Recourse sought for improper notice, unpaid last month

Ilyce R. Glink
Inman News

Q: My wife owns a home that we would prefer to sell, but is a rental property at the moment.

The renter has informed us that she has bought a new house and will be leaving at the beginning of February, so she will not be giving her 30-day notice and she does not intend to pay anything for January.

A friend suggested that we put a lien on the new house so she won’t be able to close on the house until she pays us. The rent is $1,700. Is that worth the amount of lawyer fees it would cost to do all that? Do you have any suggestions?

A: If you want to hold her up, you can sue her in small claims court. That lawsuit might appear on her credit history, but at the very least, she’ll be required to disclose it to her lender. That may throw enough of a kink in her plans that she’ll want to be a little more of an upstanding citizen and pay you what she owes.

To apply the maximum amount of pressure, you’ll have to move quickly. Even if it doesn’t delay her closing, she’ll still have to answer you in small claims court. If you win a judgment against her, you may be able to collect, or at least hound her a little.

As far as placing a lien on the home she intends on purchasing, you’d have to talk to an attorney. You probably have no right to place a lien on that other home unless your tenant owned the home and you had a court judgment for the money she owes you.

Finally, did you collect a security deposit? If you don’t get anything else from her, and you don’t feel like suing her, at least you’ll have that.

Q: We are 51 and 49 years old and need your help. Our kids are no longer living with us and we are planning on downsizing to a 2,200-square-foot ranch house in a nearby lakefront community.

We found a house that we love and we could pay if off in 10 years, so we would eliminate a mortgage payment in our retirement.

Here’s our problem: The subdivision is supposed to have 900 homes. Only 90 have been built, and many of those are spec homes. The builders are releasing lots back to the developer, but our agent said she didn’t know who would buy these lots and what kind of houses they would build in the future.

I think the developer is having financial trouble because the installation of curbs and streets is on hold. But we’re worried the developer might just sell out to anyone to recoup its money.

What should we do?

A: As much as you like this house, just 10 percent of the properties in the subdivision have been sold to homeowners. That sounds like a recipe for disaster. If you’re going to proceed, you must do so with extreme caution — and I’m not really sure you should proceed.

The reality is that we’re in a terrible real estate recession in some areas and home builders have been hit the worst. The latest numbers indicate that 38 percent fewer homes are being built this year than last. Some builders have seen their numbers fall almost to zero, and others have gone out of business entirely.

In this subdivision, you have 90 percent of the homes left to be built. The builders you named are having trouble and it could be years before this subdivision is built out. You might be locked into this property for 20 years before you can resell it.

If you do buy it, the roads may not go in and you may be stuck with a home in a development that is only partially constructed. There may also be no one to help you if there are problems with the way this house was constructed.

That doesn’t give you a lot of options. There are no guarantees that the pictures on the brochure will ever come to fruition.

My instincts would be to take a pass on this house.

Q: I read your article about repairing bad credit and to get all three credit reports free. I went out to one of the sites that was listed near your story and it was not free! One has to sign up for their site starting at $1 charged on a credit card and if not cancelled within 30 days will be automatically charged $19.95 a month.

To me this is not free. I did sign up but then nothing I put in was accepted so now I have wait on some sort of code they will send me through the mail. I could have contacted the three credit companies on my own and spent only about $15.

I think you led everyone a bit astray on your information. Sounded good but was not.

A: As I write regularly, the only place to get your credit report is to go to AnnualCreditReport.com . You’ll have to pay around $7 for your credit score, if you want it.

There’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace about all the other sites that claim to provide free credit information. But, none of them is actually free, as you’ve discovered. They all ask for a credit-card number.

Here’s the bottom line: If you get asked for a credit-card number, your report isn’t free. End of story.

AnnualCreditReport.com doesn’t ask for a credit-card number. It is co-sponsored by the three credit-reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You are entitled to get one credit report from each of the three credit-reporting bureaus for free each year. Try it.

As a final note, sometimes my columns appear on different Web sites and there may be advertising placed next to the columns. If you go to any other site than AnnualCreditReport.com, you will probably be charged for your credit history. Please don’t make this mistake.

Copyright 2008 Ilyce R. Glink

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