DEAR BOB: About 30 years ago, our neighbor planted a hedge for privacy. He didn’t have a survey made. But he says he planted the hedge well within his side of the property line. About 10 years ago, he installed a chain link fence with a gate allowing an exit onto our property. The fence is about 3 feet from the hedge in our direction. But about five years ago, I got tired of looking at that fence so I planted a flower garden about 4 feet from the fence on our property. Now the neighbor says my flowers are planted on his property because he planted his hedge far inside his property line. In the event one of us sells our home, what are the consequences? – Bonnie B.

DEAR BONNIE: Hedges, fences and even trees don’t establish property lines. Only a professional survey can determine where the true boundary is with your neighbor’s lot.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

If you are on speaking terms with your neighbor, why not suggest you jointly hire a professional surveyor and split the cost of determining the correct boundary line?

Even if the neighbor isn’t willing to pay half the survey cost, since this seems to be bothering you, I suggest you obtain a survey now so you will know for sure where the exact boundary is located.


DEAR BOB: Five years ago, my mother-in-law purchased a house with one of her daughters. The intent was she would leave the home to the daughter for taking care of her through retirement. But two months after the transaction, the daughter moved out and will not sign a quick claim. The house is almost paid off now and the mother is thinking of selling it and buying a condo. But the daughter’s name is still listed first on the title and the mortgage note. What can my mother-in-law do to get her house back? – Tim T.

DEAR TIM: This situation is a classic example why I repeatedly advise parents not to add their adult children to their real estate titles. The moral of your mother-in-law’s circumstance is “Good kids sometimes go bad.”

There is no legal method of which I am aware for your mother-in-law to force the daughter to sign a quit (not quick) claim deed.

However, either co-owner can sue the other co-owner in a court partition lawsuit to force the sale of the property with the sales proceeds divided between the co-owners. For more details, your mother-in-law should consult a local real estate attorney.


DEAR BOB: I am driving myself crazy how to help my 24-year old daughter get her own place. I didn’t want to give her the 20 percent down payment needed to get her own mortgage. So my husband and I got a home equity loan for the full price of the condo. She will repay us each month. Will we be better off taking depreciation on our income tax returns since our names are on the condo title? But this isn’t helping our daughter establish a history of good credit payments. What do you advise? – Dottie L.

DEAR DOTTIE: If you hold title to the condo and rent it to your daughter, then you must report the rental income received on Schedule E of your federal income tax returns. That is the same place you can deduct expenses such as mortgage interest secured by the condo, property taxes, condo fees, and repairs. You can also deduct depreciation, a non-cash deduction, if you charge fair market rent.

Unless your daughter holds title to the condo and is obligated to pay a mortgage, which is secured by the condo, she won’t be building any equity in the condo.

If I were in your daughter’s situation, after she is settled in the condo, she can shop around to see if she can obtain a mortgage in her name so she can buy the condo from you. She might be able to get a 100 percent mortgage, with PMI (private mortgage insurance), if she has good credit. Or, if she can only qualify for an 80 percent mortgage, then you could carry back a 20 percent second mortgage so she can build her own credit.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Robert’s Real Estate Rules: How to Avoid the 10 Worst Home Buyer Mistakes,” is now available for $4 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet download at Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

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


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