Skip to main content
Richard S Sternberg
Avvo
Pro

Richard Sternberg’s Answers

115 total


  • Tenant paid the rent for August today. Should I still go for the hearing tomorrow?

    A DC 30 Day Notice to Vacate was served to the tenant, and is due to expire on the 6th of this month. The violations are, none payment of rent (hearing is tomorrow), consistently paying rent late, changed locks and refused to provided a key (af...

    Richard’s Answer

    It depends on what you filed, and, of course, I must assume that the "where" is DC, because this is quite different in Maryland or Virginia. If you filed a 30-day Notice to Quit based on non-payment of rent, and the rent is paid, you are done. Under the Trans-Lux case, a tenant cannot be evicted once all claimed rent (including late fees and bounce charges, as long as they are rent, are paid. It doesn't matter how many times, so make the late fees hurt (if you can under law and not as retaliation). If you filed for breach of a condition of the lease, and that condition hasn't been cured, you might be able to maintain the case. It is very fact specific, and the notice must be perfect. Consult your counsel. Being a landlord without counsel in the District is not for novices or wise men.

    See question 
  • Can a divorce decree be enforced if other spouse passed before the deed was changed?

    If the divorce decree ordered that the spouse's name be taken off the house but the spouse who was the original purchaser passed before this was done, can the divorce decree be enforced to have the spouse's name taken off of the house? What does t...

    Richard’s Answer

    I'm a bit confused by your description of the facts, so let me restate and have you correct me. One spouse we'll call H bought the house but titled it to H & W by entireties. In their divorce, H was to title the property to W, but never did before he died. Was the divorce final before H died? If not, the problem is solved. W owns it by succession outside the estate.as a result of the entireties title. If the divorce was final, the unities of the entireties title was broken. I recently researched this in DC, and that converts the title to tenants in common. In some jurisdictions, I believe the title converts to joint tenants with right of survivorship (JTWROS). If it is JTWROS, the problem is also solved. W owns by succession. You produce the death certificate and it would probably be convenient to file a corrective deed. If the property is held in common, W needs to timely file a claim in the estate of H. Either way, a good lawyer who knows probate and real estate would make this a great deal easier, and, if H was living in the house when he passed and it is now vacant as well as on its way to foreclosure, it might be timely to get it listed and sold. If nobody closer to H has filed to open the estate, W might file to be PR as a creditor of the estate.

    See question 
  • I have my Consent Order Approving Sale. Why is the tittle company waiting out an additional 30 days before I can settle?

    The title company says "this is a title insurance underwriting requirement that we wait out the 30 day appeals period. All title insurance companies have the same requirement." This is not subject to exception. But it is costing me additional m...

    Richard’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    I have managed to get my title underwriter to insure immediate closings after an Order to Sell in probate matters, but they might be taking a bit of a risk that an appeal will be filed and the Order will be reversed. If you can control the selection of title agency, which,by Law, can be selected by the Buyer, you might want to shop around. It seems to me that the Order to Sell is good immediately unless it says otherwise, and it is up to the other side in the litigation, if any, to obtain a stay pending appeal. It really isn't up to the title agent doing the closing; the issue needs to make it past a title underwriter. That's one reason that many title agents write for multiple carriers. Shop around.

    See question 
  • How does seller resolve problem selling to buyer on a land contract and buyer does not fulfill contract but keeps the property?

    Seller sold to buyer in state of Virginia on an installment land contract. Buyer took the seller's deed without seller's permission and did not fully comply with the contract. Buyer did not make all the payments as agreed. Buyer did not disclose ...

    Richard’s Answer

    I agree with Mr. Oakley, but I need to know more before I know how to proceed. First, you need to get your jurisdictions straight, especially when discussing real estate law. The question is posted for DC, but "seller sold to buyer in state of Virginia ..." Are you saying the property is in DC but the buyer was in Virginia when they signed the contract? Next, I need to read the contract as well as associated correspondence. I then need to see what the "agent" did and what you mean by "agent." Is this buyer a real estate salesperson or broker? While they have a duty to reveal that in all sales contracts, at least in DC, I'm not sure that would unwind this transaction. You need to review this with counsel and file something along with a lis pendens before it is sold to a bona fide purchaser and the court decides that you got what you paid. Mr. Oakley is right about another thing: this would have been immensely cheaper if it was handled correctly from the start, and unless you start handling it correctly right away, don't bet on a sympathetic hearing in court. On the other hand, if the property hasn't transferred and you impair the title with a rightful lis pendens timely, your only harm might be legal fees, and you might get the other side to pay them.

    See question 
  • What can be done when cooperative board of directors are in breach of the bylaws?

    There was transition from the old board to the new board and at that time the board new board was informed to sign a confidentiality agreement as well as they had to find new counsel. Per the bylaws no business is to be conducted until these item...

    Richard’s Answer

    The answer is hiding in the Bylaws and a bit of strategy. If I guess right from the tone of your question, you are one of the old board and you are unhappy that the new board won and isn't following the rules. What you need to do is to form a coalition with other old board members and enough of the condo membership to turn the tide. The trick for that is good politics and public relations, and the best politics and public relations is informed by wise legal counsel and a firm grasp of the underlying legal structure, starting with the Bylaws. By in large, DC Condo Law leans in favor of letting condos resolve their issues with local politics rather than judicial enforcement. but there are lines that the new board shouldn't cross. What you need is a coalition that can afford a good lawyer and some posters.

    See question 
  • Is it a common and advisable practice to have a husband + wife serve as co-executors of a family members large complex estate ?

