DEAR BOB: I live in a condominium complex where one resident has a pit bull dog (a breed considered by many to be very dangerous), which he allows to run loose. In spite of several letters of complaint to our condo association board of directors, they have done nothing other than to write a letter of warning to the resident in June 2006. The pit bull continues to run loose. If this dog were to bite someone, would the board of directors and the condo association be liable because they have not resolved this issue? –Elizabeth H.
DEAR ELIZABETH: If that dog injures anyone on the premises, the dog’s owner would be primarily liable. But you can be 100 percent certain the condo association will also be sued for damages because they are well aware of the danger.
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The dog’s owner must be extremely irresponsible to let that dog run loose. Most cities now have laws requiring dogs to be kept on leashes.
In the absence of past injuries caused by that dog, and the refusal of your board of directors to abate that public nuisance, it is up to you and your fellow owners to take legal action.
If a local dog-leash ordinance is being violated, perhaps the local police or animal control officers will act to save the cost of bringing a lawsuit to abate that nuisance. For further details, please consult a local attorney before a tragic injury occurs.
NEITHER LANDLORD NOR TENANT CAN DEDUCT THESE PAYMENTS
DEAR BOB: I own a house in Las Vegas. My daughter lives in it and makes the monthly payments. Can either of us deduct the mortgage interest? If so, which one? –Bill C.
DEAR BILL: If your daughter’s name is not on the title, although she makes the mortgage payments and probably the property tax payments, she cannot deduct them on her income tax returns. The reason is she is not legally obligated to make those payments since her name is not on the title.
If you add her name to the title, then she can claim the deductions for the tax-deductible payments she makes on the home.
Because you didn’t pay those payments, you can’t claim the deductions on your income tax returns. For details, please consult your tax adviser.
NO WAY TO FORCE BUY-OUT OF IRRESPONSIBLE CO-OWNER
DEAR BOB: My two brothers and I own our mother’s house in Pennsylvania. My other brother and I want to buy-out our younger brother’s share if he is willing to sell to us. If he refuses to sell, can we stop him from moving into the house after our mother dies? He has lost two houses to foreclosure and now lives in a rented mobile home. He has very bad credit and lives on Social Security. We are afraid he won’t pay his share of the property taxes, insurance and rent. My son lives in the basement and now pays my mother rent. She is 91. How can we buy out our younger brother? –William C.
DEAR WILLIAM: Your situation is not so rare. A partition lawsuit could force the sale of the property, but that’s not what you want.
Unless you have a partnership agreement providing for a buy-out, you and your other brother can’t force the younger brother to sell his share. But my guess is the younger brother would welcome a buy-out cash offer to help solve his money problems. Please consult a local real estate attorney to work out the details.
HOME SELLER SHOULD HAVE DISCLOSED HE DIDN’T OWN THE TITLE
DEAR BOB: I have a contract to buy a house (contingent on a satisfactory professional inspection). But after investigation, we discovered the man listed on the home sales contract as the seller does not own the house. However, he has a lease-purchase agreement to buy it. What is this and is there any reason to be wary? Is the contract valid with his name on it? –Robert P.
DEAR ROBERT: Shame on your “seller” for not disclosing in writing he is not the owner of the property but he has an option to buy it. Yes, you should be very wary. He has to obtain marketable title before he can convey title to you.
At this time, you should ask him (and the real estate agent if there is one) for written proof he can convey marketable title to you, such as a title report from a reputable title insurance company indicating it will insure title for you.
If you want to get out of the sale, you can probably do so for misrepresentation if he signed the sales contract as the seller although he is only an optionee entitled to receive title after exercising his purchase option. For more details, please consult a local real estate attorney.
HOW SHOULD LANDLORD DETERMINE RENT INCREASE?
DEAR BOB: What is a fair percentage rent increase? Insurance, water and property taxes have greatly increased in our area. How much can I raise the rent? –Yen N.
DEAR YEN: Presuming there is no rent control or other law limiting the amount of residential rent increase, check nearby competitive rents to see how they compare with yours.
You might discover your rent is very low. Or you might find you won’t be able to pass along all those increased costs to your tenants because then your rent will be too high and the tenant will move out.
My experience is a rent increase of $50 or less per month will be acceptable to tenants. However, when a rent increase approaches $100 per month, tenants start shopping around to compare nearby rents.
If your local rental market is “soft” now, as many are, you might learn you can’t increase the rent very much without losing your tenant.
HOW TO GET RID OF AN UNWANTED TIMESHARE INHERITANCE
DEAR BOB: My question is about my responsibilities with a Colorado timeshare inheritance from our late mother. My two brothers and I do not want the timeshare because it would cost us more than it is worth. Must we accept it and pay the re-title and outstanding association fees? –Tom K.
DEAR TOM: You and your brothers can renounce your inheritance of the timeshare. I hope you didn’t already accept a conveyance of the timeshare from the estate.
Just inform the estate executor or administrator in writing you renounce your timeshare inheritance. Then it will go to the next heir in line named in the will of your late mother.
CAN LENDER REJECT A HOME IN A LIVING TRUST?
DEAR BOB: We have the title to our home in a revocable living trust. Currently, we have an equity line of credit through our mortgage company. But we want to change that equity loan to a different bank for a lower interest rate. We were denied because of the living-trust issue. Why should that living trust make a difference? –Linda H.
DEAR LINDA: Many mortgage lenders refuse to approve loans where the property title is held in a revocable living trust. They reason you would be signing the promissory note and mortgage (or deed of trust) as a trustee of the living trust rather than as the property owner.
To solve this problem, just tell the new lender you are willing to take the home out of your revocable living trust so their new home equity credit line can be recorded. I am surprised the lender didn’t suggest this.
After you sign and record the papers as owner of the home, rather than as trustee of your living trust, you can then deed the title back into your living trust. A mortgage lender cannot stop you from doing so; it is perfectly legal, and is done by thousands of homeowners every day. A local title company can give you details on this routine procedure.
SHOULD PARENTS SELL HOME TO ADULT CHILDREN INSTEAD OF GETTING A REVERSE MORTGAGE?
DEAR BOB: My parents, in their 80s, live in Florida. They are now facing tremendous hurricane insurance and other maintenance cost increases. They have only a modest government pension. To help meet increasing living costs and looming medical needs, we’re looking at a reverse mortgage compared to selling their home to one or more of their adult children. For example, if the parents sell, should they hold a mortgage note with the sibling buyer paying income to them? –John S.
DEAR JOHN: If your parents make an installment sale to one or more of the adult children, where will the buyer get the money to make monthly payments to the parents? The interest income the parents receive will be taxable as ordinary income.
If they plan to stay in the home at least five years, a senior citizens reverse mortgage is usually a far better alternative. It would produce substantial tax-free monthly income for them. After they both pass on, presuming the adult children inherit the house, they will receive the house with a new stepped-up basis on the date of the last parent’s death.
More details are in my new special report, “Everything You Need to Know About the Pros and Cons of Reverse Mortgages for Senior Citizen Homeowners,” available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, Calif., 94010, or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at www.BobBruss.com. Questions for this column are welcome at either address.
(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
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