Quitclaim deed doesn’t change mortgage holder

Q: We have a second home that has been on the market and is sitting vacant. We now have a buyer that would like to do a quitclaim. How does that work? He would pay us a lump sum up front, then make the monthly payment for 12 months before paying off our mortgage.

What risks are involved for us? Who is responsible for the upkeep, taxes and so on? — via e-mail

A: You’re worried about the wrong thing. The big question is, who would be responsible for the mortgage and the answer is: “You and you alone.” That’s even after you’d signed a quitclaim deed and no longer owned the property.

What guarantee would you have that the mortgage payments were really made? What if they weren’t? What if the lender exercised its right to call in the whole debt as soon as there was a change in ownership?

I’ve heard of proposals like this in which homeowners are told they can remain in their residence rent-free or paying low rent after signing it over, which makes the deal even more tempting. I suppose there’s a chance this is some sort of legitimate offer. Ask for the proposal in writing, and take it to your own attorney for advice before you sign anything.

While you’re at it, ask the buyer’s permission for your broker, accountant or lawyer to run a credit check, and get enough personal information to do just that.

Credit reports are free, credit scores aren’t.

Q: I wonder if you would repeat the Web site you recommended in your column a few weeks ago where one can get a credit record score. I’m sorry, but I forgot to write it down. — S. P.

A: You can get one free credit report a year from each of the three major agencies. The site to use is

Watch out for sites with similar addresses, which try to sell you something or harvest personal information they’re not entitled to.

You mention “credit record score.” What’s free is the report itself, where you can see the history of your bill payment record, judgments, a list of your debts and the like. If you spot errors, there’s a procedure for having them corrected.

Your credit score is a different matter. It’s a single number that sums up your whole credit standing. If you want that, you’ll be charged a few dollars.

Who gets the escrow money?

Q: What are the seller’s rights on the escrow deposit if the buyer does not close the sale? — X. X.

A: As usual, it all depends.

We’d have to know whether the buyer backed out for no good reason or had some contract provision that allowed the default. Then we’d have to look at the sales contract to see what it said about that deposit. Sometimes the parties have agreed it would serve as “liquidated damages,” which means the seller could not claim any more than that amount.

In any case, the person holding the deposit shouldn’t give it to the seller or return it to the buyer until the two parties are in agreement on the matter and have signed releases officially voiding the contract. If the parties couldn’t agree, a broker who is holding the deposit in escrow could hand it over to a court, to be held until the matter is settled, by either negotiation or lawsuit.

Depending on the circumstances, an agent might be entitled to a commission even if the sale never closed, and might also have a claim on the money.

Property deed changes need owner’s consent

Q: Can someone place you on the deed to their home without your permission? — via e-mail

A: A deed has no effect and doesn’t transfer any ownership until it is “signed, sealed and delivered,” which means that you must have accepted it. That shouldn’t be possible without your knowledge or consent.

If you think something fraudulent has occurred, consult a lawyer promptly.

Edith Lank will respond personally to any questions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, NY 14620 (please include a stamped return envelope), or readers may e-mail her at


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