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A fiasco is unraveling in Lakewood's Sheraton Estates (Sheraton Drive) neighborhood, a FAA News investigation has revealed.

Typically, playgrounds which are owned by a Homeowners Association are exempt from paying property taxes.

The issue at hand is that due to failure to file for a tax exemption when the developer transferred title of the playground to the HOA, the playground is still being assessed taxes. Additionally, the 2022 taxes have not been paid.

Due to the 2022 property taxes remaining unpaid, Township officials have recently sold the tax lien at an auction.

What this means is that after a certain amount of time has passed, the buyer - who now holds the Tax Sale Certificate - will be able to pursue a foreclosure against the playground!

The developers of Sheraton Estates are Yanky (Jacob) Lipschitz and Pinchos Wolhendler.

Back on September 12, 2016, the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a Subdivision of 10 lots on Sheraton Drive. This Subdivision included Block 782 Lot 36.29 which was to be for open space.

The developers filed their subdivision map with the Ocean County Clerk's Office on January 29, 2021. The map indicates that lot 36.29 can only be used for park purposes, and that this covenant will be filed as a deed restriction.

Subsequently, on May 3, 2021, the developers, now known as Sheraton Estates LLC, filed this deed restriction, along with the creation of the Sheraton Estates Playground HOA, with the Ocean County Clerk's Office.

These documents state that "the developer may retain the legal title to the common property until he has completed initial improvements thereon... but no later than 10 years from today..."

I.e. While the new HOA was created already on that date, the developers retain ownership of the playground lot until it's actually constructed, and at that point they will transfer the title to the HOA.

Importantly, the documents don't mention who will pay the property taxes until the property becomes tax exempt (which is when it is transferred to the HOA).

Perhaps more importantly, while this new HOA's Board of Directors did consist of a couple of the new homeowners, the registered agent is Pinchos Wolhendler, and the mailing address is his address.

The very next week, Sheraton Estates transferred the title of the playground lot to the HOA.

The title transfer papers - which are signed by Mr. Wolhendler as Managing Member of Sheraton Estates - promises that the seller did not encumber the property.

This is quite odd, as just days earlier, Mr. Wolhendler as Managing Member of Sheraton Estates, filed the deed restriction that the property is to be used only as a playground!

More oddly, on December 5, 2022, Yanky Lipshitz filed yet another deed transferring title of the property to the HOA.

Astoundingly, this deed also promises that the seller did not encumber the property!

So... we have two transfers of the property, one in May 2021 and one in December 2022. Luckily both transfers went to the same buyer, otherwise we'd be in some real trouble.

As the title transfer was done via quitclaim, neither of these title transfers indicate whether the seller paid the property taxes due prior to the title transfer.

While the title was transferred to the HOA, no application was filed for a tax exemption which would ensure that property taxes are no longer assessed.

Accordingly, Township officials did assess property taxes in 2022, 2023, and even 2024!

These tax bills were mailed to the Sheraton Estates Playground HOA - which is still registered at Mr. Wolhendler's address...

After the 2022 taxes remained unpaid for an entire year, Township officials recently sold a municipal tax lien on the property. This lien was just now filed in the Ocean County Clerk's Office.

The buyer is Baltimore, MD based.

This sale permits the buyer to pursue a foreclosure against the playground!

Typically, Tax Sale Certificates - which is what the Township gives buyers of tax lien sales - indicates when there is an open space deed restriction on the property. However, in this case, there is no such indication on the Tax Sale Certificate. This is likely because both Mr. Wolhendler and Mr. Lipshitz's title transfers included promises that they didn't place any encumbrances on the property...

Quizzically, while the homeowners may now lose their playground, their HOA creation filing still requires them to pay HOA fees in perpetuity...

This is not the first time that tax sale fiascos of common open space have occurred in Lakewood. Going back a number of years, Westgate, Red Oaks, and Horizons neighborhoods each have their own story...

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1 comment:

Common sense said...

Chelem on steroids. This town operates so crazily, however miraculously it benefits developers and sticks it to the regular folks that live here.

Time to throw out the old system, and bring in locally elected council members. This is the only way the swamp doesn't continue its shenanigans & further destroy the town. #Weneedchange