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posted: 3/18/2017 6:00 AM

Condo owner has options that are cheaper than suing

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This past week, lots of readers were commenting on each other's problems. Here's the simplest suggestion that came in for those unhappy condo owners:

• "I read your column regarding the folks suffering from secondhand smoke from the condo below them. Some strategically placed fans on their balcony and a window fan or two might give them adequate relief. It's certainly cheaper than moving or suing."

And, as always, the subject of timeshares that are no longer wanted touched a nerve for many. It's not quite clear what this next reader meant by "purported to represent you." He also did not follow the delicate wording in my original suggestion.

• "An article by Edith Lank appeared in the real estate section of the paper. She purported to represent you, stating that you could stop paying timeshare fees without consequence. Is this true? If so, I would be a very happy fellow. Does she have any documentation as to the effectiveness of this?"

A. I didn't exactly recommend not paying timeshare fees. Rather, I passed the buck, suggesting that the timeshare owner consult her own lawyer about what would likely happen in that case. I did mention that oftentimes the management just doesn't bother to pursue the matter, particularly if the unhappy owner is located in a different state.

Beyond that, all I did was warn against scams that charge large advance fees to market unwanted timeshares.

Q. I read your letter concerning the sale of the house that a reader inherited. I inherited my late mother's longtime home this year and sold it several months later. We sold it for less than the county's accessed value. Are we allowed to take a capital loss on the difference between the county's accessed value and sale price? If so, would the difference include the Realtor's commission and the closing costs we paid?

A. Your cost basis is the value of the house at the time of your mother's death or within six months thereafter. I have no idea how you settled (or are settling) her estate and whether you needed an appraisal. At any rate, the property tax assessment figure is not considered your cost basis.

Whether you take a capital loss for your sale expenses depends on the specific situation, and it's a question for your tax professional.

Q. I enjoy your column very much. You saved my brother much trouble. I told him not to let his ex have the house with his name still on the mortgage during their contentious divorce. Fortunately, he has had much better days since.

About that escrow item: My mortgage lender does not collect extra money to pay my future bills. I have always insisted on paying my own taxes and insurance for several reasons.

First, when I was on a local zoning board several years ago, we used the tax rolls for sending out hearing notices. A lot of notices went to banks rather than homeowners, and the homeowners never learned about the potential problems until it was too late.

I've known people who had their fire insurance canceled when their mortgage was bundled with a lot of others and sold to some other investor. The insurance bill didn't get to the new mortgage holder, so it didn't get paid. Then the insurance company sent notices to the same place it was sending the bills, which was pretty much useless.

Then again, if you itemize taxes, it can be complicated to get a receipt for paid property taxes.

Fortunately, I've always had very good credit and a big down payment.

A. Many mortgage borrowers don't have a choice about whether the lender will collect their property tax and insurance payments month by month and hold it in escrow. It was probably your large down payment and excellent credit rating that allowed you to choose a mortgage plan that didn't require escrow.

• Contact Edith Lank on, or 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

© 2017, Creators Syndicate

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