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  • Disclaimer: Blake P. Lipman is licensed to practice law in the state of Michigan. Please only submit inquiries for legal assistance if you live in the state of Michigan

Answers in Real Estate and Real Property from Blake Lipman

Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Genesee Counties

Divorced and I want to save my house

QUESTION
We are divorced, my husband's name is on our mortage, but both our names are on the house--name removed--He doesn't care if the house goes back to the bank--name removed--I care and want to save my credit by still making half the house payment (as agreed) to have a roof over my sons and my head--name removed--We have been left with nothing and have no money--name removed--I am working on a job prospect as we speak--name removed--Can he just do this and bring me down with him--name removed--I want us to have a home, I don't want my credit ruined, what are my rights--name removed--What can I do to keep this from happening? Are there laws to protect me and my son--name removed--I have worked hard to help my ex husband establish good credit at the expense of establishing my own......please help me.

ANSWER
Your credit should not be effected by the default on the mortgage if your name is not on the promissory note(w/ the mortgage). Keeping the house is another matter. The mortgage on the house probably supersedes your interest. Did you sign the mortgage document in order to waive any rights(such as dower)? For more information on real estate law, please contact our real estate attorneys at (248)851-3175.

Damage from a tree

QUESTION
The next door neighbors has two large limbs that are broken and dangling over our garage. If and when they fall they will do subatantial damage to our garage and will cause the power lines to fall. The storm that did all the damage also caused two limb from this same tree to fall in our backyard pulling the phone line from the rear of our home. We cleaned up the large limbs and suffered minimal damage (dented siding and a bent basketball net) We haven't been able to contact the neighbor what do we have the right to do about these limbs? And how to we contact?

ANSWER
You probably need to seek a court order or injunction to require your neighbors to remove the branches if they refuse to speak to you about it. For more info., please contact my Farmington Hills law office at (248)851-3175.

Selling a house involved with a lawsuit

QUESTION
In approximately 30 days, I will have a lawsuit against the previous owner of my house. The previous owner did remodling and flipped the house. Since then, I have discovered his attempt to hide two 50 ft x 12 ft rotting walls. After the repairs, I plan to sell the house next spring, however, I assume that this lawsuit will drag on for a few years. Can I put a house up for sale even though it is involved in litigation? Thank you

ANSWER
You need to contact the management company handling the time share. There may be restrictions on transfer. You should probably use an attorney for the transaction. For more information, please contact me at (248)851-3175.

Time Share Sale

QUESTION
I presently own a time share. I have a buyer for it but am not sure on how to go about the sale. I have a Quit Claim Deed and I have all the paper work from my purchase of the time share. I live in Michigan and the time share is in Florida.

ANSWER
You need to contact the management company handling the time share. There may be restrictions on transfer. You should probably use a real estate attorney for the transaction. For more info., please contact me at (248)851-3175.

Property Lien

QUESTION
How do I go about putting a lien on my employers personal property for payroll checks I can't cash? They do not own the business property they are on a land contract.

ANSWER
You can't lien your employer's property for a NSF paycheck. You can sue on the debt, or you can file a complaint with the State of Michigan, wage and Hour Division. For more info., please contact my office at bplipman@sbcglobal.net and leave a call back number.

Backing out at the last minute

QUESTION
A purchase agreement was signed, and with one week until closing the buyer of my house is trying to back out. I have purchased another house, paid for city inspections, brought the house up to code, packed, paid for storage... and much more. Can I sue, and what can I expect to get out of this horrible situation. Thank you for your assistance.

ANSWER
Did you get a substantial earnest money deposit from your buyer? Did you make the purchase of your new house contingent upon the closing of the old house? If not, you are probably out of luck. You could sue the buyer, but it would be difficult to get a court order forcing him to buy your house. For more info., please contact our qualified real estate attorneys at (248)851-3175.

Tree trimming, who is responsible?

