Articles Posted in Foreclosures Real Estate

Buying a house can be a very exciting endeavor, but it can be expensive, complicated, and even occasionally confusing. For most of us, purchasing a home or property is one of the largest purchases we will make— it’s a major life event! Hiring a real estate attorney can help you navigate the twists and turns of real estate and even help you save money (and stress).

As you go through the process of purchasing a property, you will deal with agents, banks, and title agencies at every turn, and no one will have your best interest—or your pocketbook—in mind. That is, except for your real estate attorney, who has been hired solely to protect your interests.

Here are just a few ways a real estate attorney can help you to make the most of your investment.

In the recent case of Prepared Insurance Company v. Gal, the plaintiff appealed a lower court’s decision regarding a real estate contract and the liabilities associated with it. The insured was a homeowner who discovered that his kitchen sink leaked water, which caused damage to his custom-made cabinets. The insured filed a claim with the insurance company, which sent an adjuster to assess the damage. The report concluded that the cost to fix the cabinets would be $8,653.47, but this estimate did not include the general contractor’s overhead and profit.

A cabinetry expert also assessed the damage at the request of the insurer. He concluded that it would cost roughly $2,500 to fix the damage or almost $20,000 to replace the cabinets.  This cost estimate did not include the price of an electrician or plumber, who would both be necessary to finish the job. It also omitted the estimated cost for hiring a general contractor.

The insurance company tendered payment for $6,153.47 to the insured, reflecting an $8,653.27 cost less the insured’s deductible. The insured sued, claiming the insurer undervalued the damage because it did not pay for the replacement of the cabinets or the cost of a general contractor. In the meantime, the insured filed another claim for damage to the cabinets caused by a leaking air conditioner unit. The insured had a general contractor inspect the loss. This expert testified that the replacement of the cabinets would cost $107,902.50, due to their unique nature. This estimate failed to apportion the damage between the first leak and the second leak.

In the recent case of Marcinkiewicz v. Quattrocchi, the Third District Court of Appeals considered a case involving a property deed. The facts of the case are as follows. In 2007, the son had moved to Hawaii from Miami to move into the house where his mother was living, which is the property at issue in this case. The son moved to Miami with the understanding that he would be taking care of his mother and that she would someday give him ownership of the house. In 2009, the mother vacated the house and moved in with her daughter and son-in-law. The son continued living in the property. The mother continued to pay for expenses associated with the property while the son lived there. However, the son acquired tenants at the property and collected rent for their occupancy.

In 2010, the mother was declared legally incompetent, requiring the creation of a guardianship over her assets. Her daughter served as the guardian. The guardianship over her property was dissolved two years later, while a limited guardianship over her person persisted. This limited guardianship provided the daughter with the right to decide her mother’s medical treatment and location of residence.

Roughly one year later, the mother provided a property deed to her son-in-law instead of deeding the property to her son. The mother reportedly visited her attorney and requested that a quitclaim deed for the home be provided to the son-in-law. During trial, the son-in-law claimed he had no knowledge of the mother’s intention to do this.

In Tower Hill Signature Insurance, ETC v. Speck, et al., a construction company appealed a final judgment entered against it at the conclusion of a jury trial that ordered the defendant to pay over $160,000 in costs to make subsurface repairs and stabilization repairs to the homeowners’ property.

The homeowners’ claim against the insurance policy occurred in January 2010. After the insurance company completed an initial investigation, it denied the claim and rescinded the homeowners’ policy, stating that the home on the property had unrepaired damage in existence at the time the policy was issued. The homeowners then sued the insurance company for breach of contract, and in response the insurer asserted an affirmative defense that the contract was void because the homeowners failed to disclose a material fact–the unrepaired damage.

In 2001, the homeowners had made another claim with a prior insurer regarding sinkhole damage for the same property. The claim stated that the house was a total loss and that they were entitled to their policy limit of $330,000. The insurer retained an engineer, who stated that $166,000 in below ground damages was appropriate. According to the homeowners, an additional $64,000 for above ground repairs was needed. The parties settled the claim for $260,000. Documents indicated that the homeowners only spent $15,000 on repairs to the home and that the rest was used to pay two mortgages on the property.

Many real estate transactions are accompanied by complex title defects which need to be resolved before the transaction can be completed. While real estate lawyers are responsible for diligently researching their client’s title history before moving forward with the transaction, it is not uncommon for certain title defects, such as undischarged mortgages, to slip through the cracks due to poor record keeping or careless work by attorneys previously involved with the transfer of this title.

There are many different circumstances which can result in an undischarged mortgage. The financial institution that issued the mortgage could:

• Have filed bankruptcy
• Be in FDI receivership
• Have been merged with other banks

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