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posted: 12/2/2012 5:00 AM

Sellers refuse to release $900 to pay for taxes due

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Q. My husband and I closed on our first home last December. The attorneys could not agree how to prorate real estate taxes so about $1,500 was held out of the money the seller received from the sale until the actual 2011 real estate tax bill came out. The money was held by the seller's attorney. Once the bill came out, we would figure out the seller's share of the 2011 tax bill. If we had not received enough at closing, the money held by seller's attorney would be used to make up the difference.

When the final bill came out last summer, it turned out we were entitled to another $900. Our attorney contacted the seller's attorney, but apparently the sellers refused to authorize the release of the money to us. After a few attempts, our attorney told us there was nothing more he could do and that we would have to sue the sellers and their attorney to recover the money we had coming.

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We spoke to a couple attorneys but they told us it was not worth hiring them because we would pay them more than what the case was worth. We can't believe this is happening. Any advice on how we can recover this money from the seller's attorney?

A. Go to your closest courthouse, in the county where the property is located, and ask for the forms to file a pro se complaint. Pro se means "appearing for one's self." Most court systems designate a specific forum for addressing and resolving small disputes, somewhat like Peoples Court on television, without the nutty drama. In Cook County, the pro se court handles disputes up to $3,000.

You describe the dispute on the complaint form, fill out a summons and have the sellers and their attorney served by the sheriff. My guess is that once they are served, your problem will be resolved quickly.

I would further suggest that presuming the seller was unreasonable in failing to authorize the release of the funds, you refuse to settle the matter with the sellers unless they further reimburse you for your court costs.

Q. I purchased a home from a bank last year. Everything was fine until the house next door to me was sold. They had a survey done and it turns out my shed is mostly on the next door neighbor's property. It cannot be moved easily as it is bolted to a concrete foundation. The neighbor has asked me, politely, to move the shed.

I am wondering how this could have happened. Doesn't the bank have some responsibility here? They sold me a shed that I now have to pretty much ruin. In addition, I will be required to dig up the concrete out of my neighbor's yard.

Any chance I can go back to the bank and demand they reimburse me for the cost of the shed and digging out the concrete?

A. Of course you can make your demands on the bank, just try not to be offended when employees burst into laughter.

In a conventional real estate transaction, the seller generally provides a survey to the purchaser. If that had occurred, the shed encroachment would have been discovered and you could have negotiated a credit for the costs you will incur. Unfortunately, you purchased the property from a bank. In virtually all bank sales, the seller does not provide a survey. It is up to the purchaser to decide whether or not they wish to obtain and pay for a survey. If it's any consolation, in my experience, most purchasers elect not to purchase a survey.

If you review the documents you signed, you will see that you agreed to take the property as is and you acknowledged the bank made no representations regarding the property. I'm afraid you're stuck with the cost of moving the shed.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by email to tdr100@hotmail.com or call (847) 359-8983.

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