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Clifford L. Tuttle Jr.
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Clifford Tuttle’s Answers

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  • I just found out that I'm renting a house from someone who was possibly just a squatter on the property. Do I have any rights??

    3 months ago we signed a lease and paid 6 months rent for a single family home in Germantown. A few days ago PWD came out and shut off the water w/o warning, in the process of attempting (and failing) to restore water service we learned that our ...

    Clifford’s Answer

    Yes, you should not pay any more rent. Yes you should look for another place to move as soon as you can. Do not wait for someone to evict you. You acted in good faith, but now you know that you have no right to be there. Besides, it is not healthy to stay in a place without utilities. Perhaps your Representative can help you find low cost housing.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law

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  • I was treated unfairly at an appeals hearing on property taxes what type of attorney would I talk to thanks bob

    The review board did not here my audio testimony on my properties because. The recording equipment was not working or was erased how can they make a decision with out hearing the testimony .there is a lot more to this. Need help thanks

    Clifford’s Answer

    You must appeal the decision within 30 days of the date it is dated (not received) to the Allegheny County Board of Viewers. Because of the high volume of 2012 appeals, the BV has established a policy of holding conciliations and only scheduling trials if the conciliation is unsuccessful. All of the conciliations that I have handled in 2013 and 2014 have resulted in settlements agreeable to the landowner. In many cases, the School District (who is usually the biggest problem) has not participated because it is below it cut-ff point or has been unusually cooperative. It is a very good idea to have an attorney experienced in assessment appeals who is able to present the data concerning your property and comparable sales. The dollars per square foot of living space of the subject property versus the dollars per square foot of living space is very important. The cost of hiring a qualified attorney and paying the appeal filing fee has, in my experience, been worthwhile. However, be prepared to wait for a year or more due to backlog. In the meantime, you must continue to pay the tax as assessed. If you get a reduction, you will get refunds from each of the taxing bodies.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law

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  • He wants to put the deed into his name, make my mortgage payments. Then next year refinance the mortgage into his name.

    My house is in foreclosure,but the bank has not officially done anything yet. He is going to pay the mortgage up to date and make the payments. I am concerned because the deed would be in his name, but the mortgage would still be in my name. What ...

    Clifford’s Answer

    This is a very dangerous proposition. Based on the facts you have given me, he may be trying to purchase the property for a small fraction of its value. Deals like this, in my experience, rarely work out to the benefit of the homeowner. If you want to go forward with this, you need a lawyer -- your own lawyer.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh PA

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  • Can estate lawyer let my brothers house foreclose?

    I have an odd question: My grandfather co-signed on my brothers mortgages. My brother later ended up claiming bankruptcy. Every two weeks his mortgage payment comes out of his pay check and he can stay in his home. Grandpap has passed away but his...

    Clifford’s Answer

    You haven't told me whether you discussed this with the lawyer who represents the estate and what he/she said. He/she knows the relevant facts, including what the relevant instruments say. Sometimes non-lawyers use the term "co-sign" when the signer was actually a guarantor. In any event, it is necessary to examine the documents involved and know all of the facts before expressing an opinion. Talk to the lawyer representing the estate. Ask questions. Don't shop his/her opinion. If you want a second opinion, tell the estate lawyer.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

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  • How can we ask a judge for immediate relief from a tenant filing appeal from a magistrate court eviction

    we have a tenant who has broken provisions of lease ( sub-tenant, late rent, ) we also have two of our neighbors complaining about this tenant. One reported tenant to police for peeping in his windows. Tennant has filed appeal to MJ evicition. Ten...

    Clifford’s Answer

    Unfortunately, your tenant is exercising his rights under the law and you cannot go to a judge to get the appeal dismissed, even when there are no grounds. However, there are a few things that can be done.

    You can have his occupancy terminated if he does not make escrow payments to the Prothonotary on time. Go to the Prothonotary and ask for a copy of the ten day notice that you must send after he fails to make a payment sand the praecipe to terminate supersedeas. . The Prothonotary can also help you determine when you can send the notice and when you can present the praecipe. The Prothonotary will issue a certificate to you that you can take back to the magistrate to obtain a writ of possession. The constable will post it and schedule a lock out in about 11 days. You must be there with a locksmith (unless you know how to change locks. At that point, he must arrange to remove his property at a time that is mutually convenient.

    Of course, he may pay the escrow. However, keep an eye on the calendar for next one.

    You can also present a motion to the judge to release the escrow money early. The lack of a defense and your need to pay the mortgage, taxes, etc. are factors that could enable the judge to release all or part of the escrow.

    This has been a very short synopsis and you may wish to hire a lawyer who knows landlord tenant law to assist you.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

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  • In PA what rights as a landlord do I have to stop my tenants from bringing in subtenants? (they are now being evicted)

    Our tenants are being evicted, no show for hearing and are now appealing as Indigents. They have previously had a "cousin" stay with them for 30 days, then wanted us to call the cops and arrest the cousin for trespassing. This is reason one we are...

    Clifford’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    You are in the process of evicting your tenants and the subtenant with them under the proper legal process. Unfortunately for you, your tenants are exercising their right of appeal. However, you one thing going for you that you should not overlook.