QUESTION
I have a tree that is located on my property near the property line with my neighbor. We recently bought this home, and failed to notice that the tree has grown into the low voltage power lines that run from the pole to homes. The tree is growing into these lines on both my property and my neighbors. (Power company only services pole to pole lines)
I feel that if they so choose not to remove any branches, removing them on my side may cause the tree to become unstable, and possibly damage his property.
I'm going to have the tree trimmed, is it my neighbors responsibilty to have the branches on his property removed, or my responsibilty as well?
Thank you for all your help.

ANSWER
The tree is encroaching on his property. He has a right to cut it where it encroaches. He could also try to sue to enjoin you to cut it down, if it is deemed a "nuisance." For more info., please contact my Oakland County law office at (248)851-3175.

What do I need to start a rental property

QUESTION
I have a question about starting a rental property. I have had my house for sale for over a year now, with no muhc luck. I was thinking of turning into a rental property. My question is, how would I do this? Is there something I need to do with the city I live in? I don't need help finding occupants, but I need to know what legal requirements need to be filed for this to be done. Please help!

ANSWER
To do this properly and legally, you need to check with the local government(city, township, etc.) and find out if a permit/license is needed. An inspection may be necessary. Some jurisdictions require a Certificate of Occupancy. For more info., please contact our real estate attorneys at (248)851-3175.

Fence Problem

QUESTION
In 1970 my mother had a property line chain link fence installed. I actually paid for it. Prior to the fence installation she asked the neighbors if they'd be interested in spliting the cost of the fence and becoming 50% owners. They declined and my mother had the fence erected. In 1990 my mother passed away and the house was deeded/inherited in my name. I've always lived in this house. The neighbors who declined to split the sold their house. The house was purchased by new neighbors. The new neighbors have lived there now about 12 years. This summer they have planted some type of climbing vines that are climbing on the fence. I am not fond of these vines. Its a fence and I'd like it to remain that way without being overgrown with foliage by these vines. It also makes maintenance harder if it needs painting or other repair. The neighbors did not ask our opinion or anything prior to planting these climbing plants. What can I do about it? Since I am now the owner of the house and fence can I untangle these vines or take a weed-whacker up and down the length and height of the fence? I have all the paper work(contract,permit and diagram) for installation of the fence. I asked them about removing the vines I get no reply.

ANSWER
If an agreement cannot be reached to remove the vines or other mutually acceptable resolution, you may need to file a lawsuit to enjoin the removal of the vines. As part of the lawsuit a determination will need to be made as to who owns the property and the fence. For more info, please contact my Farmington Hills law office at (248)851-3175.

Quick Claim Deed

QUESTION
My husband and his sister (who lives in Indiana) own property in Michigan - and sister is going to quick claim deed to my husband - is it okay if she signs and has it notarized in Indiana?

ANSWER
Yes, but a recent ruling by the courts requires that a document that may be introduced in a court of law not only be notarized, but that the notary's notarization be certified by the clerk in the county in which the notary received his/her notary. If that sounds confusing, it is. For more info., please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Common (shared) sewer line/property damage

QUESTION
The adjacent property owner shares a common sewer line to the city main with us. Our property has not used city utilities for over 3 years. The sewer line in our basement is broken and the neighbor's sewage is flooding our basement. City ordinance requires that all property owners must make a direct connection unless it is physcially impossible. Our nieghbor can make the connection. Can we block the flow into our basement forcing the neighbor to have to hook up to the city main independantly? We also learned that an unlicensed plumber may have attached our nieghbor's line to the original common because the neighbor's line to the main is blocked by roots. Can the plumber be held liable?

