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Issue  169  Article  291
Published:  8/1/2009

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Dirt Tales From the Deed Vault - Episode 28
John Dillard, Vice President and Legal Counsel

Harry Homesteader hurried out of his car; as usual he was running late. Looking up and down the street to make sure it was clear he crossed it and walked rapidly up a set of steps and entered the building. In the dimly lit hall he spotted the elevator near the end of the lobby and made his way toward it. He got in the elevator, pushed the button for the appropriate floor and waited as the elevator rumbled upward toward its destination. Homesteader was a recent entry into the world of real estate development. He considered himself to be a great thinker and a pioneer in his field due to the innovative selling concepts he had come up with.

The elevator opened into what appeared to be a lobby. Since no one was sitting at the receptionist's desk he invited himself down the hall to the conference room. He entered the room and could barely make out the physical specimen, sitting at the other end of the table. A dimly burning lamp on the credenza behind him provided the only light in the room. The air in the room was stale and the stench of cigar smoke hung heavily in the atmosphere. The man sitting at the end of the table flicked open his lighter and relit the cigar in his hand exhaling a thick cloud of smoke that engulfed his enormous head. With the other hand he motioned for Homesteader to take a seat.

"You know, you really shouldn't be smoking in a public building?" Homesteader declared after he had taken a seat.

"You know, you really should be careful how you sell your land. You're lucky you haven't gotten yourself in trouble by now" the attorney replied.

"What do you mean?" Homesteader asked.

The attorney closed a manila envelope that was lying on the table and slid it down the table to where Homesteader was sitting.

"It's all in there, a memorandum of law I have written outlining the risks of your current practices as well as my recommendations for how you should change your practices" he explained.

Homesteader picked up the file, glanced at the contents and then laid it back down on the table. The confused look on his face conveyed a request for further explanation.

"First," the attorney began "have you given any thought of the consequences to your buyers should you find yourself in a position that would require your filing bankruptcy? Second, against my repeated recommendations you have failed to incorporate your business, so you need to consider the consequences of your being sued resulting in a large judgment being rendered against you? Title to the land is still in your name and would be vulnerable to such a judgment.

Third, have you ever given any thought to what might happen should you die; how would your purchasers be able to obtain title to their property? And last, what about if some of these buyers fail to pay you? Do you just think you can cancel the whole deal and resell the land to somebody else?"

"That's part of the reason I'm selling my lots with contracts for deeds, I'm avoiding the hassle of having to do foreclosures." Homesteader replied smugly.

"Think again. Courts tend to look at these arrangements as nothing more than disguised mortgages. You likely would have to bring an action in court to get title cleared on one of these lots. As I said earlier, I've written a memorandum of law on the dangers of using contracts for deed. It's all in the file for you to read."

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