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Michele K McNeill
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Michele McNeill’s Answers

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  • How am I going to afford a lawyer when the costs alone would costs upward of $15-$20,000 exceeding what damages they caused?

    Retaining a lawyer costs money - money I don't have and sure it exceeds the damages I incurred what then ? I already used $9500.00 to repair my mechanical damages they caused, what lawyer will They were at FAULT not me Is this what it takes to g...

    Michele’s Answer

    If you have a strong case and a means to recover your attorneys' fees from the other side and the other side has assets or insurance or a bond, then some attorneys will represent a client and collect their fees from the other side. The fee would be contingent upon recovering damages, and will typically be the greater of a percentage of all sums recovered or the legal fees recovered, whichever is greater. You typically get less than all of the damages you have suffered, but typically more than what you could negotiate on your own.

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  • Does the 14 days to return a deposit happen from the day you MOVE OUT, or the last day of your lease?

    I moved out two weeks early. When should I expect my deposit back?

    Michele’s Answer

    Washington's Landlord Tenant Act states as follows: "Within fourteen days after the termination of the rental agreement and vacation of the premises or, if the tenant abandons the premises as defined in RCW 59.18.310, within fourteen days after the landlord learns of the abandonment, the landlord shall give a full and specific statement of the basis for retaining any of the deposit together with the payment of any refund due the tenant under the terms and conditions of the rental agreement."

    The property is only abandoned if a tenant is behind in rent and moves out with no intention of returning. A lease agreement is terminated at the end of the lease term or by agreement or after 20 days written notice prior to the end of the monthly term for a month-to-month tenant. So, technically the landlord has 14 days following the end of the lease term or the date the tenant moves out, whichever occurs last, and not just from the date the tenant decides to move out.

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  • Do I need a attorney if you are going to foreclose on a house?

    After 7 years we are underwater. My spouse is very sick, and need to move them close to hospital and family. Have 2nd morgage. Spouse is self employeed. Spouse is on disability.

    Michele’s Answer

    I highly recommend that all homeowners consult with legal counsel if they are facing foreclosure. In some cases, especially when you have a 2nd mortgage, foreclosure may not be the best solution for getting rid of the property. There are also credit and tax ramifications to consider and collection efforts that could ensue from the 2nd position lender. I have counseled thousands of homeowners on foreclosure issues, including strategic defaults, short sales, loan mods, and deeds in lieu of foreclosure. I can cover everything you need to know and more in a one hour consultation in person or over the phone at a reasonable rate (others can too, but make sure they have at least 3 years of experience in foreclosure law).

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  • Can I make a claim at small claims court if I am not in the country?

    I lived in King County for a few months before moving back to my country. My landlord is not returning my deposit and I am considering filing a claim in small claims court. Can I do that if I have no plans to come back to the US? If I can, will I ...

    Michele’s Answer

    You will have to be present for a small claim hearing, and no attorneys are allowed unless you are a corporation. You could file a district court case outside of small claims with the assistance of a lawyer who could set up to take your testimony via telephone, but this will cost you more than the case is probably worth. Washington does allow for recovery of legal fees and court costs, but never a guarantee that the landlord will pay and you might have to record a judgment lien against the landlord's property to get paid.

    Hope this helps.

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  • Neighbor Dispute: How to keep our neighbor off our property

    Our neighbor's tree service people entered our yard to service a tree without our permission. Since we refused to give our neighbor a permission to build an 8-foot concrete fence between our properties, they have been retaliating us in various wa...

    Michele’s Answer

    I agree that a letter can be helpful, but also keep in mind that any contractor they hire to install a fence is obligated to only install it on your neighbors land. Should you see a fence going in, you can ask the contractor for a copy of the survey to show that they are not trespassing on your land. If they have no survey, then you can demand that they stop until they can produce a survey. There is more that you can do that a real estate attorney would be happy to discuss with you. I find it is best to try and work out a solution to avoid future retaliation, but in some cases you have to be aggressive to protect your property rights.