ANSWER
Absent an agreement with your neighbor, you will have to seek a court order compelling the neighbor to maintain his own sewer line. Self-help will only get you sued by the neighbor and may expose you to liability for property damage. For more info., please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Condo's

QUESTION
We received a letter from the staff of our Condo Association that they were going to fix the roads and it would cost everyone $1,000.00 added to our regular fees. We could pay all at once or $250 every year. We have our house up for sale and our not planning to be here much longer. I had not paid the $250 that was due by July 31, 2005. I got a letter today saying that it is due now or I will be charged a $25 fine every month that it is not paid. First of all am I legally bound to pay for something tht will not even start until 4 years from now and also can they make me pay this fine every month that it is not paid. I thank you in advance for your help.

ANSWER
It is a special assessment from the condo association. The association usually has the power to make these assessments. Please refer to your master deed and condo bylaws, the authority to levy this assessment should be there. If it is not there in the master deed or the bylaws, perhaps you should seek out a lawyer to throughly review the documents. For more info., please contact our real estate lawyers at (248)851-3175.

Sale Signs Not Allowed At Condo

QUESTION
I am wanting to sell my condo as I am not happy with the quality and want to move on. I put up a sales sign and got a letter from the developer stating I cannot put up a for sale sign per the association rules since they are still selling new condos. Can they really stop me from advertising my home for sale? The letter was sent by regular mail and not certified. Also it came from the developer and not the association administration company. Should I just ignore the letter since it came uncertified and not from the land management company?
Here is what is in the association handbook:
Section 8: Signs and Advertising. No signs or other advertising devices of any kind shall be displayed which are visible from the exterior of a Unit or on the Common Elements, including ''For Sale'' signs, durring the Construdtion and Sales Period, and, subsequent thereto, only with prior written permission from the Association?

ANSWER
Welcome to condominium living. The condominium is within its rights to prohibit you from posting a "for sale" sign. A more thorough reading of the bylaws and master deed is necessary for me to tell you unequivocally that you cannot post a sign. For more information, please contact our reputable real estate lawyer at (248)851-3175.

Partition and legal fees

QUESTION
I followed your advise and contacted a lawyer in Florida concerning property there. I live in Michigan. My name is on the deed as well as 2 others. I want the parties to buy me out as I legally own one half interest undivided. The attorney and I agreed for him to receive 25 percent of the sale of the home from a partition action we'll have to start. When he sent me the contract to sign, an ''out of pocket expense'' was added on to be paid as it was accrued. What does that mean? If he is receivng 25 percent, why does that not include all expenses? I thought all legal fees were taken out of the total sale of the house, which would have the other owners affected as well. Should I tell him to charge an hourly amount so that would me taken care of after the sale?
Thank you

ANSWER
A fee agreement with an attorney is just like any other contract. With some limitations imposed by the ethical canons of the profession, the agreement can be for any fee arrangement. Usually, a fee arrangement can take the form of whatever the parties agree. It is legtimate for the attorney to require that costs be advanced in a contingency agreement. You should check with the Florida bar for any restrictions on fee arrangements. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Modification of property land by neighbor

QUESTION
There is a private access road between my property land and my neighbor's. For my neighbor it is a primary access to the main road. It is not a primary access to the main road for me. This access road is steep. My neighbor wants to lower the level of the road 3 feet. The modification will affect my property, landscaping, secondary driveway. The esement is 33 feet from the center of the road into my property and 33 feet into my neighbor's property. Does the law permit my neighbor to make any modifications to the road that would affect my property without my concent or permission.

ANSWER
There is no way I can answer this question without more information. For more info, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175

Enroachment of property

QUESTION
We have lived on our property for 5 years and our neighbors lived on theirs for 6...when we first moved here they immediately put up a row of trees for which we figured they knew where the property lines were. Just recently they decided to put up a fence....when I saw what he was planning, I went down and spoke with him telling him i thought he was going onto my property, not only with the fence, but that I thought the trees he put up were also on my property. I decided to get a survey done since he went ahead and put up fence anyway. Well he's 16 foot on my property. I went immediately and told him about it and he's done nothing to remove anything. What are my legal actions? And though I like the trees they are on my property, do I have to let him remove them if he decides to, or are they now legally mine? If i do let him remove them does he have to repair the ground and after warning him of being over the property line how much time do I have to give him to remove his fence?

