Property tax, MPAC and selling to a developer


Dear David,

I purchased a newly-built condo last year. I paid an occupancy fee to the builder before taking possession, which was supposed to cover the property taxes. The city is now billing me a huge amount for supplemental tax (which appears to be the tax due for the past three years).  Who is responsible for paying the tax before I took possession, and what do I do if it was not paid? – IN SHOCK

DEAR SHOCK: Your responsibility for a property usually begins when you get the keys. Up until that time, the builder would be responsible. You said your occupancy costs included property taxes, so it would be up to the builder to remit that portion of your payment to the city. Your responsibility to pay the city directly would start once the condo was registered you are the owner of the property.

I spoke to a representative at the city, who suspected that the registration date on your condo may be incorrect with MPAC (the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation). If this is the case, you’ll want to start by bringing your concerns to them. MPAC is responsible for the assessment and classification of properties in Ontario and the city works from information they provide. Pro Tip: call MPAC first. If an error has been made, you can have it set straight before taking your concerns to the city.

Dear David,

I own a duplex. About 3 years ago, a Realtor approached me on behalf of a developer who was trying to assemble land for a project. The agent pressed me to give him a price I would accept, but I didn’t want to sell at that time. I asked him what my property should sell for, but he refused to offer advice.

My guess is that the builder would be willing to pay above market value if they want the location badly enough. What should I do if I am approached again? – CURIOUS

DEAR CURIOUS: I’ve been involved with this type of transaction before. In my experience you are correct, developers may be willing to pay more for specific properties. Location and zoning can drive up property values from a developer’s point of view, sometimes beyond market value. 

It sounds like the Realtor who approached you was trying to establish if you were interested in selling. On many occasions, I’ve heard property owners say they would sell their property “for a million dollars” (or some inflated figure), even though it may only be worth half of that. In this case, the Realtor could see that you weren’t motivated. If your property was needed to complete the assembly, the project may have been scrapped. When I was representing a developer in a similar position, the owner of the property we were trying to buy got a bit over-ambitious with how much he wanted. In the end, the developer decided he didn’t need it. 

When it comes to what your property should be worth, an opinion of value takes time to research and should not be established “off the cuff”. If this opportunity arises again, I suggest you seek professional advice from a Realtor of your own (not someone working for the developer). There tend to be limits to what a developer will pay for a property if a project is going to remain feasible. If you can capitalize on an opportunity, everyone wins and it’s never a bad time to take profits. Pro tip: there could still be an opportunity here, you may just need to take the lead.