Tina Lam is an immigrant from Hong Kong Living in San Francisco. As an engineer, Tina’s salary never allowed her to buy her own house in the city’s expensive housing market but when she found out that one of San Francisco’s most elite streets was up for grabs for only $90,000, she couldn’t believe her luck. Unfortunately, the deal proved too good to be true after the city leaders asked her to return the recently bought property.

Michael Cheng and Tina Lam, the couple who bought the exclusive street

San Francisco’s elite Neighborhood Sold for $90,000

Presidio terrace is one of the most expensive streets in San Francisco to buy a house in and everyone dreams of living there – including Tina Lim. In 2015, a shocking news broke that the city’s leaders had decided to parcel up all the 1400 vacant lots on the street and put them up for auction on the internet. The reason for government’s confiscation of Presidio terrace was due to homeowners’ association’s failure to pay taxes for the street.

When Lam and her husband found out that she could own the street for a fraction of its true value, they were ecstatic. The couple became the highest bidders at the auction and bought the street for $90,000.

The couple photographed at on of the most expensive streets in San Francisco which they bought for $90,000

Couple Forced to Give Up Ownership of the Street

Fast forward to 2017 and the city’s Board of Supervisors decided that Presidio terrace is unjustly taken away from the homeowners’ association and now the city must return back the property to its rightful owners. Tina Lim and her husband had paid $90,000 for the street and had earned ownership of Presidio terrace by law which made it ridiculous for the city to take back something they had intentionally sold.

The residents of 35 mansions on Presidio terrace were shocked to find out that their street had been sold by the city’s leaders. The Tax Collector’s Office had sent numerous letters and reminders to the homeowner’s association regarding the unpaid taxes but the property taxes for the street had remained unpaid for almost 17 years, leaving the city with no choice but to put Presidio terrace up for auction.

But after investigation, the Board of Supervisors decided that since not enough effort had been made to notify the residents about the unpaid taxes, the sale must be reversed. Lam was contacted by the authorities to inform her that she will no longer have ownership of the street and the city will reimburse the $90,000 she paid to buy it.

The couple was taken to court by the wealthy residents of the street 

Sold the Street by Mistake… Who’s to Blame?

The Board of Supervisors also reported that the homeowner’s association had failed to update their mailing address due to which the tax collectors had been sending tax forms to the address of their former bookkeeper who had passed away years ago.

The annual tax of $14 had accumulated over time along with interest and penalties until the city’s leaders decided to sell the property. After the street went up on auction, the tax collectors continuously tried to send notices to the association’s outdated address but, like always, there was no response.

The residents of Presidio terrace were shocked to hear what had happened and expressed their fear saying that they no longer felt safe knowing that the street didn’t belong to them anymore.

The dispute over the street’s ownership was finally taken to court after the wealthy residents of the street sued Lam and her husband. Upon receiving the notice of the court hearing, Lam had quickly tried to sell the street back to the homeowners’ association for almost $1 million in hopes of making a big profit.

Meanwhile, the property owners of the expensive houses in San Francisco’s elite neighborhood fear that the value for their mansion might suffer in the midst of the dispute. The residents are confident that the court will rule in their favor and the sale will eventually be rescinded. On the other hand, Lam is adamant that she is the rightful owner of the street and if the homeowner’s association wants the property back, they will have to pay the price she names.

Would You Give it Back or Put Up a Fight?



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