Q: I co-signed on a mortgage and then the borrower passed away. She has kids however, but no will nor estate has been opened. Her kids are fighting over the house. How do I remove myself off the mortgage? What is the process? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You are in a tough position. You cannot just remove yourself off the mortgage. You signed a document that holds you liable, now that she is deceased. Your options are to pay the mortgage off or somehow talk the lender in to releasing you, which they will not do unless the heirs want to assume or refinance and get on the mortgage. If the deceased person’s name is on the deed, an estate must be opened to sell that house. It is important that her children find an experienced attorney to help them establish an estate, get the house on the market and sell it as soon as possible. This will greatly benefit you as once the house is sold the mortgage will be paid off and you are off the hook. I would consult with an attorney if I were you.
Q: I take care of my elderly mother and we are both on the lease and both contribute to the rent. If she were to die I wouldn’t be able to afford the rent by myself. If a co-leaser dies, is the other person responsible for paying the rent on the remainder of the lease or is there an option to break it? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: The answer should be contained in the lease which likely contains joint and several language. Generally, each person on the lease is independently liable for the entire lease amount if the other tenant fails to pay. If your mother’s health is precarious, you may want to reach out to the landlord and inform him of your situation.
Q: My husband’s parents paid for his last two years of college out of pocket when their college savings fund ran out. Three years later, while we were planning our wedding, they claimed he had verbally agreed to start paying them back once he was married and settled. Out of a sense of honor and duty, we’ve been sending them $100 a month in the three and one-half years since then, mostly to pay them back for his cellphone bill, car insurance, and health insurance costs they incurred on his behalf after he’d gotten a full-time job but while he was still on their plans (he was unaware of this agreement, as well, until they wrote up a “bill” that they mailed to him). However, they’ve asked two or three times now for more than $100 a month. My husband refuses but is terrified of being sued. There is absolutely no signed document saying he agreed to pay them back. But assuming they kept all other pertinent documents (college bills, etc.), is there even the smallest, remotest chance they could sue? I believe the total was around $90,000, but they keep lowering it to make it seem more agreeable. They absolutely do not need the money; his father recently retired from a six-figure salary. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: If they pursue 90K they cannot file in Civil Arbitration and therefore would have to sue in General Docket, Civil Division. They probably do not have the skill to file a complaint on their own in the General Docket of Allegheny County. They would need an attorney. Most attorneys would decline such a suit. However, there are attorneys that would take the case if they are paid good money, non-refundable, up front. If they sue for 50K and under in Civil Arbitration, they may be able to cobble together a form complaint on their own without an attorney if they cannot find an attorney interested. In either General Docket or Civil Arbitration, the case is not good unless they have an agreement in writing or good corroborating witnesses that state your husband agreed to pay back his college tuition. I had a similar case. The parents were bitter and angry at their adopted daughter for some reason and when she left the home to go out on her own, sued her. They found a young lawyer to file an Arbitration complaint for money up front. Nothing was in writing and there was no firm verbal agreement to repay anything. The Arbitration panel was not impressed and issued an award for the defendant. I wouldn’t lose sleep over a potential lawsuit from them.
Q: My partner and I recently moved to a place together after living in separate places. We both hired the same moving company. I was moving from a one-bedroom, third-floor apartment while my partner was moving from a small house. There were two movers for both moves. One of my movers suffered from asthma and had to constantly take breaks, which prolonged my move from the originally estimated 6 hours to over 12 hours. Eventually, the one mover stopped coming up and packed the truck, leaving me to one mover to move my belongings and furniture. Furthermore, the movers took an hour lunch break on my time. In the process, many of my boxes were dropped and some of my furniture was damaged right before my eyes. My partner’s move was worse. This company damaged several antique pieces of furniture (and I do mean damaged) as well as damaged the new home we moved to. The damages include: gouges in the wood door frames and hardwood floors, a damaged handrail with plaster everywhere, damages to the brick wall next to our driveway (broken bricks from backing in sloppily), etc. We have been in touch with the moving company, but so far, they have been defensive. Do we have any rights here? (Bridgeville, PA)
A: I put this under “litigation” as you may get more responses. I hope you have not paid them. You have more leverage if you did not or you can stop payment on the check. These moving companies are notorious for stalling and delaying-they probably have no intention on paying you. Have an attorney read your contract. Gather your evidence-photographs, documents, your written log of what happened, estimates for furniture repair and home repairs. If your evidence is good, and your damages are high enough, an attorney may take the case. Do not wait too long to file this. There are applicable statutes of limitations.
