FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Kerville Holness thought he’d done a great job snapping up a $177,000 Tamarac villa for only $9,100.

But that’s not what he actually bought during a Florida online auction of properties that had defaulted on their taxes.

He got a 1-foot-wide, 100-foot-long strip of land — valued at $50.

It starts at the curb where two mailboxes have been installed, goes under the wall separating the garages of two adjoining Spring Lake villas, then extends out to the back of the lot.

And officials say he’s stuck with the deal.

So what can Holness do now? Make the people living there get their mailboxes off his grass? Remove the water meters that are in his ground? Maybe try to charge rent to both villas for the joint wall and roof that sit on his land?

“If I’m vindictive enough, I can cut right through the garage wall and the home to get to my air space, but what use would that be to me?” Holness said.

What he wants is for the county to void the deal and give him his money back.

“It’s deception,” said Holness, a first-time auction bidder from Tamarac. “There was no demarcation to show you it’s just a line going through (the villa duplex), even though they have the tools to show that.”

Holness said that property appraiser pictures linked to the auction site showed the villa as being the parcel he was bidding on.

But the appraiser’s site and information on the county’s tax site also show the negligible value of the property, that there is no building value, that the land takes up only 100 square feet and that the property is 1-foot wide.

Officials say state law does not allow the refund Holness is seeking.

The message from county officials and real estate experts is that auction participants need to do their homework and make sure they’ve checked for all possible problems a property might have.

“He may go to court and find some error in the sale procedure,” said Gary Singer, a real estate attorney who writes a weekly column for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Generally speaking, he bought what he was supposed to have bought.”

Officials aren’t sure why the strip was never attached to either of the adjoining properties, but instead remained in possession of the developer, GHO Tamarac II. It could have been overlooked. After the company dissolved, taxes stopped being paid on the property, leading to the March auction.

Holness said the property shouldn’t have been put up for sale. County memos he obtained from last summer show the county’s Records, Taxes and Treasury Division had raised that question with the appraiser’s office because of the parcel’s odd location under two homesteaded properties. But tax division director Tom Kennedy said if a property is on the tax rolls, it can be auctioned.

One memo suggested the adjacent villa owners would have the most interest, but neither bid on the property.

One of the owners, Tina DeFeo, bought her villa in April, after the auction.

“It makes no sense,” DeFeo said. “I don’t know how you buy a strip of grass like that.”

DeFeo said she’ll check with the title insurance company to see why the issue wasn’t flagged, but she said she wouldn’t be paying any money to Holness.

“If we have to move our mailbox, we’ll move our mailbox,” she said.

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