What if the tenants stay past the closing date?

Q: My husband and I have finally found our perfect house. We’ve even found a buyer for our condo. All is going well except for the current occupants living the house we want to buy.

It is a husband and wife who live in the house. Her father owns the home and they have been giving the father the monthly payments. We have a contract signed by us and the father (the owner of house) and a closing date of Jan. 30, 2009.

The real estate agent gave me a heads-up last week that the husband is now saying Jan. 30 is not enough time to get out. She told him that he must or there could be a lawsuit. The agent thinks he’s just talking and will comply. But what if he is not out of the house on closing day? — Via e-mail

A: Problems about closing dates come up all the time and in most cases they work out. But in any event, here is my advice.

It’s time to get your own real estate lawyer. Put pressure on the owner of the house rather than on the kids. Let the father-in-law deal with it.

As for what to do if you can’t get occupancy at closing, that’s easy. Don’t close. Yes, this could pose problems on your end. But if you actually bought the place, you’d need advice from your lawyer about legal means for getting them out. It’d be messy, and you’d still have nowhere to lay your heads in the meantime.

If all else failed, you could “make time of the essence,” which is a powerful legal tool. Discuss that with your lawyer as well.

Adding his wife to deed

Q: I purchased a home five years ago when I was single. I have been happily married for two years now and we are wondering if we should add my wife onto the deed. I am told you need to get an attorney and pay fees to the courthouse and the mortgage holder. We are both in fine health in our mid-30s, but we would like to make sure that if anything would happen to me that my wife would not have any issues getting the home. — Via e-mail

A: The lawyer who draws up a new deed will not charge much for this simple service. Entering the deed in your county’s public records involves relatively small fees. Extending ownership to a spouse doesn’t usually require any change in the mortgage documents requiring a fee.

Seller has health problems

Q: My daughter has had a land contract for years. The woman who owns the property has been removed from her house because she is not fit to live alone. I know she changed her will in 1997 in regard to the house. What happens to the property that is being bought by my daughter? — Via e-mail

A: Your daughter’s contract should be in force just as it has been all along. Either the property owner is still handling her own affairs, or else someone has been appointed to do it.

If your daughter can find the name of the owner’s attorney, she may get some information there. Otherwise, she should talk with her own lawyer, who can find out exactly whom she should be dealing with regards to this property.

Mother is worried

Q: Our mother is 90, in good health and lives in her own home unassisted. The small house is probably 100 years old and kept in good repair. She has the house and some small CDs as assets.

Lately she has become concerned about the house being “taken” if she should need nursing home care, and wonders what she ought to do. The house is in her name, and she has left it to her granddaughter and to me in her will. Do you have suggestions for us? — K.G., Henrietta

A: Your mother’s question should be taken to a lawyer who specializes in estate planning or in elder law. If she’s thinking about qualifying for Medicaid to pay for health care, she should know that the “lookback” period has been extended to five years. That means if she applied for help, assets she gave you during the preceding five years would be counted as if she still owned them.

A professional who specializes in such matters can explain what options are open to her.

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 ehlank@aol.com.

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