Law talk: Attorney can advocate for you in land purchase

Updated 10/23/2011 9:58 AM

Q. My husband and I are considering purchasing a vacant piece of property in a rural area. We have been told by both the Realtor and the title company that attorneys are not used for closings. Although this all seems pretty simple, we have a few issues we are concerned about.

How do make sure the real estate taxes are paid up? How do we make sure there are no mortgages on the property? We are also concerned about two of the neighbors that use the property to get to their property. Would we have the right to tell these people they can no longer use the property to get to theirs?

A. First, just because the custom in a certain area is not to use attorneys does not preclude someone from retaining an attorney for their purchase. You are, I presume, making one of the largest purchases and investments of your lives. The questions you raise are critically important. Why wouldn't you have someone on your team who has experience in these matters?

That said, the title commitment that will be produced by the seller will answer many of your questions. The commitment will indicate the status of real estate taxes and will further indicate any liens that are recorded against the property, including mortgage liens.

As for your potential neighbor's use of the property, the question is do they have a legal right to cross over the property to get to theirs or are they simply using a faster/easier access because it's there and no one is complaining. This will also be determined by examining the title commitment. If the neighbors have a legal right to access the property, some type of easement or license will be recorded against the property, defining the allowed use. Absent a recorded document allowing such use, you can presume you could terminate the neighbor's use upon taking ownership.

Q. I have a tenant I want to evict. He is always late with the rent, calls me for every little thing that goes wrong in the apartment and annoys the other tenants. I am afraid the longer he stays, chances increase that I will lose some of my good tenants.

He has a written lease for eight more months. Is there any way I can get him out before that?

A. Obviously, no attorney would advise you regarding your specific situation without reviewing your lease. I will, however, provide some general principals regarding landlord/tenant law and advise you the best I can.

Generally, there are two situations to base a complaint on for evicting tenants: failure to pay rent and failure to comply with other terms of the lease. You indicate your tenant pays late, but it sounds like he pays, so evicting based on failure to pay rent probably is not an option for you.

You are probably left with claiming he has violated some other term or terms of the lease. Many leases have "no pet" provisions that are often ignored by tenants. Leases often have provisions providing the tenant will not behave in such a manner as to disturb the other tenants. Would one or more of your other tenants be willing to come to court to testify regarding his behavior? This is not an easy issue to prevail on, so you are going to need something more than he sometimes plays his stereo too loud or he's had some loud parties.

If his behavior is not too out of line and you cannot find any other violation of the lease, you are most likely stuck with him for the duration of the lease.

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