Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Builder owes delinquent property taxes in Pasco, Hillsborough

Smith Family Homes, a 10-year-old builder with projects in eight Tampa Bay area communities, owes the tax collectors of Pasco and Hillsborough counties more than $1.2-million in delinquent property taxes.

Those in the building community say Smith is a reputable builder caught in tough times. The company owes at least $856,995 to Pasco and $421,590 to Hillsborough, according to a review of tax records.

In Pasco, Smith is delinquent on 352 properties from the 2007 tax roll, which means Smith didn't pay taxes on them on April 1 this year, said the county's Tax Collector Mike Olson. He also counted 185 Smith properties that have been delinquent since 2006.

The lots are usually less than an acre, at varying stages of development. The delinquencies are spread across Pasco, in prestigious developments like Connerton and Wilderness Lake Preserve in Land O'Lakes, Seven Oaks in Wesley Chapel, Greyhawk at Lake Polo in Odessa, Suncoast Lakes in Shady Hills and the Greens at Hidden Creek in Zephyrhills.

Founded by Ronald Smith in 1998 as Premier Homes of Southwest Florida, the company changed its name to Smith Family Homes in 2004. Smith, the firm's president, didn't reply to a call for comment from the St. Petersburg Times.

Delinquent taxes don't always signal a company is about to go under, but Olson pointed to signs that suggest Smith Family Homes is facing cash flow problems.

When a taxpayer doesn't pay taxes by April each year, the tax collector sells the property's tax certificate by June. The tax certificate is effectively a loan in exchange for a lien on the property. Whoever buys the certificate pays the outstanding tax, but earns interest when the "loan" is repaid by the property owner. The certificate is cancelled if the taxes are paid.

But if the taxpayer is unable to pay the taxes two years after the property goes delinquent, the tax certificate holder can apply for the deed. The property is then auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Here's the problem for Smith: 12 tax deed applications have been filed this year against their 2005 property tax delinquencies, which indicates Smith was unable to save those properties, Olson said.

"Some people don't pay taxes because you could get a better interest rate from a tax certificate buyer than from a bank," Olson said. "They know how the market works and they run the risk. But the only thing (troubling for Smith) is the fact that there are these parcels that people have filed tax deed applications on recently."

Unless the market recovers quickly enough for the company to regain its cash flow, Smith could lose hundreds of properties in the years ahead.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation does not list any complaints against the firm. Unlike other builders like Levitt & Sons and Tousa, Smith hasn't filed for bankruptcy, according to court records.

But there are dozens of liens in the last year against Smith for unpaid services, including the installation of insulation and other materials.

Still, some of Smith's lien holders said they've enjoyed good relations with the builder, and that its financial troubles are a result of the market downturn.

"They've got inventory, obviously, and there are a lot of slow payers out there," said Jerome Harrell of Harrells Drywall of Tampa, who has a $8,500 lien against Smith. "It's been okay dealing with them. There are quite a few people that have some difficulties right now. Hopefully, they'll be out of this."

Smith, a Tampa-based firm, concentrates most of its work in Pasco, according to the projects shown on its Web site.

In Hillsborough, where Smith developed Panther Trace in Riverview and SummerGate Townhomes in Brandon, the company is delinquent on 68 properties.

"Once taxes are considered delinquent, tax certificates are sold," said Charlotte Luke, director of processing information for the Hillsborough Tax Collector. "It's no loss to the county."

Most of Smith's unpaid taxes on their Hillsborough properties date back to 2006, but records show the company has paid down 2005 delinquencies, which Luke said indicated the company has so far been successful in staving off tax deed applications to seize those lots.

Smith doesn't have an extensive presence in Florida, but over the years, it has won local accolades, including merit awards for its single-family homes from the Tampa Bay Builders Association last year. Smith has involved itself in community life as well, sending a team of volunteers in January this year to help residents of Connerton build a playground out of donated materials.

"They build a good product," said Dale "Chip" Jones, president of the Pasco Building Association and a top executive at Connerton. "By all indications they have a good reputation. We were aware of liens against their houses, (but) they, like many other regional builders, are feeling the pressures of a really difficult housing market. I have known them to be nothing but above board."

Ronald Smith is listed as the company's president on state filings, with his two sons, Marcus and Scott, as vice presidents.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at cyap@sptimes.com or (813)909-4613.

Builder owes delinquent property taxes in Pasco, Hillsborough 05/14/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 15, 2008 7:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  2. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  3. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  4. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the funk they are in right now.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Tim Beckham (1) after being doubled off first on the liner by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) in to end the seventh inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, July 24, 2017.
  5. A historic Tampa family saves a historic Tampa home built by an ancestor

    Human Interest

    The Knight family has replaced their roof and people are celebrating.

    The Peter O. Knight historical cottage, located in Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood, is seen Thursday, July 20, 2017. The cottage fell into disrepair in recent years, but the Knight family stepped up with financial support to help stabilize the structure.