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posted: 8/25/2013 1:00 AM

Home inspection results can nullify real estate contract

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Q. We signed a contract to sell our home to a couple about a week ago. They did a home inspection and yesterday our attorney received a letter stating they didn't like the condition of our property and they wished to cancel the contract. They didn't tell us what was wrong or give us a chance to fix any problems. It seems like they should at least give us a chance to correct any problems with the property. Your thoughts?

A. Paragraph 10(c) of the form contract most often used in the suburbs states " in the event the inspection reveals that the condition of the real estate is unacceptable to buyer, and buyer serves notice to seller within five business days after the date of acceptance, this contract shall be null and void."

So long as the notice sent to your attorney was within the above five-day period, your buyer has the right to terminate the transaction. Time to re-list the property.

Q. I got divorced a few years ago and a part of our agreement was that my ex could stay in the house for up to five years. After that, he must sell the house and we were going to split the proceeds equally.

We rarely speak to each other for numerous reasons, one of which is that I moved a thousand miles away. I always presumed he would stay the full five years and then I would have to hound him to sell the house.

Well, much to my surprise and through an odd quirk of luck, I just learned he has sold the house and is closing in a couple weeks. I have also learned he intends to move to Canada.

As he has given me no indication this is occurring, my guess is he has no intention to split the sales proceeds with me. Once this closes and he moves, I'm probably out of luck. What can I do to protect my share of the property?

A. First, it is quite possible he would not be able to abscond with the sales proceeds, if that was, in fact, his plan. The title company that insures the transaction runs a name search and a judgment and lien search on all parties to the transaction. This is done to protect the interests of the title company, as certain types of liens and judgments could affect the party's rights to the property. For instance, if the seller had a federal lien recorded against him or her, this attaches to the property. This would require the lien be paid off prior to disbursing the remaining funds.

The search would probably raise your divorce judgment. Once the title company was made aware of the judgment, it would require the seller to furnish a copy of court documents to ensure the proceeds were being disbursed per the terms of the judgment.

I might also add, if you remain in title, your signature would be required on the closing documents, though sellers forging signatures on these documents is certainly not unheard of.

To further protect yourself, you could record a "lis pendens" or a copy of your divorce judgment against the property in the county where the property is located. If possible, I would locate the title company handling the transaction and send them a copy of your divorce judgment also.

Contact a local attorney to ensure your interests are protected.

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

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