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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

Posted

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.

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8 comments

Asker

Posted

Thanks, I'm familiar with adverse possession but never thought of it re this matter. I know I meet all criteria. Perhaps the law library can help with my question about a specific law these people have broken, I thought that could be done here as well as whether compensation might be possible. Good leads, appreciate it.

Steven Warren Smollens

Steven Warren Smollens

Posted

OK. Thank you. Good luck. Perhaps you may consider worth your time to consult with an attorney.

Marco Caviglia

Marco Caviglia

Posted

Why wouldn't you hire an attorney, as all these years of doing it alone have been fruitless? Get this behind you.

Asker

Posted

The usual reason people don't, $$$.

Peter J Weinman

Peter J Weinman

Posted

Although my opinion is probably biased, this is ABSOLUTELY something you cannot get through without an attorney. Even if you do go to the law library and somehow figure out what laws were broken (assuming that they have been), what good will it do you?

Asker

Posted

Thank you. It's all about money. I may be forced to put aside remuneration attempts, regardless of how much this has cost in time, distress, being victimized, living in substandard housing, and wondering if, since I can't afford an attorney, I have to put aside any ideas about one taking it on a contingency basis if it's deemed worth it by any attorney. I've tried over the years with local attorneys with no success, obviously. A late judge in the area did say years ago what they've done is not legal, he was shocked because one of the former owners worked for him. He died before he could make a phone call to that person. So I'm left with adverse possession or quiet title options. I know i'll regret it that they get away with this for what it's cost me.

Peter J Weinman

Peter J Weinman

Posted

This is not the type of case that an attorney would take on a contingency basis. You probably have a long road ahead of you, good luck!

Asker

Posted

Yes, I've come to realize that. I'll be contacting the courthouse tomorrow. Appreciate your input.

Posted

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.

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Asker

Posted

Thanks anyway, I added info but my original questions didn't get answered.

Posted

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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Asker

Posted

Thanks anyway, I added info but my original questions didn't get answered.

Asker

Posted

Thanks, I'm familiar with adverse possession but never thought of it re this matter. I know I meet all criteria. Perhaps the law library can help with my question about a specific law these people have broken, I thought that could be done here as well as whether compensation might be possible. Good leads, appreciate it.

Asker

Posted

Oops, wrong slot.

Posted

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.

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Asker

Posted

Thanks anyway, I added info but my original questions didn't get answered.

Posted

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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Asker

Posted

Thanks anyway, I added info but my original questions didn't get answered.

Michael C. Wild

Michael C. Wild

Posted

The reason that the attorneys who offered suggestions didn't mention anything about a crime is because it's unclear what crime, if any, the sellers of the property may have committed. If anyone has committed a crime, it is the prior attorney who, by your description, went to prison. The sellers' refusal to deliver a new deed to you is far more likely to be civil in nature, as opposed to criminal. Further, the remedy you seek, a deed to the property evidencing your ownership, is civil in nature as opposed to criminal. I wish you luck finding an attorney. Try the find-a-lawyer tool on this website. You could also contact your county bar association or the New York State Bar Association for a referral.

Asker

Posted

Thanks for the clarification, I think it was the county clerk (or maybe two different sources) who told me years ago it was a misdemeanor or felony to not sign a deed, at any rate the county clerk told me it was against the law. I've tried NYSBA several times over the decades, AARP, pro-bono county resources, with no luck.

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