Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Q: My landlady told me I had to move by the end of the month because she’s going to put the house on the market.

I have a lease that goes until next September but she says that doesn’t matter, and she wants me out now.  Do I have any rights?

A:  You certainly do if you have a written lease.  That is a contract and it can’t be broken just because the property owner wants to sell.  I am not an attorney, and I recommend you consult one or meet with one of the tenant’s rights organizations you can find on the Internet.  However, like most professional Realtors, I have enough experience with landlord tenant law to tell you that your lease would still be in effect even if the property is sold.  A new owner would be required to give you their contact information, the address to send your rent, and the location of any deposits you made at the start of your lease.  The current owner would have to pass those deposits on to the new owner who will have to create a special account for those funds.  It’s odd that your landlady would give you such trouble when your attitude and willingness to help is so vital to selling the house.  The state law says that you have to be given 48 hour notice for any showings and that both the owner and real estate professionals showing the house must act reasonably.  That means they can’t expect you to drop everything and show the house on a moment’s notice or at odd hours.   You can make it harder or easier to sell the home by your cooperation.  Your landlady can make things unpleasant, so I would recommend letting her know that you are aware of your legal rights and offer to work cooperatively.  The next owner may be thrilled to have a good renter in the house already if they are buying for investment.  Go online and print off the Washington State Landlord Tenant law.  Read it carefully and then share it with your landlady.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Q: As you suggested, we read over the sellers disclosure form (Form 17) and now we think we may want to withdraw our offer on that home.

There are a lot of things wrong with this property and some of them look really scary. 

A:  I also reviewed the disclosure and saw that some of the answers, particularly the environmental issues, didn’t make sense given my knowledge of the area.  I contacted the listing broker for clarification.  The listing broker acknowledged that he had not read the disclosure nor had he discussed it with the seller.  He stated that his office has a strict policy that listing brokers can’t help their sellers fill out the form.  I asked him to speak to the sellers about their answers.  He did and they have redone the form to reflect the correct answers.  They simply misread the instructions.  I think you should reconsider withdrawing your offer in light of their new disclosure form.   These forms are often full of mistakes and misunderstandings and I wish there were a way to make them more helpful.  Sellers often don’t give it sufficient thought when they fill them out, and mistakes and misrepresentations can happen too easily.  I believe listing agents should at least go over the form and explain terms to the sellers so they realize what they are saying about the property. 

I counsel buyers not to rely too heavily on these disclosures.  Sellers often don’t really know their property that well or don’t realize there is a problem.  Most people don’t go into their crawl space, for instance, and yet there can be some major problems there. The form also asks questions like “has there ever been any flooding?”  The seller may not have knowledge of past flooding or other major problems that happened before they owned the property and yet these are issues that would be vital for buyers to know.  This is the reason that having your own inspections is so essential.  A home inspection, septic inspection and often a geotechnical engineering inspection should tell you what you need to know.