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  • I have a tenant that caused the sprinkler to go off and it has caused damages to the apartment. And she is suing me for damages

    She is suing me for the damage caused to her personal items. She is suing me for the rent fee, since she has to move out for repair. Do I need to inform her that her lease is terminated? What should i do?

    Michele’s Answer

    I agree with Mr. Thayer, and you should be cautious about terminating a tenant just because they are exercising a legal right, even if they may be wrong about that right. Landlords have an obligation to maintain the premises in a habitable condition and if the tenant caused the damage they could be liable for rent and damages even if they have to move out during repairs. If you have a written lease, then that will also have an impact on your rights as a landlord. I strongly encourage you to seek out the advise of a real estate attorney. Most can tell you what you need to know in an hour or less.

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  • My ex withdrew our HELOC and transferred to new account at same bank

    A couple days before filing for divorce my ex withdrew our HELOC and set up new account and I was told I had no access to it. I assumed she had transferred to an account in her name only but I just found out my name is still on account. Shoul...

    Michele’s Answer

    If you were listed on the account the bank would have no reason not to talk to you. If you can show that you attempted to gain information and were refused, then you may have a basis for defending against any attempt to collect the debt from the time you attempted to get information and were denied depending on the strength of the proof (oral discussions will not typically be enough unless the bank made a record of the conversation on the account and the discussion matches your recollection). But, even if your name was not on the account, the bank can still pursue you because you were married and I assume not legally separated at the time the debt was incurred. Your divorce lawyer would typically make her responsible for paying back all this debt. She also might have a problem discharging the debt if the debt was incurred shortly before she filed the petition for bankruptcy.

    If you were not receiving statements for either account, a written demand for an accounting would be the thing to do. If you are in fact on the account(s), they cannot deny the request.

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  • After I have my friend serve a summons and complaint, what kind of documentation do I need to make to prove it was done?

    And do I have to file something with the court saying I got the summons served?

    Michele’s Answer

    It is never a good idea to have a friend personally serve an opposing party in litigation unless that friend is a process server by trade. A process server knows the law that must be followed in order for the service to be lawful and they know what form to fill out and in many cases will file the form for you with the court. Check your local directory or Internet for a process server. You can also have the papers served by the Sheriff's office through the court. All superior and district courts provide access to a Sheriff's office for personal service needs. The court clerk's office can direct you the appropriate place.

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  • My wife and i were victims of unlawful harassment by a neighbor, can we break our lease?

    we submitted a police report and gave the apartments a copy.

    Michele’s Answer

    The answer is typically no. In most cases a landlord is not liable for the conduct of a neighbor. If you are being harassed, there is an anti-harassment petition that can be obtained at your local district court. The court clerk in most cases can present the petition and show cause hearing order for signature while you wait and then provide instructions for having the Sheriff's office personally deliver the petition and order to the neighbor. This process is designed to be done without the assistance of legal counsel, but it is not a bad idea to consult with an attorney to determine whether the behavior is significant and frequent enough to rise to the level of harassment as defined by State law. Keeping written records and recorded phone messages , if any, and recording the conduct when possible is also a good idea. If the harassment involves any threat to your health or safety, then calling the police would be appropriate.

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  • How much earnest money is typical when buying a house?

    How much earnest money is typically put down when buying a house in washington?

    Michele’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    You should check with a real estate agent in your area as they will know best what is standard for the type of property you are seeking to purchase. The deposit is designed to protect the seller in the event of a breach by the buyer, so the seller will have some say over the deposit amount (i.e., you can offer a $2,500 deposit and the seller could counter with something higher). Typically the deposit will not exceed 5% of the purchase price since by law the seller cannot keep more than this in the event the buyer defaults and the parties have agreed that the seller's only recourse is to keep the deposit.

    Michele McNeill, Esq.
    Skyline Law Group PLLC
    Bellevue, WA

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