Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Help Me Howard: Lien
If you believe the experts, now is a great time to buy a distressed property. That's a house where the owner is being foreclosed on. A short sale; you can get a great price, but you can also get a lot of headaches. Which is why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you are thinking about buying a house in foreclosure, walk through here. Maria and her husband bought a house and are fixing it up to re-sell.
Maria Lornezo: "There were a lot of little things that had to be done to it and to make it appealing and livable."
Buying foreclosed properties can be a lot of work and can be lucrative, but you never know the surprises that will pop up.
Maria Lornezo: "Apparently, the person who lived in this property before owned a pit bull, which is illegal in Miami-Dade, so they came and they fined him."
The renter was fined $510 by Animal Control. When he didn't pay that, the county threw in a $10,000 fine. Needless to say, he did not pay that either. So the county slapped a lien on the property.
Maria Lornezo: "It's not fair for a new buyer to have to be faced with this fines."
Since the lender had foreclosed on the property, Maria thought they should have to pay the $10,000-plus lien. Their attorney disagreed.
Maria Lornezo: "The lawyers for the seller said that they could not find anywhere in Florida statutes that said, the county could enforce this fine."
The county disagreed. And then, Maria got worse news when she learned it would be costly to walk away from the deal.
Maria Lornezo: "They said, if you do not close, then you're just going to forfeit the deposit."
So Maria convinced the county to lower the fine to $5,510, and she paid it. But she is still convinced, either the dog owner or the lender should have to reimburse her.
Maria Lornezo: "Is the county really able to put this fine on properties and then make somebody else assume?"
Well Howard, who has to pay the lien: the renter who owned the pit bull and got fined, the seller of the property, or the buyer?
Howard Finkelstein: "Since the lien was recorded before the sale, the seller should have paid it. Apparently, the seller's attorney did not realize that the law regarding pit bull violations allows a lien to be placed, not only against the owner of the pit bull, but the owner of the property as well."
When we spoke to the lender, they told us, they were convinced that the unpaid fine did not attach to the property but followed the renter who owned the dog. When we explained Howard's interpretation of the law, they agreed to reimburse Maria $2,510.
The county then gave back the other $3,000, because after we started asking questions, they realized there had been a mistake in their calculations, and they had overcharged her.
Maria Lornezo: "You guys did get some results."
And Maria got all her money back.
Maria Lornezo: "Thank you very much. I have to say thank you to Help Me Howard and your crew for getting this back. I don't know that I would have been able to achieve it on my own."
Patrick Fraser: "We got her money back, thanks to Howard knowing a thing or two about the law. By the way, before you buy any property, not only do you check to make sure there are no liens. Check with the city and county to make sure there are no open permits or illegal additions to the property. Otherwise, you could be stuck after you close."
Got an issue you would like to foreclose on? Just lien on us. We'll pit Howard against any lawyers. In a legal debate, not a wrestling match. That wouldn't be pretty.