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We’ve Seen Some Weird Stuff

Boundary, Fence, & Tree Disputes, Breach of Contract, Construction & Contractor Disputes, Creditor-Side Bankruptcy, Foreclosure Litigation, Mortgage & Lending Law, Neighbor & Nuisance Disputes, Real Estate Law, and Real Estate Law Litigation by Peter N. Brewer, Esq.

Over the years, we have encountered a number of strange fact patterns which tend to stand out in our collective memory. Below is a list of some of the more unusual:

Seller was a hoarder who entered into contract to sell the property but never closed escrow and refused to move out. Buyer sued for specific performance and prevailed after months of litigation and after finally obtaining an arbitration award in his favor. Seller is forced to move out but before doing so, poured battery acid on the lawn, attempted to set fire to the place and screwed shut the doors and windows.

Homeowner sued appraiser for failure to disclose an easement running across her property. She claimed that she only purchased that property because it appeared remote and private and that an easement inviting other use was contrary to her needs. Turns out that the local authorities found marijuana growing on the property. Perhaps that was the reason for the buyer’s need for privacy!

Buyers purchase an REO property from Bank of America. Buyers later sue their real estate salesperson and broker for failing to disclose that the property they had purchased had been the subject of a murder investigation and that the victim had been found buried in the yard. There was no evidence that the Realtors actually knew about the homicide and the buyers ended up dismissing their agent and broker. The mortgage broker also made efforts to work out a buyback with the purchasers.

Neighbor A finds out that there is an undisclosed private sewer line running across his backyard and that the line is for the benefit of Neighbor B. Neighbor A finds out about it because the ancient clay sewer pipe is failing and raw sewage is bubbling up in the yard. Neighbor B apparently has spent nearly a decade emailing and calling various city and county officials trying to connect to the city main or otherwise tap into a new district but with little success because the government officials basically tell Neighbor B to work out it with Neighbor A. Obviously Neighbor A is not excited about having some new trenching and new pipes laid across his property and would rather than Neighbor B just tap into the city main and remove the old pipes from Neighbor A’s property. After the health and safety inspector gives an abatement notice to shut down the water to Neighbor B’s property…Neighbor B simply moves out and never resolves the issue.

Lender begins foreclosure on an industrial property that the borrower has put into a “land trust.” Borrower then orchestrated a series of bankruptcies where debtors claim they are a trustee or beneficiary or otherwise have an interest in the land trust. The borrower then files the bankruptcy petitions serially through different courthouses to shop the judges, providing us with enough evidence of a bad faith to obtain an in rem Order against the property and finally foreclose.

Seller sells house and carries back a junior loan. Borrower stops servicing both loans and junior lender puts the property into foreclosure and reinstates the senior. Borrower then deeds a fraction of the property to a fictitious person who then files bankruptcy. The fictitious debtor does not have a legitimate social security number, the address on the petition is traced to a PO Box and we report the matter to the U.S. Attorney and ultimate gain an Order from the bankruptcy court allowing the private lender to go to trustee’s sale.

Buyers purchased century-old Spanish style house on the north Peninsula. Buyers later tore out the wood paneling to discover the house was made of cinder bricks (hollow!)—with no reinforcing rebar and there was significant cracking and settling going on. We defended the listing agent, who did not have x-ray vision (and neither did the home inspector) and settled out for a minor sum.

Lender sues appraiser for over-valuing a property. Turns out the bank actually made a loan to a borrower who did not exist.

Three sisters inherited their parent’s house in Los Altos. Sister A buys out Sister C, leaving her in co-ownership with Sister B. Sister A lives in the property, maintains it and proceeds to borrow against the house over the years, but services the mortgage. Later Sister A wants to sell the property but Sister C will not agree to a joint listing broker, cannot agree to signage for the sale, claims the mortgage amounts are in error and makes claims for rent. Sister A is forced to sue Sister B for partition and the parties go through a long mediation before finally agreeing to a Realtor, apportionment of costs and ultimately realize a large profit on the sale of the property.

Real estate investors buy real estate in rural Santa Clara county, it burns down in one of the largest fires in the county, one that destroyed thirty-five homes. The investor had a fire insurance policy and tendered the claim—the insurance company refused and sued the owners to rescind the policy on the basis of incorrect information on the insurance application. We represented the owners and counter-sued against the insurance company and their captive agent/broker and ultimately arrived at a settlement for greater than the policy limits and more than double the value of insured property.

Plaintiff sues ex-wife and her listing agent for selling the house when he was in jail, even though he was no longer on title! We got the case dismissed and sanctions against the plaintiff and his counsel.

Represented foreclosure purchaser who acquired a residence at trustee’s sale. Borrower broke into the property after the foreclosure sale contending that he was in jail at the time of the foreclosure and did not know it was in foreclosure. Borrower had formerly been a sheriff’s deputy! Successfully negotiated cash for keys arrangement as well as cleaning up title issues such as old child support and attorney liens against the property.

Take away lesson ==> don’t hesitate to give us a call, we have handled a number of unusual real estate cases throughout California over the years!

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