Q: My mother in law lives in PA. She is controlling, verbally abusive and poorly manages money. My fiancé wants nothing to do with her. Could my mother in law sue us for Filial responsibility? Nothing has happened yet, and she is not in nursing care. (Clearwater, FLA)
A: It is not your mother in law who would have a claim against you. Filial law was designed as a cause of action for a medical service provider against certain family members for unpaid service provided to an indigent person. If this were to happen in your scenario, it would likely be a suit brought by a nursing home, rehab or hospital if your mother’s care needs were not covered by insurance or her social security income or whatever other income or assets she has. If this potentially would happen, the fact that you are a resident of FLA would make a lawsuit more challenging for a PA based medical service provider.
Q: My dad was in a nursing home and passed away. My mom received a bill saying that she owed $1500 for my dad’s stay in the nursing home. This was over a year ago. (White Oak, PA)
A: This used to be an easy question to answer. In the past, if the community spouse, in this case your mother, never signed the bill as a guarantor, and an estate was not opened for your father, I would say, no. However, many states, including your beloved Commonwealth, have passed “filial” responsibility statutes which hold spouses and next of kin responsible for the medical bills of an indigent person. I would hold off on paying it, exhaust all insurance coverage options, and let them explain to you why your mother owes this bill. If necessary, consult with an elder law attorney in your area.
Q: I was renting a commercial building for automotive repair. I have 4 bays and 2 separate sides. For the first year I used only 2 bays on one side. The other side was leased by different people. That side lease was up, and they moved out. I knew a mechanic that wanted to start a business. I recommend them for the other side. I asked the landlord for 2 leases, but he insisted and put it all under me. The guys next door paid $1,400 and so did I. Almost a year goes by and now it’s almost the first of the year. I’m on holiday break with my family and I stop past the shop and they are no longer there. They emptied the shop without paying December rent. I do not have $1,400 for their side, but I have paid for mine. The landlord is upset of course, so am I. Because I was completely blindsided about them leaving. They told the landlord they would pay then they didn’t. What can I do? They were still working there in December. The landlord wants the money from me. If I am evicted do I still have to pay the remaining rent?
A: It may be worth having your lease read by an attorney. If the lease has specific language to constitute a sublease which obligates you as payor, you may be liable. However, it appears you have been a good tenant and landlords do not like to lose tenants. There are reasons to keep you as a tenant which your landlord is aware of and if you are liable he should be willing to enter into a payment agreement with you.
Q: I purchased a home in Pittsburgh, PA and when I viewed the home it had a sinkhole along the front yard property line. The realtor explained it was due to a broken storm drain pipe and the break was on the neighbor’s side of the property line. The neighbor refused to fix it, so the seller agreed to have it fixed as it was causing issue with the seller’s property (front yard). Six months later there is now a sinkhole in the back yard. The township said the pipe zigzags between my property line and the neighbor’s property line and they can’t force either one of us to fix it as it is private property. This sinkhole is on my property line, so I now I need to fix it. The seller home disclosure did not state any knowledge of this drain pipe or that I would have to fix it. Do I have a case for a fraudulent seller disclosure? (Jefferson Hills, PA)
A: These cases are fact driven and hard to prove, and more facts need to be known. However, it is worth a legal consultation. To prove fraud, I believe you need to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the seller knew or had reason to know of the problem you are alleging and tried to conceal it from you. It is a hard standard, but more facts are needed to determine if you have a claim.
Q: My aunt wants to quit claim deed me her residence that she still owes around $50,000 on HELOC. My question is what will happen to that HELOC once the residence is in my name? Will HELOC be her financial responsibility or will it stay attached to the residence that is now deeded to me? If it is still attached to the residence, can I just continue picking up her payments? Or will she have to make her payments on her own? (Pittsburgh, PA)
Q: I will assume that this is a home equity line of credit which is secured by the home through a loan agreement and by a mortgage or lien filed with the Department of Court Records. As such, this lien will follow the residence and never be removed until the balance is paid or it is otherwise removed with the consent of the lien holder/lender or court order. When you take title to this property, you will assume the debt through the lien. If you would default on the payments, the home could be foreclosed upon and seized. As your aunt is obligated on the loan agreement, whether she or her estate would have any personal liability above and beyond the value of the seized home, would require a reading of the lien documents. Be aware that some mortgage and lien documents contain a “due on sale” clause which prohibits a transfer of ownership prior to satisfaction of the lien without lender approval. If such language is present, the entire note could be due immediately upon transfer and lead to foreclosure. If you want to assume payments for your aunt, I would talk to the lender. They may require refinancing in your name or perhaps a less involved assumption of mortgage agreement.
Q: Can we buy the same house through another Agent after the expiration of initial Buyer Agency Contract, without any liability to the first Agent?
A: Be careful. Read the contract carefully. It is possible that the first agent will claim a commission if he was the one who first procured or engaged the seller for you. I suggest your contact a lawyer who handles real estate litigation.