Ilyce Glink

Q: I bought a foreclosed home. I just received a letter from the county threatening to take my land due to unpaid taxes from 2006. Do I have to pay these?

A: You might have to pay these back taxes. If you bought the house subject to all liens (known or unknown), you might well owe these real estate taxes.

Unknown liens are a huge danger for those home buyers purchasing foreclosures and short sales. With foreclosures, the bank supposedly takes back the property, satisfies all the liens, and then resells the property with "clean" title.

With a short sale, the buyer may purchase a property subject to all liens and matters that may affect the title to the home. In some cases, a buyer in a short sale could be responsible for the payment of unpaid real estate taxes, contractor's liens and homeowner association fees and dues.

Frequently, buyers of foreclosed homes buy them on their own without the assistance of an attorney. In some cases, they buy these homes without purchasing an owners title insurance policy. A buyer of a foreclosed home must make sure that they obtain good title to the home they are buying. They must make sure that all prior unpaid real estate taxes have been paid or satisfied. They must also make sure that all other claims against the property have been wiped clean in the foreclosure.

People often don't understand the difference between a short sale, a foreclosure and an REO (real estate owned) property.

In a short sale, the seller is a person that is selling the property for less than what he or she needs to satisfy all of the costs of the sale, including paying off the lender. If you buy a short sale and are not careful, you may find yourself buying the home and having to pay expenses that were unpaid by your short sale lender.

If you buy a foreclosure, you should be buying the home at the courthouse steps and may have to clean up title issues that were unresolved in the foreclosure. A foreclosure generally wipes the slate clean of most liens and other matters that affect the title to a property. A foreclosure will generally not get rid of easements and other agreements that affect a home, but will get rid of mortgages and other claims of lien that affect the home, including money owed to homeowner's associations.

However, in some cases, real estate taxes are not wiped out when a property goes through foreclosure. If you are buying a foreclosure, you must know what can and will affect the title to the home you are buying.

Finally, an REO property is a property that generally has gone through foreclosure and is now owned by the bank. You should treat an REO property in the same manner as a property owned by a seller, but you should make sure that all fees and expenses have been paid by the bank from the time they took title to the property through the date of your purchase. In addition, you'll want to make sure that all real estate taxes are current on the home.

Did you hire your own real estate attorney (not the one hired by your lender) to go over the details of your purchase and help negotiate? If you did, go back to him or her and have a discussion about this issue and find out what you need to do to resolve it.

If you didn't hire an attorney previously, you may need one now. Just know that if the taxes did not get paid and the lender in the foreclosure did not have an obligation to pay them, you are going to have to pay them. Get moving, because it's possible that the county will sell your home for back taxes owed very soon.

Good luck.

Q: My husband bought a house two years ago. We signed some papers. I recently checked those papers and I noticed that a quitclaim was included in those documents. My husband says I needed to sign it because he was not going to be able to get the loan otherwise. Is this true? Is he being honest?

A: There are several possible reasons that you would have had to sign a quitclaim deed.

One reason might have been was that your credit was so poor that the lender would not allow you to be on the loan to the home nor on title in order for your husband to refinance the home.

Another reason would be that your husband refinanced the home but simply wanted to take you off the title to the home.

A third reason might have been that your husband wanted to avoid having you on the title to the home and on the mortgage as well.

Usually a husband and wife will both own a home and will both obtain financing for the home together. If you obtain financing together, you are both responsible for the loan payments no matter what. That means if one of the spouses dies, the surviving spouse is entirely responsible for the loan.

My biggest concern is that you're on the mortgage but don't own the home. If you're on the mortgage but he owns the home on his own, you've got some pretty big issues you'll have to work through.

Before jumping to any conclusions, review the documents from the refinancing. You should see if the loan application was in your name and your husband's name. You should determine whether the loan is in your name and your husband's name. If you have the closing statement, see if your name is on the closing statement along with your husband's. Then, if you have a copy of the promissory note from the closing, see if you signed it along with your husband.

Once you have all this information in hand, you can assess where you stand and whether there's a problem or not. If your name was taken off the title to the home because your husband could not refinance the home with your name on title, you can always add your name back onto the title to the home.

Please speak to a real estate attorney to find out what, if any, options you have at this point if you suspect there is a problem at hand.

Q: I was in the process of short selling my rental home. The loan was originally a Countrywide loan that is now owned by Bank of America.

My loan was deemed fraudulent by Countrywide's legal dept. They advised me that at closing of the short sale they would return to me the $30,000 of my payments that I had made on the fraudulent loan.

I went to the home one weekend to check on it and clean for an upcoming open house. My locks were changed and $1,500 of my possessions had been taken. My local sheriff and state's attorney were in disbelief that this could happen.

I am not in foreclosure. The lender has refused to give me a key and return my possessions. I have been locked out of my rental property for nearly 10 months. I asked them to foreclose on me and they refused.

The OCC and state refused to get involved due to "jurisdictional issues."

I want to know why the OCC won't get involved and how can a bank seize a home without due process?

A: Bank of America recently agreed to a $118 million settlement for bad Countrywide loans. In addition, in early August, Countrywide agreed to pay $624 million to settle a bunch of cases over subprime loans. And that's not all: Bank of America's most recent annual report lists several pages' worth of cases that are still in litigation over these loans.

I'm not sure you'll qualify for any money from these cases, and it sounds from your letter as though your loan has already been deemed fraudulent. But it's worth seeing if you qualify.

On to your question: It's unclear to me why your home would be locked (and looted) if there had been no notification and no foreclosure. But nothing really surprises me anymore when it comes to lenders and loans. Stranger things have happened.

I wish I had some answers for you, but I think you need to discuss the situation with an attorney and consider all of your options. This may include a lawsuit against the lender. If you don't know an attorney, please contact your local bar association and ask for the head of the real estate committee and the head of the litigation committee. Contact these attorneys and describe what has happened to you and ask for their help in locating the appropriate attorney.

Sometimes you have to send up a flare to get noticed.