    The estates involve multiple real rental properties and vacant lots which are located thousands of mile away in another State. The estates previous executor was removed by court order for mismanagement of the properties when challenged by the ni...

    Richard’s Answer

    DC Probate law is complex, and, basically, there are three semi-independent bodies of law depending on the date of death of the decedent, but assuming a current decease, the law gives a preference to persons named in the Will, if any, and then closer relatives to act as personal representative. It is also fairly common in pro se intestate estates for some or all relatives at the same level to be co-PR, though I haven't figured out how both the husband and wife could be preferred relatives from the same ancestor without incest. Nevertheless, if the PRs can't get along, that won't be a rare circumstance in DC Probate Court. If you disagree with the actions of the PRs, you need a lawyer. DC law gives PRs fairly broad latitude and protection, and sitting on your rights is a very bad idea.

    See question 
  • Is it possible to sue the USA embassy? was detained for 11 months in the Dominican Republic. my private information was shared

    was arrested in the Dominican Republic for property damage. spent 11 months in jail.with no support for the Embassy. after many calls in emails. no trial or court date. Embassy share information about my case.with others .with out my consent. i d...

    Richard’s Answer

    I'm fairly sure I answered this question before. I'm sorry if you didn't like the answer. Let me instead start by answering "yes," and see where that takes us.

    Perhaps I can illustrate with an exercise from my Business Law professor at Penn. The professor spun out a detailed, complex fact pattern involving questionable morality and dubious legality. At the end, he paused for effect and asked for a show of hands: "Can he sue?" asked the professor. Half the students raised their hands to indicate that they thought the plaintiff was right; the other half raised their hands to show their belief that the plaintiff was wrong. "But, can he sue!?" urged the professor. A few changed sides.

    The professor roared: "Of course, he can sue! Any idiot can sue! It takes a pen, some paper, and the filing fee. Indeed, a crayon has been known to work. The correct question is: 'CAN HE WIN!'"

    Governments and their embassies have sovereign immunity for their actions unless they waive it or unless they are deprived of it by statute. The U.S. Government waives its immunity in the Federal Torts Act as well as a number of other places. Further, one can maintain a suit if the U.S. Government deprives someone of their Constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 as well as a possible Bivens action. But, it is unlikely that any of that applies to you, because you haven't described anything the U.S. Government did or didn't do to you other than not support you or translate for you when you were arrested in the Dominican Republic. I know of no requirement that the U.S. translate for you or support you. I'm sure you could find a lawyer to interview you and research for other possible breaches, but I'm sure they'd want to get paid for the work. Otherwise, the short answer is: "Yes. Of course, you can sue!"

    See question 
  • Deeds of Trust and Death of Homeowner Out of State

    My brother, passed away on February 24th without a Will. He was single and had no children or anyone living with him. He moved into his home in April 2014 and it was valued at $420,000 just built. The title document has three deeds of trust who ...

    Richard’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    If I understand the facts, the estate is in California, and you are in DC. You should post the question to a California lawyer, because it will be California law that applies. I agree with my California colleague, however, that you need to open an estate before you "gather *his* things out of [his] house." If the home mortgage is "under water," those things may rightfully be distributed to the creditors to offset their losses. Even though, in most cases, personal possessions of the deceased are of little value and can be retrieved or purchased from the personal representative, breaking into the house and taking things that do not belong to you is a crime. I'm assuming that the brother who has Letters of Administration has retained counsel. Ask that counsel if the estate can sell the house rather than permitting a foreclosure. Ask if you can get possession of the personal items. You don't have to do anything, but the personal representative -- your brother -- probably should notify the banks so that they hold tight while the estate liquidates. If your brother doesn't have a California lawyer with experience in probate, he needs one.

    See question 
  • My neighbor has agreed to extend my the right to park my car on her property (drive way). How can this be handled legally?

    I live in N.E. Washington DC. I had initially hope to purchase a small portion of her property for parking purposes. However, my neighbor would rather "allow" me parking privilages. I would be responsible for half of the cost ------paving any ...

    Richard’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    My learned colleague is correct in that the only way to make this agreement enforceable is to draft and record it as an easement on land. If you can get the owner to agree to that, you would be utterly foolish to make this a DIY project. It'd be relatively cheap and easy for an experienced lawyer. But, I'm afraid I doubt that this will ever happen. The reason your neighbor wants to "allow" you to use her driveway is because allowing you without an easement blocks adverse possession while allowing her to stop allowing you any time she pleases.

    See question 
  • How to reinstate Letters of Admin that have expired? The estate is closed. Now unclaimed $ available. I was the administrator.

    Both parents passed away in DC. I was administrator and live in MD. Estates were closed years ago. There are unclaimed assets that cannot be collected or distributed without Letters of Administration. How can they be reinstated or get new ones?

    Richard’s Answer

    My learned colleagues from the Great State of Florida are overall correct, but I believe the question was "How" to reinstate. In DC, it will matter if this was a pre-'81, pre-95, or post-'95 estate. It will also matter whether the personal representative (the term administrator is outdated for most purposes unless this is a very old estate) is the same person as originally appointed. I can't recall without checking the forms whether there are other factors. It may matter if you were an "executor" -- a PR appointed by a Will -- or an "administrator" -- appointed by the Court in an intestate estate. If it is one of the easier variants, it is a matter of a simple motion to reopen. At its worst, you will need to re-petition exactly as you would have opened the estate, but with the word "Reopen" printed or typed into the caption. There may then be issues of bond and renunciations or priority to serve as PR. You should discuss this with a qualified lawyer, but if you insist, you might at least, make notes of all the relevant facts and then sit down with a deputy clerk in the Probate office to review your plan for filing.

    See question