School is out and the summer season begins!
Will real estate sales swing into its busy time?
YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, WE HAVE ANSWERS!
VIVA ESCROW Q & A SEGMENT
(Real questions emailed/called in to us)
(The things that come across my desk!)
I am doing a scene for a novel in which real estate identity theft plays a part. A person falsely represents himself as part of a large corporation with large land holdings. He proceeds to sell large tracts to a land developing company in “good faith.” The buyer has no idea the sale is fraudulent. The land being sold belongs to people who don’t want to sell, but are forced through intimidation and/or violence to sign over their land. None of the monies received from the land developer go to the original company. All the documents are legitimate, but the original company have none of them and there is no paper trail leading back to the original company.
Once the fraud is discovered, what remedies do the actual landowners have to reclaim their property? What happens to the buyer? Do they get to keep the land they purchased or are they forced to return the property to the original landowners? If they can’t recover the money spent, are they out of luck or does the original company bear responsibility for repaying the developer?
You have quite the scenario here! This might be a scene for a novel, but unfortunately, real estate fraud and identity fraud happens every day, sometimes in small ways, and others in large, like what you described. Sometimes they are perpetuated by someone close to you, other times by unknown fraudsters. No matter large or small, it is painful for all involved.
If this was a real case, there are two recommendations to be done immediately upon discovery: (1) Report it to the real estate fraud unit of the district attorney’s office that has jurisdiction in the location of the property so that they can guide you as to where to go from there, and (2) have the landowners and the buyers report a claim to the title company which insured the fraudulent sale. The title company will do their investigations and will cooperate with the D.A. or whichever government agency will be conducting the investigation.
I am sorry I am unable to contribute anything regarding what happens within (1) and (2). For that you would need to contact someone who has knowledge of the internal workings of both the fraud unit and the title company claims department. However, I hope I have given you other avenues to pursue.
I hope this helps a little. Good luck on your book!
Fraud, any kind of fraud – email, check, identity, document – is rampant and everyone and anyone can be on the sorry end of it. I have a whole “Threats to Escrow” series that is on YouTube and can be accessed on our website if you search “fraud” at this link: https://www.vivaescrow.com/articles/.
When it comes to real estate, particularly vacant land where no one is living on it, the landowner should do his due diligence from time to time and verify through recorded land records, that there have been no strange or unknown documents affecting the title ownership. These could be Deeds transferring the land to someone else, or Deeds of Trust (Mortgages) that evidence someone borrowing money on it.
California has a law, a “Fraud Notification” system, in which the County Recorders’ offices mail a landowner a copy of a document recorded that might affect his ownership, like a Deed or Deed of Trust. The notification is great but it happens AFTER the document(s) is/are recorded and by then the bad deed (forgive the pun!) has already been done. So be proactive. If you own property, particularly vacant land, check the ownership from time to time! If you need help with that, ask a Title Company customer service or your friendly escrow officer for assistance.
I just closed escrow on some rental units and the escrow did not prorate my rents correctly. The escrow closed on the 7th of the month but some of my tenants don’t pay right on the 1st of the month until a few days have passed so I had not collected all the rents. But the escrow closed and the escrow prorated the rent money from the 7th to the end of the month and gave it to the Buyer. I told the escrow that they didn’t do it correctly but they said it is up to me as the Seller to make sure I collect all the rents when they are due, especially when I know we are closing escrow. Can you help me understand this?
One of the escrow documents requests a rent statement for Sellers to complete so that escrow can do the proration calculation properly. Information requested are, at least, the amount of rent, the due date each month, and whether there are any security deposits.
Most of these rent statements have a clause right above the signature lines that state, in essence, that rents are prorated on a 30 day month and Seller will be responsible for the collection of the rents as they come due before the close of escrow.
It would be your responsibility as the owner of the property to collect the rents when they become due, especially if you know that some of your tenants tend to pay late, and also if you know that you will be closing very close to the monthly rent due date.
If by chance you feel you are unable to collect the rents then you must advise the Escrow Holder before the close of escrow so that, if accepted by Buyer, an amendment can be drawn to reflect a different proration for the rents.
Rent collection can be tricky while in escrow. From what I understand, many Sellers don’t want to let the tenants know about the imminent transfer until after all rent is collected. In a bad case scenario they might be afraid the tenant will refuse to pay the rent, or consciously pay late, which may end up with the escrow closed, prorations done, and the Seller unable to get the recalcitrant tenant to pay the rent so the Seller would be out the money.
Another scenario is one in which Sellers refuse to credit the Buyer with the security deposit that they have and uses it as the last month’s uncollected rent. That is not fair to the Buyer and could be against the Landlord/Tenant rent/lease agreement on hand.
Sellers have the obligation to alert the tenants about the change of ownership and the new Buyer will then go in and ask that rents be sent to a different person/address. We ask that Sellers think in advance about these complications. They are most likely familiar with each tenant and so should plan accordingly. Most importantly, don’t wait till the last minute. If there are issues that arise, let the Escrow and the Buyer know in advance so that resolutions can be worked out before the closing date.
For escrow, it is our practice to prorate rents as if they are collected by Seller on the due date, whether the transaction closes on the 2nd or the 15th of the month.
One more Educational Tip – Remember that it is not just tenants’ who live on the property that we prorate rents on. If you are selling a commercial property, those tenant leases have to be prorated AND if you have any other leases, like billboard leases or parking lot or driveway leases, those have to be disclosed to the Buyer and Escrow and prorated, too!
~ Funny of the Month ~
This is why we have the Internet! So that we can share those hilarious signs that pop up on billboards all around the country. Only in America!
This video is a little over 8 minutes long, and it shows the humor and irreverency of a Veterinary Doctor of the staff. I watched it to the very end to make sure I didn’t miss any of her fun stuff. I like the one that says, “If 2020 was a drink, it would be a Colonoscopy Prep” Ha! Ha!
~ Quote of the Month ~
(for those who work at home … )
“We do not check the refrigerator multiple times to find new food; we check to see if our standards have dropped enough to eat what is available.”
~ Unknown contributor ~
My YouTube Offering for the Month –
Life, Death, and your Escrow –
A true story and cautionary tale from the escrow trenches.
A gravely ill Seller and the few hours which made all the difference to determine if the sale would be headed for Probate Court or not.
Here is the link:
You Have Questions? We Have Answers!
Juliana Tu, CSEO, CEO, CBSS, CEI, SASIP
“Escrow is my FOREMOST language!”
The opinions expressed in this blog are solely the author’s.
Your comments and viewpoints are always welcome.
Info @ VivaEscrow.com