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posted: 3/14/2010 12:01 AM

Contract provision may allow offer to expire

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Q. We put an offer in on a home about two months ago. It is a short sale. We were told it would take about 30 days for the seller's mortgage company to approve the sale.

It has now been 60 days and still no word on when this is going to happen. Our Realtor and our attorney keep calling the sellers but we cannot get any information. They just keep telling us to wait.

We are concerned because if this deal doesn't happen, we want to purchase something else by April 30 so we can qualify for the new home credit. How long do we have to wait before we can cancel this deal and find another place? Our attorney keeps telling us to be patient, but we are getting nervous.

A. My experience is it is taking 30 to 60 days to obtain lender approval on short sales. However, I have been involved with numerous transactions where lender approval took far longer. It depends on who the lender is and their motivation to consummate the transaction.

Many contracts involving short sales contain a short sale addendum. The addendum usually contains a provision that in the event the short sale is not approved by the seller's lender within a specified period of time, either party may terminate the transaction and the purchaser's deposit is returned.

If such a provision is not contained in the contract, I will ask that the contract be modified to include these terms. This can be done within the attorney review period, which extends for five business days after the seller accepts the offer.

Even in the event there is nothing in the contract that allows you to terminate after a defined period of time, most sellers will allow the purchaser to terminate a contract and recover their deposit after waiting a reasonable amount of time for the lender to approve the transaction. Speak to your attorney about perhaps waiting another week or two and then investigating the possibility of terminating the transaction.

Q. I was renting an apartment with two other guys. We had a lease that ran from July 2009 through July 2010.

I took a new job in October which was nowhere near the apartment. One of the other guys had a friend who wanted to come in so he moved in and I left. I thought everything was fine.

It turns out the guy who replaced me only stayed a few weeks and left. The other two guys couldn't handle the rent and they left in December without saying anything to the owner.

I just received a summons to appear in court in a few weeks. The owner is asking that we pay him almost $5,000 in unpaid rent.

The rent was paid when I left. Am I responsible for this? What about the other guys? What will happen if I just ignore this?

A. Welcome to grown-up world. In grown-up world, you understand that signing a contract has ramifications. Accordingly, grown-ups are very careful about not only what contracts they sign, but who they contract with.

You and your two fellow tenants entered into a contract to lease the owner's property for one year. Any agreement with your fellow tenants and fellow tenant's friend has no impact on the original contract. If you wished to be absolved of any liability on the original lease, you should have approached the owner, explained the situation and attempted to obtain a release of your obligation. Another possibility would have been for the new group of tenants to enter into a new lease, thereby terminating the prior lease and your potential liability.

As it stands now, the owner has apparently lost rent as a result of the broken lease and he is holding the parties to the lease responsible. If you ignore the summons, I can almost guarantee you will have a judgment entered against you, which has further ramifications in grown-up world, including damage to your credit.

I suggest you speak to an attorney regarding your options.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine IL 60067, by e-mail to or call (847) 359-8983.