As residents of Philadelphia celebrate the District Attorney’s criminal charges against five people accused of stealing 14 homes, some real estate attorneys are pointing out the danger to the true owners of losing the properties forever.
Whenever there is theft of homes or other properties in Philadelphia, there is always a risk that an innocent person will buy the stolen property before the fraud is discovered. Although the law is clear that stolen title must be returned to the rightful owner, the situation is muddied when an innocent person unwittingly buys the property from the thief.
Michael Daiello, a real estate attorney who maintains a blog covering solutions to property disputes, works with defrauded property owners to recover their stolen properties.
“The unfortunate thing with these stolen title cases is that the true owner may never recover the property,” Daiello said. “The law protects innocent purchasers who didn’t know that the seller stole the title, but in some of these cases, the true owner would be left to pursue the thief for recovery of the financial loss.”
Investing in a home is a major life purchase and often the largest financial decision you’ll make. Even when you find your dream home, the worry of future repairs can cause hesitation. Fortunately, there are laws meant to protect homebuyers from the consequences of undisclosed defects.
1. Property disclosures will help you make an informed purchase
The seller will provide a property disclosure statement to a potential buyer before an offer is made. In this legal document, the seller states all known property defects. The seller is required to disclose all known deficiencies that would be considered “material defects”. When buyers fully understand all defects of the home they are about to purchase, they can weigh the positives and negatives to do what’s best for their needs and budget.
When someone passes away, family disagreements can lead to serious legal trouble. As real estate attorneys, we’ve seen estate cases that victimize investors and heirs, sometimes resulting in lawsuits for fraud and property possession.
Relatives of a deceased family member should first understand the difference between a will and an estate. A will simply leaves instructions to heirs for how to distribute assets. An estate includes these assets plus any home or property owned, which can make things a little more complicated. Several heirs means several opinions, causing tension at an emotional time. Ideally, heirs come to an agreement on what to do with a property, but sometimes a legal case is necessary.
Clients who turn to us are usually facing common situations. Is one sibling already living with a parent who passes away? They may feel entitled to the property or think they have more rights than other heirs. If they pay for maintenance and repairs, they might accuse family members of abandoning the home. To avoid conflict, heirs might agree to let them stay for years without settling the estate.