    The tenants must pay rent into escrow with the Prothonotary, even if they are indigent. If they fail to make a timely payment, you should send them a form notice (the Prothonotary can provide you with one) telling them that they have 10 days to pay the escrow payment or you will terminate their writ of supersedeas. This means that the right to continue to stay in the property pending the resolution of the lawsuit will end, even though your claim for rent and other amounts will be heard by a board of arbitrators at a later date. Send the notice by regular mail, but get a certificate of mailing from the post office.

    If they don't pay the escrow money in ten days, you must file a motion to terminate the writ of supersedeas (again, the Prothonotary can provide it) with a copy of your notice and a copy of the certificate of mailing, proving that you gave proper notice. The Prothonotary will give you the certificate that you can take back to the Magistrate's Office to obtain a writ of possession. The Constable will post the property and conduct an eviction eleven days later -- or whatever later date you specify. At that time you must be prepared to show up with a locksmith (unless you can change locks yourself) and lock them out. They must make arrangements to move their stuff at your convenience. This is a quick summary and you may decide to hire a lawyer who knows landlord tenant law to make sure you get everything right.

    Be prepared to pay more fees to the Prothonotary and the Magistrate. The total fees will probably be under $200 if you go all the way to an eviction.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

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  • How much for an eviction?

    I'm considering the purchase of a multi-unit apartment building. These are 1 bedroom efficiency's in a "c" class neighborhood, turnover will be high. How much can i expect to pay per eviction? Who is the least expensive for "bulk" evictions.

    Clifford’s Answer

    The answer to your question is not that simple. You have to start by filing a complaint with a magistrate. It costs anywhere from around $75.00 to $200.00 to file, depending upon the amount claimed and the number of Defendants to be served. If you win and the case is not appealed, you can obtain a writ of possession from the magistrate which must be served by the Constable. That usually costs around $40. Then, if the tenant gads not moved, the constable will keep the peace while you change the locks. That costs around $80.00 to $100.00. All of these fees vary from Magistrate to Magistrate. Lawyer's fees vary. Some charge hourly rates. Others a flat fee. I charge $400.00 for a Magistrate's case.

    However, if either party appeals, there are more costs. It costs about $130.00 to file an appeal to arbitration -- each County has its own fee structure. If the tenant appeals, which is likely, you pay nothing. Again, attorneys fees vary. I charge a flat fee of $800.00 for an arbitration, including keeping track of payments into escrow and taking action if the tenant fails to make a payment.

    However, either party can appeal further to a judge. The cost is around $60, but again, it varies. If the other side appeals, you pay nothing. I charge a flat fee of $800 - $1,000 for a nom-jury trial and somewhat more for a jury trial. Yes, a party in a landlord-Tenant case is entitled to a trial by jury. That means two or three days in court.

    It is expensive and often time-consuming to evict a tenant. Plus, you are deprived of income for quite a few months. I wouldn't count on getting a bulk rate from a lawyer who knows what he/she is doing. You want somebody who knows the law and procedure, not somebody who charges the lowest fee. Use care in selecting tenants and lawyers, too. You'll save in the long run.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

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  • If i purchase a multi-unit property and the lease has no wording in it about lease transferring to new owner, whats the default?

    should i get new leases signed with new terms, or must i abide by the original lease terms? What happens if leases are missing for some tenants and i eventually need to evict?

    Clifford’s Answer

    For starters, you should obtain all of the leases from your seller at closing. Have each of them assigned in writing to you. You may want to get new leases anyway, either immediately or when they renew. There are quite a few provisions that should be contained in a lease from the landlord's point of view. Among them, waiver of the right to prior notice and the right to reimbursement of attorneys fees.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

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  • If I cash a check that is only partial payment of my owed security deposit, does that mean I accept that as full payment?

    My security deposit was not returned in full. It was $1,500 and he gave me a check for $900. There was no explanation. I called and he said he had no record of my security deposit (I do). I left the house in immaculate condition (as told to me by ...

    Clifford’s Answer

    Cash the check. Wait until after 30 days have passed and sue at the Magistrate for the balance of your money times 2. It would be nice if you could get written confirmation that the landlord did not make a deduction. Send him an email stating that this confirms that there were no deductions from the security deposit. Also be prepared to prove the amount you paid by a lease or a cancelled check.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

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  • I am landlord. I won at MDJ and Arbitration. They paid $1500 in escrow. Now what? Can they appeal again? How do I get them out?

    How do I get them out of house after winning arbitration? Thank you

    Clifford’s Answer

    The procedure to terminate supersedeas and regain possession is a bit complicated but worth it if you can do it.

    If they miss a payment into escrow, you have to send a ten day notice reminding them to pay. It can be sent by ordinary mail, but you should get a certificate of mailing from the Post Office (PS 3817), which you probably will have to get from the clerk. After the ten days elapse without a payment, you file a praecipe to terminate supersedeas with the Department of Court Records. You attach a copy of your notice and the certificate of mailing to the praecipe. The floor man (or woman) at the desk near the entrance will scrutinize your paperwork and approve it and will prepare the certificate of termination. Then you file the praecipe with the cashier and pay the filing fee.

    After that, you can take the certificate back to the magistrate and fill out an application for a writ of possession. The constable will serve it and schedule a lock out.

    The big advantage of this procedure, as opposed to going through the sheriff at the end of the case is that it is much quicker and cheaper. The sheriff makes you hire a van and movers as well as a storage facility. The constable simply keeps the peace while you change the locks. After the lock out, you make arrangements for the former tenant to move out at your convenience. You may wish to hire a lawyer to help you if you are doing this for the first time.

    Clifford L Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

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