October 2008 Archives

October 30, 2008

Homeowner Jailed for Failing to Follow Association's Rules

For proof that complying with homeowners' association rules is important, check out this story: 60-year-old Joseph Prudente was found in contempt of court and jailed when he failed to resod his lawn, as his homeowners' association instructed.

Apparently, the Beacon Woods Civic Association didn't find Prudente's claim of financial hardship -- his adjustable rate mortgage payment had increased by $600 per month, and his car was repossessed -- to excuse him from keeping the yard up. After Prudente failed to respond to their continued demands to resod, or later to court documents, he was found in contempt of court and ordered jailed. The contempt order meant Prudente could be kept in jail until he complied with the mandate to resod the lawn, something he could not afford to do.

Prudente's case shows that if you buy a home in a common interest development, you must be prepared to live by the rules -- and you can't count on the understanding of the association when you want to deviate from them. For that reason, it's best to make sure you fully understand what you're getting into before you buy and know a little about the association's history for granting any exceptions.

Fortunately, Prudente's story ended happily: neighbors and strangers helped him resod as the association required, and he was out of jail a couple days later.

October 20, 2008

The Essential Guide for First-Time Homeowners: Our Latest Book!

US_OWN.jpgEveryone loves a sequel, right? And as authors of Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home, we're thrilled to have just received, hot off the presses, copies of our sequel to that book: The Essential Guide for First-Time Homeowners: Maximize Your Investment and Enjoy Your New Home.

This is the manual we wish we'd had when we became homeowners. It covers everything from housewarming parties to new-found tax deductions, from maintenance to remodeling. And it's loaded with tips for economic hard times, like how to decorate on a budget, deal with your lender if you have trouble paying the mortgage, lower your homeowners' insurance payments, and even save money by going green.

You can start reading a sample chapter right now -- enjoy! And if you know anyone who's just bought a new house, think about this for a fun-yet-practical housewarming gift.
October 14, 2008

Dividing Property Equally: Don't Try This at Home

A recently-divorced couple in Cambodia decided to equally split their house -- literally. The husband came with relatives and sawed it in half, carting his share (mostly debris) away.

Fortunately, in the United States, you can avoid any such extremes even if you buy a property with someone and later decide to part ways. If you decide to buy jointly -- even if it's not with a spouse or significant other -- you can each own different percentages of the property if you hold title as tenants in common. You don't own any particular portion of the property, though, so if you want to have the right to separately use a particular portion (the upstairs unit, for example), you'll have to create a separate ownership agreement to address that.

And if you want to sell your interest, you can. But you can't saw the property in half.

Alayna Schroeder

October 9, 2008

Voter Rights for Foreclosed Homeowners

Kudos to Nolo's own Steve Elias, who's been in the news lately, pointing out that efforts in places like Michigan to take owners of foreclosed homes off the voter rolls are not only unfair, but absurd.

Foreclosure has always been a lengthy process, and banks are now more willing than ever to work out a compromise solution, so that the idea that foreclosed homeowners just pick up and leave the moment they get the bank's foreclosure notice couldn't be more off base. For information about how foreclosure affects voting rights in each state, see http://legalconsumer.com/bankruptcy/foreclosure_voter_rights.php?. You'll find links to election rights organizations and state-specific registration information.