I would strongly recommend that you stick with a mortgage instead of a lease-to-own option. There are low down payment mortgage that you might be able to look into. For example, FHA loans only require a 3.5% down payment for the mortgage. If you can come up with this down payment you would be in better shape for a mortgage. The best thing for you to do is to speak with a knowledgeable lender like myself to see if you can get started on financing a new home. If you need additional assistance, feel free to reach out. Good luck!
Sr. Mortgage Banker
NMLS # 659743
Did you check the OC tax accessor's website? I added around 370 sq ft to my home many years ago and it seems to me that my property taxes only went up about $200 for the year. If the website doesn't tell you, then you could probably call and get the information from them.
You already had good information from Thom and Linda and I concur with them. I have written many leases and everything is spelled out in the lease agreement. Also I have never considered the HOA as a utility. Typically the owner pays the HOA dues since it is the owner's responsibility.
How much are your HOA dues? Why not just pay them and let the tenants cover the utilities, simple is always better.
I suggest sitting down with the tenants and start with apologizing for the confusion and saying something like, "let's see if we can come to an agreement we both can live with". This way you can amend the current lease in writing (each party signing the amendment) and hopefully everything will go smoothly from then on.
Brian Wilson, Realtor