DEAR BOB: The sellers of our house changed their minds on several items that were supposed to be repaired shortly after the close of the sale. They didn’t fulfill their requirement. We have two signed documentations by the landscape architect the seller hired, as well as the homeowners association, stating the work was incomplete. Our real estate broker wants nothing to do with this matter since he already got his commission. What are our options to get reimbursed for these added expenses? –Danielle M.

DEAR DANIELLE: The best way to resolve a dispute like this is to obtain a written cost estimate for completing the work to which the seller agreed. Send a copy of the estimate, along with a very polite demand letter, giving the seller a reasonable time to have the work completed at his expense, such as 15 business days.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

The letter should state that if the work isn’t completed by the stated deadline, you will have no alternative but to turn the matter over to your attorney. However, don’t threaten the seller. Just be businesslike.

In reality, if the amount in dispute is below your local small claims court jurisdiction amount and if the seller doesn’t respond, just file a lawsuit there and let the judge decide who is right.

RESOLVE PROPERTY LINE PROBLEM NOW RATHER THAN AT SALE TIME

DEAR BOB: Four years ago, when a commonly shared backyard fence was installed, the fence company built it so it is no longer on the property line. My gutter downspout drains into my neighbor’s yard and I have lost some square footage. I am concerned my neighbors and I might have some issues with prescriptive rights, although neither of us plans to presently sell. What do you advise? –Denise C.

DEAR DENISE: It is best to resolve this property-line problem now, rather than when a sale is pending and you will then be under time pressure.

If you can’t resolve the issue in a friendly manner with the neighbor, please consult a local real estate attorney to discuss your alternatives. This is not a do-it-yourself project if a lawsuit becomes necessary.

IS RENT-TO-OWN OPTION MONEY REFUNDABLE?

DEAR BOB: I rented a house to a tenant for a year on a written rent-to-own agreement with a specified option price. I charged him $3,500 for this exclusive option to purchase. The tenant did not exercise his option and moved out after a year. He then sued me for return of the $3,500. I hired an attorney who agreed with the tenant that I must return the $3,500 since the agreement did not specify the money was not refundable. Was it really necessary that I state the option money was nonrefundable? –Paul S.

DEAR PAUL: Yes. Because you failed to state the $3,500 option money was not refundable, it looks like an ordinary refundable security deposit. If the matter goes to trial, you can explain to the judge it was option money and option money is not refundable.

However, the judge is likely to rule it was really a security deposit and you must refund it to the tenant. Thankfully, it’s not a huge amount but it reminds us to be crystal clear when writing lease-option agreements.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Everything Home Sellers and Their Realty Agents Need to Know About the $250,000 Tax Exemption Rules,” is now 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
Real Estate Center
).

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