If the former owner of our home paid the property taxes without our consent and without a contract stating we’d pay him back, do we owe him?

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If the former owner of our home paid the property taxes without our consent and without a contract stating we’d pay him back, do we owe him?

A little over 3 years ago my wife and I purchased a house with 4 acres. At closing, it was agreed that my we would be responsible for paying the property tax. However, the bill for the taxes never came. The seller, despite the terms of our agreement, had paid the taxes in full. This breached the conditions of our original agreement. He never called about why he had paid, he never bothered to send us an official copy of the property tax bill and, most importantly, he never bothered to obtain a signed contract or agreement from us stating that we were to pay him back. The seller is now suing us for the amount of $1,190.27. However, even that amount has changed periodically from $1,006.97 and $1,190.27. Our records show that the $1190.27 amount is for the house and 20 acres, yet we only own the house and 4 acres. If he never intended the paid taxes to be a gift then he should have had us sign a new agreement stating that so it would be legally binding. Consequently we believe we are not legally obligated to do so.

Asked on September 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

So you purchased a parcel - a portion of the 20 - and from what I can gather he never had the portion reassessed for its own tax bill, correct?  Although I agree that the general rule is that agreements involving real property must be in writing to be valid, I would also have to assume that a real property owner has an obligation to pay the taxes on the property that they own.  So I think that you had an underlying obligation that came after he should have changed the tax bill to your name.  Once you purchased the property the bill was your obligation.  Yes, it appears that he paid it on your behalf and you may get out of it on a technicality as we say.  But I still believe that it is your obligation.


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