ANSWER
It sounds as if you may have to litigate this matter if you and neighbor can't resolve it on your own. If litigation is necessary, I would file a complaint for trespass and quieting title to the disputed land. Also, I would seek a court order ordering him to remove the trees at his expense. If you neglect these matters, you could lose that portion of your property through adverse possession. You should take legal action immediately. For more info, please contact a real estate attorney at (248)851-3175.

Name on Deed vs. Mortgage

QUESTION
My question is ''My grandmother had taken an eqity home loan out on her own existing home to give to my boyfriend and I for the purchase of our existing home. My boyfriend now wants to refinance our home to pay off my grandmother and to have a bit of play cash also take her name off the deed all together. I myself want nothing to do with this home and can not afford the mortgage responsiblilities. My boyfriend claims he has to put my name on the home because ''Friend of the Court'' will take the home if he were to be the sole owner (He is behind in his child support by 60 some thousand dollars.
Now the actual question: I am planning on leaving him and want to join my grandmother in signing our names off the home before the refincing actually takes place- Is this a smart thing to do?

ANSWER
If you are through with him, perhaps you should insist on selling the home and splitting the proceeds so you can repay Grandma. If you are a joint tenant on the home, you can file an action in court called partition and ask that the court order a sale. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Prperty(land) damage from neighbors fallen tree

QUESTION
Our adjoining neighbors large old oak tree fell covering 1/3-1/2 of our backyard.(we have pictures) It severly damaged our lawn,broke decorative trees and shrubs and flowers. There were no dwellings damaged so this was not covered by ins but considered an act of God. Therefore,the neighbor refused to have it removed. He refused to share the cost of removal-full or partial. He also refused to manually help with any cleanup. I am 52 and work full time as a nurse. My husband is 60 and had bypass/valve relacement surg in Jan. We had to pay and help to remove this tree. My question is. Isn't a person responsible to take care of his own tree even if the isn. doesn't cover it-it is still his property that damaged mine. We had a good relationship with this neighbor until this time was we were shocked at his attitude. This is a very clean nice suburb with very nice lawns. Sincerely-Thank you--name removed---name removed--

ANSWER
You could sue the neighbor for the cost of removing the tree under a trespass or nuisance theory. For more info., please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Partition and mortgage

QUESTION
A and B own a home. A takes out a mortgage for half or more of the value. B will start a partition action. Meanwhile, A has been renting the home out. B has not received any monies. A states the loan was taken out for repairs and maintainance. B never received notices of repairs. Will the bank take the loan out of the total sale of the house or is A liable with her half because B never signed anything?
Thank you.

ANSWER
Is this a law school exam question? :) Anyway, it depends on how the joint tenancy is held. If it is held as a tenancy in common, it is subject to partition and the lien is valid against A's half. If it is held as a Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship, the bank may be out of luck as B has not signed the mortgage. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3171.

Quick Claim Deeds

QUESTION
Is there a limit to quick claim deeds? We have had a quick claim deed and I have heard they are only good for 3 years if they haven't been changed over to a regular deed.
Also, if there hasn't been a legal divorce, just a seporation does that seporation degree stand as is or does everything go back to the remaining spouse seeing there was never a divorce?

