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Sellers refuse to sign deed, what's the crime?

Crown Point, NY |

Bought house in 1984, paid for in full in 1990 and I've paid all taxes. Deed was in lawyer's office waiting to be registered when I discovered he'd misappropriated the check I wrote to the three sellers. He was sent to Federal Prison and his wife was so angry she burned all the papers in his office including my deed. I had two deeds drawn up since, 1st one, 1 of the 3 refused to sign, 2nd one, 2 refused to sign. I'm in NY, they live in FL. What does the law say re this, and can I sue?

Thank you for the fast answer. They've had their money in full since 1990, I have no deed. No, I'm not the co-owner, I bought and paid for this house that I've lived in for 28 years and paid all taxes. My complaint is they won't sign the deed and I'm unable to get grants for much-needed repairs without it, plus I'm nearly 82. I have the land contract that the attorney used to draw up the deeds. 1. Where do I find what law is applicable to a seller refusing to sign a replacement deed? 2. How can I recoup my losses via a lawsuit, I'm in NY, they're in FL. ***I can't afford an attorney, the court clerk told me years ago not signing the replacement deed x2 (they DID sign the original) is a misdemeanor or a felony, IS THAT TRUE? I seek punitive and compensatory action tp pay for house repairs, and to force them to sign.

Attorney Answers 5


  1. Best answer

    Dear Property Owner:

    You have been dealing with this problem alone for a long time , and so, you should not be frustrated by answers provides by attorneys in an online public forum cannot absorb all the information you are trying to provide.

    The best I can see for you, is with proof of your land contract, and from your county that you paid the local, county, and school taxes, for more than twenty years, that you may proceed to a route of ownership by a claim of adverse possession, or you may proceed by a lawsuit for specific performance, or by a lawsuit to quiet title; but no matter what you do, you will need a lawyer. The defendant former owners are not located in New York. New York long arm jurisdiction may apply (transactions involving real property, contracts), but if not, you may need to use a federal court. You just cannot do this without an attorney putting your claim together and working out the complex issues relating to jurisdiction.

    It does not matter whether there may be a crime. You need a District Attorney to decide if prosecution is warranted and even then, the defendants are in Florida.

    You may consider re-writing the question or just consulting with a local attorney.

    Good luck.

    The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.


  2. So I assume you are a co-owner with the other 3? Is there a contract that reflects the transaction other than the burned deed? If so, an attorney should review first to see if it is still valid and can be enforced. If not, you may have to instigate a partition proceeding, which would force a sale of the property and division of the proceeds. The sale might not be to you. The division would be equal, but subject to your claim for added contribution since 1990, although if you live there, your tax payments might be viewed as rent. In my state, a partition case, because of its added costs and sales commissions, has a way of motivating the other owners to settle with you. All turns on whether you have a binding agreement still at this time. Any problem with taking a deed from those willing to sell, to at least increase your ownership share?

    To questioners from West Virginia & New York: Although I am licensed to practice in your state, I practice on a day-to-day basis in Massachusetts. I answer questions in your state in areas of the law in which I practice, and in which I feel comfortable trying to offer you assistance based on my knowledge of specific statutes in your state and/or general principles applicable in all states. It is always best, however, to work with attorneys and court personnel in your own area to deal with specific problems and factual situations.


  3. If I understand your question correctly then you have a failure of consideration in that the seller never got their money. Therefore you do not own the house. If you have since given all the money to the sellers you can bring a quiet title action to declare title to the premises in your name and have the clerk docket the property in your name. If not, you can bring a claim against the attorney through the IOLA fund if the money went through his escrow account or through his malpractice carrier. You should probably retain an attorney to review all of this.

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  4. I am not sure I understand the facts.

    Did the attorney steal the money you paid to purchase the property or the money to file the deed or both?

    If the attorney stole the purchase money, then you may not own the home because the sellers were never paid. They would not be required to sign a deed if they were not paid. You might have an adverse possession claim.

    If the attorney stole only the recording fees and the original deed was destroyed, then file an action to quiet title.

    If this answer was helpful, please mark it as helpful or as a best answer. This answer is for general education purposes only. It neither creates an attorney-client relationship nor provides legal guidance or advice. The answer is based on the limited information provided and the answer might be different had additional information been provided. You should consult an attorney.


  5. If I understand the facts, you are in possession of a land contract. You paid on the land contract, and have not yet received the deed. And at some point during the performance of the land contract, the sellers' attorney misappropriated the funds, leaving the sellers unpaid? And in that same interim period, the spouse of the attorney in issue destroyed all of his files, including the original deed (which the sellers now refuse to replace)?

    The sellers appear justified in not delivering a deed to you, but you are not necessarily left without remedy. You should contact a real estate attorney promptly. You likely need to commence a quiet title action. Contact an attorney promptly and schedule a consultation.

    This communication is intended only to provide general information. No attorney-client relationship is created.

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