task. I do not have a true answer for this.
Is there a ‘time frame’? Not that I am aware of.

The information is deemed reliable, but cannot be warranted or guaranteed.

Anytime you have need for a Realtor for buying or selling property on the beach or in this area, please give us a call. We welcome your comments.


Rick & Jodie Howes