ANSWER
First of all, its "quit claim deed." Secondly, they do not have a limited duration. A QCD is inferior to a Warranty Deed because the person giving the deed makes no warranties of title. That is, they are merely giving you whatever interest they may or may not have. There can be liens, mortgages, other owners, taxes due, etc. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Use of uplatted road across private property:

QUESTION
There is an unplatted drive across my property that connects two access easements. I own two center lots in a row of five lots that fall between the two easements. Each of the other property owners has ingress/egress to one of the two easements. Over time, the drive has become a ''convenience'' for neighbors, who choose to drive across my yard rather than use their own
drives.
I live in a private, lake association. There is no paperwork to support the drive as a road, only use of it as such for approximately 25 years. The drive did not exist when I purchased the property, or for 8 years afterward. I would like to close the drive, since it is a safety and privacy issue. The Association Board claims the right of Eminent Domain. Can they legally deprive me of 2500 aquare feet of my property when driveways exist for the other residents? Closing of the drive would cause no other homeowner to travel further distance or have increased inconvenience in reaching their homes.
What steps do I need to take to close my property to through traffic?

ANSWER
Emminent Domain applies to governmental action only. It sounds like the Association is asserting "adverse possession" or "right by acquiescence" over the property. I would immediately take action to deprive anyone access to the property. Post signs stating it is private property and trespassers will not be tolerated. This should solve your problem. It is important that you assert ownership and deprive others of its use. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Independent contractor rights with broker?

QUESTION
In Feb. 2005, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Drs. orders to stay off work. Requested that another realtor in office handle my work. Broker took it upon himself to hand it to a different agent that subsequently lost all my listings and potential for any income while I'm off. I invested everything I own in this business for past two years. Being an inactive agent, I was told that I could not do any marketing. I have sent letter to broker expressing my displeasure. I have lost my entire business at the hands of an unscrupulous broker and wonder if I have any recourse. I am completely unable to go back into business because of the loss of my financial resources when the doctor releases me to go back.
Thank You?

ANSWER
The question is, whose property are the listings? Are they yours or are they the houses(broker)? If they are yours, did you have an express agreement, hopefully in writing, outlining the duties the broker had in managing your listings? If not, can it be said that the broker acted negligently? I do not have a clear answer. This is a unique situation. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Title registration

QUESTION
My mother recently died. She had typed up a new title document adding myself and my siblings to the title of property she owned but the title was not registered before she died. Is the new title legal without being registered or will we need to probate it?

ANSWER
A deed is valid when it is executed and delivered. Recording(registering) is not required for validity. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Force partition

QUESTION
I co-own a house that has been mortgaged by the other half. The loan is at least half the value and not signed by me. Will it be a big legal hassle with the bank if I force partion? Can the bank stop me from selling? The woman is making her payments.She has recently married and I don't believe she's even living in the house. I really want to resolve this and receive a fair amount.

ANSWER
How did your co-owner mortgage his half of the house? What bank would take a security interest in half the property? Something does not seem right. Your interest may be superior to the bank's interest. Partition depends on the type of tenancy. A joint tenancy with rights of survivorship may not be subject to partition. Whereas, a tenancy in common is partitionable. Either way, expect grief from the bank. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Land Contract

QUESTION
A friend of mine has legal authority to sell her client's home to raise money for her care and funeral expenses. She is considering selling the property, which is paid for, on a land contract. When collecting the mortgage payments from the new owners do I need to put the money in an escrow account or will her checking account be sufficient? Also, upon her death do the beneficiaries of her home receive that money or does it go into her estate?

ANSWER
What sort of legal authority? Is the person the conservator for the other person? I'm unsure of the relationship. If the person is a court appointed conservator, they probably need the court's permission to sell the property. Does the person have a court order approving the sale? A land contract is generally not the best way to dispose of assets in these types of situations. Cash is usually better as it can be readily used for the persons care. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

A neighbor is using part of property that is for sale as his own for pasture for

QUESTION
We want to purchase a house with 10.1 acres of land. The neighboring horse farmer has at least 3 acres of the land fenced for horse pasture. He will not move the fence off the property that we want to purchase. The orginal owner of the property that is for sale past away and it is unknown if or what agreement they had. Part of the fenced area is where we want to eventual build a new home on. We do not want to pay for 10.1 acres and not have control over it. What is our course of action. It has been suggested that we fence the property from survey stake to survey stake?

