How to address unexpected liens?

Q: I purchased a foreclosed house. Paid house value plus 42K in liens at the Allegheny county sheriff sale. The HOA had a lawyer send me a shocking letter telling me I owed them14K in liens! Why am I paying this? What is the law? Please explain it simplistically. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: This is why people who are not experienced with foreclosure property hire an attorney before bidding on Sheriff sale real estate. You probably paid delinquent real estate taxes and liened municipal services but probably did not do a title search which would have showed other liens which could be from a variety of sources-civil judgment, back child support, unpaid taxes, municipal services, etc.. Hire an attorney now to verify the liens and if they are so verified, you will have to pay them. Hopefully, you will not now have a Sheriff’s sale house which cost you $56,000.00.

How to I take over an abandoned house?

Q: I see an abandoned house every day on my way to the clinic. How can I take over and fix it up? I want to eventually take ownership. I’m looking to fix up and live in it. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You cannot just move in and start working on it. You need to find who owns it, which can often be a challenge. You can look up the deed to see who the listed owner is, you can call the taxing entities-city, school county to see if anyone is paying taxes on it. You can go to the Sheriff’s Office to see if it is under foreclosure or is up for sheriff’s sale. I would first ask your municipal zoning officer. He will likely know the status. It may be on the list to foreclose on for delinquent taxes, or on a list to tear down. You need to do some investigating. Often there is money owed to someone like a bank or a municipality, before you can get clear title.

Will I be liable back property tax if I am her POA?

Q: My friend wants to make me power of attorney. She wants to give me all her belongings when she passes away for taking care of her now. She owes $6,000.00 back property tax that she says she cannot pay, I just want to know if I will be liable for that? (Swissvale, PA)

A:  As an Agent for a Principal under a Power of Attorney, you would have no personal liability unless you acted beyond your scope of authority. You cannot sign a will for her as her Agent. She needs to sign the Will. If you inherit the house through the will, you would be liable for the property taxes. I have seen taxing bodies sue heirs of real estate under a will, even when they do not take title by deed. If you inherit other money from her, you may be able to pay the taxes. You should get an idea of what her estate would consist of and what her estate expenses will be and review it with a lawyer.