Wording makes big difference on real estate deed

DEAR BOB: Recently you had an item about how husband andwife should hold title to their home and other real estate. It motivated me togo to our safe deposit box to check our home title deed. It says we own ourhome in the name of “Mark or Victoria Lastname.” No method of holdingtitle, such as joint tenancy or tenancy in common, is specified. Do we have aproblem? –Victoria W.

DEAR VICTORIA: Yes. As a real estate attorney, I can seemany potential problems with the way you hold title to your home. The verytroublesome word is “or.”

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Also, the deed fails to specify how you hold title, such astenants in common, joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or another method.Whoever prepared that deed obviously wasn’t looking out for your bestinterests.

While you are in “good standing” with each otherand the marriage is going well, today is the ideal time to consult a local realestate or family law attorney to discuss your title choices. Then, you canexecute a joint quitclaim deed to hold title with the method you select.


DEAR BOB: For the last 22 years we have owned and enjoyedour home in a subdivision where all the homes were built by the same builderwith the same materials. In the last few years, several homes have encounteredbasement wall leaks. However, our home has no such problem. We enjoy ourbasement family room, laundry room and storage area with no evidence of anywater leaks. When we sell in the next few months so we can move to a retirementcommunity, do we have to disclose to our buyer that a few other homes in oursubdivision have encountered basement water leaks? –Steve Y.

DEAR STEVE: No. Home-sale disclosure laws only apply to theresidence being sold at the time of the sale. They do not require disclosurethat nearby homes down the street built by the same builder have encounteredconstruction defect problems. For full details, please consult a local realestate attorney.


DEAR BOB: Three years ago, we sold the vacant lot adjacentto our home. The buyer told us he planned to build a house there. That was finewith us. But when he recently applied for a city building permit, he discoveredthere is a city storm sewer pipe easement beneath the property, which will barhim from building anything but a very small house. We had no idea there wassuch a pipe easement. However, his title insurance report clearly revealed thateasement. Do we have any liability to him as he threatens to sue us fordamages? –Helene P.

DEAR HELENE: From your description of the situation, itappears you have no liability since you didn’t know about the underground citystorm sewer pipe easement and it was fully disclosed to the buyer in hisowner’s title insurance policy. I find it amazing how many property owners (andtheir real estate agents) fail to read and understand their title insurancereports.

The lot buyer has nobody to blame but himself for failure toread his owner’s title insurance policy, which described that storm sewer pipeeasement. If the buyer sues you, of course you should hire an attorney toanswer the complaint.

Your attorney should politely remind the buyer’s attorneyyou didn’t know about the easement and the buyer had written evidence of it inhis title insurance policy, which he failed to read. After you win such a”no brainer” lawsuit, you can then sue the buyer for damages,primarily your attorney fees, for malicious prosecution.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Probate PropertyProfit Secrets Revealed,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instantInternet delivery at www.BobBruss.com.Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

Copyright 2006 Inman News

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