ANSWER
You need to determine if the adjoining land owner has an adverse possession or acquiescence claim on the property. That is, did the adjoining landowner hold the property where the fence is located openly and adversely to the late owner, and was it held that way for the requisite period? Or, was there an express or implied agreement between the landowners? Or does an easement either express or implied exist? You definitely need legal counsel. For more information, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Road and Beach Access Easements

QUESTION
I am the property owner of a parcel of land that includes a Road and Beach Easement. This is deeded to eleven other parcels. Being the land owner of the parcel that the easement is on, do I have the right to say no if they want to fill in a path to make it easier to get to the lake?
I am only aware that they have the right to use the land in the state it is in to access the lake. What are my rights being the land owner of the parcel? Can any one of the eleven people who have the deeded road and beach access Easement cut and remove trees, fill in a walkway, or build a elavated walkway to access the lake?
I understand if they want to make any improvements to land, they need permission from myself. Is that true?
Am I liable if someone is injured on the easement?

ANSWER
This sounds like an express easement, that is, the rights and burdens are spelled out exactly in a conveyancing document which has probably been recorded on your property. Your rights and responsibilities will be spelled out exactly in this document. Your burden will be no more no less than what is spelled out in the easement agreement. That is, unless the agreement is ambiguous, in which case the other property owners could ask a court to interpret the easement agreement. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Can assessment be relieved

QUESTION
Our property association has been turned over by developer who states in a letter that he is relieved of paying assessments for 10 years according to Article IV, Section 5 of Master Deed - reads: Assessments levied against the Units to cover expenses of administration shall be apportioned among and paid by the Co-owners on an equal basis, in advance and without increase or decrease for the existence of any right to the use of limited common elements appurtenant there to. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Board of Directors, including the first Board of Directors appointed by the Developer, may relieve a Unit Owner (including the Developer) who has not constructed a residence within his Unit from payment, for a limited period of time, of all or some portion of his respective allocable share of the Association budget. The purpose of this provision is to provide fair and reasonable relief from Assocation assessments for non-resident owners until such Owners actually commence utilizing the common elements on a regular basis ... is this legal??? They own 10+ lots
Letter also states they are turning over $6515 expenses incurred to date. Isn't it their responsibility to pay ''their'' expenses not forward to new Assocation?
Thank you!

ANSWER
I would need to review the master deed in its entirety. Also, I would need to see the bylaws and any other Association documents. Without this information, I cannot properly advise you whether they bear any responsibility. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Ex husband's right to sue for property he gave up in divorce

QUESTION
If my ex husband's name is still on the mortgage, but signed a quit claim, is he still able to sue me for the property I'm living in? He agreed to terms in the divorce papers, and has now changed his mind. Is a divorce decree enough? Please help, I'm being threatenedby him daily that he's going to take my house?

ANSWER
If the divorce decree gives you the property, the divorce decree is binding. If his credit is getting hurt by you not making the payment on the underlying mortgage, he could seek relief through the same judge who presided over the divorce. His divorce attorney should have taken this into account and insisted that you refinance the property after the divorce or added provisions in the divorce decree addressing non-payment of the mortgage. For more info, please contact our real estate lawyers at (248)851-3175.

Purchaser sueing seller

QUESTION
Recently sold former marital home ''as is''. Purchaser has brought a lawsuit against only myself and excluded co-seller from litigation. Purchase agreement states arbitration is to be used to resolve any conflicts post sale, it is initaled by both parties on purchase agreement. Purchaser brought a lawsuit without going through arbitration. Doesn't arbitration clause prohibit a lawsuit? Would this lawsuit be considered null and void?
Also, can the seller single out who is to be sued when the home was sold by 2 people, my former spouse and myself?
Thank you.

ANSWER
You are correct. An arbitration clause in the purchase agreement is binding. This needs to be brought to the attention of the trial judge by motion as soon as possible. For more info, please contact my a qualified real estate lawyer at (248)851-3175.