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Placing a Lien Against Absent Property Owner

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  #1  
Old 11-10-10, 04:48 PM
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Placing a Lien Against Absent Property Owner

I purchased 18 acres in 2003. An adjoining lot has been condemn-able since I purchased my property. The owner(s)/ caretaker, listed in county records, cannot be located by myself or the present squatters(living in a mobile home on the property). I went to the county Constable's Office and filed a complaint and learned they are over 6K in arrears on back taxes, no payments since 2004. There is a small 25.00 lien for a rubber check to the county for 2004 taxes. After further research by the Prothonotary's Office, the listed owner(s)/caretakers still, cannot be located. The Constable's Office is also coming up with dead ends as to the location of the owner(s)/caretakers.

The constable sent a Notice of Violation to the occupants; the property has to be compliant within 10 days or otherwise face fines and penalties.

The occupants approached me, asking for help in resolving this issue. The Notice of Violation was addressed to the occupants of the mobile home and they are named as a 'responsible' party in the Notice of Violation. They are acting in the best interest of the neighborhood saftey as well as acting in the best interest of the owners/caretaker/estate.

I already know these people are not able to pay me or the back taxes and a Sheriff's Sale is imminent. According to Delaware Law, an individual can file a Mechanic's Lien upon completion plus 90 days without a payment. I have decided to write up a contract to bring the entire property into compliance. I have elected to have them sign and notorize the contract and I'll clean up the years of neglectful dumping.

Would this give me a legal basis to file, against the estate, for the monies owed to me as a lienholder, prior to the Sheriff Sale?
 
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  #2  
Old 11-11-10, 04:47 AM
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You need to talk to a local real estate attorney. I'm no expert but I would think any contract signed by the occupants [not the owner] wouldn't have a legal right to attach a lien to the property.
 
  #3  
Old 11-11-10, 09:56 AM
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Yeah, this sounds like a big mess and attorneys are the people who know how to wade through
 
  #4  
Old 11-12-10, 04:27 AM
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Mark took the words out of my mouth; I highly doubt a tenant's signature would be worth the paper it's written on in a legal dispute.
 
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Old 11-16-10, 07:20 PM
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Sounds like a great way to flush your money down the drain!


Why not wait until the sheriff's sale?
 
  #6  
Old 11-17-10, 05:30 AM
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Why not wait until the sheriff's sale?
I read this as a scam in the making. If you add one last step, waiting until after the sheriff's sale doesn’t achieve the end game.

It makes no sense for someone to enter into a contract w/ a counter party based on an expectation of not being paid. He presents no evidence of knowing whether the ‘owners/caretaker/estate’ are credit worthy, and have an ability to pay. Any rationale person would see significant risks of entering into a contract w/ a non-owner of property to undertake work, especially when the ‘occupants of the mobile home’ may be viewed at law as squatters. No evidence is presented that the ‘occupants’ have any legal right to occupy the property nor have written evidence from the ‘owners/caretaker/estate’ giving them permission to authorize 3rd parties to undertake work and financially obligate the property owner to pay-off an unlimited amount of money.

It’s also odd that the person filing the complaint against the ‘occupants’ now befriends them when they have to be compliant within 10 days or otherwise face fines and penalties. Why would the ‘occupants’ want to enter into a contract w/ the OP? Money, in one form or another, is likely the underlying reason for the ‘occupants’ and OP to forge a contractual relationship when there is no expectation that the ‘occupants’ will pay. OP comes to the rescue of the ‘occupants’ acting as their white knight to save them from fines and penalties if he cleans-up the mess. Being it’s not an arms length transaction between OP and the ‘owners/caretaker/estate’, there is no incentive for the ‘occupants’ to care about whatever value OP puts into the contract for the work he is supposedly to perform. OP could highly inflate the $ amount of his work and the quid pro quo for the ‘occupants’ is to come into legal compliance, and avoid the fines and penalties they now face. OP comes across as someone able to maneuver through the system whereas ‘occupants’ may not be well educated and not having money. While there appear to be ample reasons for a court to invalidate a contract/lien of this type for any claims against the ‘owners/caretaker/estate’, a judge may want to be punitive and rule the contract invalid in favor of the occupants if a finding can be made that OP did not disclose in the contract his role in helping to get the fines and penalties levied against these folks and potential for financial gain.

If OP can enter into a high value contract, claim non-payment, and perfect a lien against this property, then he alters what bidders at the sheriff’s auction would be willing to pay for this property if having to pay off the back taxes and liens. However, if OP, as an adjacent landowner who may want to increase his acreage at minimal cost, puts a low ball bid on this property slightly above other possible bidders, he has manipulated the marketplace for his gain. Probably a felony count. Under this scenario, he has no worry about anyone paying him back as he is effectively paying himself, and possibly realizing an extraordinary gain if the lien reflects a highly inflated value.

There are a number of trip wires OP has created. If creating a scam, I sure wouldn’t doggedly interact with gov’t. officials and file a written complaint as those actions could come back to haunt should someone challenge this lien in court or the sheriff’s administrative personnel start looking into this by finding it unusual for a bidder to rush forward w/ a lien against a property just before bidding. If gov’t. officials who have been in communications w/ OP are called to testify, it would be devastating if they told a judge or jury that OP had full knowledge that he entered into a contract w/ non-owners and that the he had taken extraordinary measures of working w/ the Prothonotary's Office and Constable's Office to learn they could not locate the owner(s)/caretakers of this property. In other words, claiming ignorance as usually occurs not only doesn’t seem like a good defense but could lead to a charge of perjury if lying under oath. OP is playing w/ a ticking time bomb tucked between his crotch while trying to learn how to defuse it.
 
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