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KASS: Collect proof of neighbor’s nuisances

DEAR BENNY: I live in a 12-unit condominium. A few years ago, my downstairs neighbor rented out his unit to new tenants, who have been an absolute nightmare. They are constantly fighting, loudly and late at night. Their teenage child has destroyed neighbors’ property and vandalized common property. I have called 911 on them several times for violent fighting and noise complaints. Their landlord ignores me when I try to contact him. The police say they can’t do anything because by the time they show up there is nothing to see, the alderman won’t do anything because the police haven’t done anything, and the board has only doled out a few modest fines. Is there any other action that can be taken against the tenants or their landlord? – Dave

DEAR DAVE: Community living is democracy at its best and at its worst. I know it won’t be a consolation to you, but you are not alone. I get many similar email concerns from readers all over this country.

There are three things you can do, and do them all at once. Hire an attorney and have her file a lawsuit against: (1) the board for failure to deal with this problem, especially if the teenager is destroying common property; (2) the landlord for allowing a nuisance; and (3) the tenants for creating a nuisance.

You should have proof. Get neighbors to listen to the commotion; if you can tape or video the nuisance, that would be helpful. And keep records of all of the unanswered complaints you have made against all three defendants.

Yes, litigation can be expensive. But your condo is most likely your largest investment, so you only have three options: (1) file suit; (2) accept the noise and live with it; or (3) sell and move out. However, you may have to disclose the noise and the nuisance to potential buyers, so that may not be a viable option.

DEAR BENNY: Next month I will be making the final payment on the mortgage on my home. Are there any formalities in finalizing this huge event in my life? Any advice appreciated! – Eddy

DEAR EDDY: Congratulations. Yes, there are some things you have to make sure are accomplished. I suspect it’s been a long time since you obtained your mortgage loan, but to refresh your memory, at the closing, you signed two important legal documents:

*A promissory note – This is your IOU to the bank.  It spells out the terms, conditions, interest rate and termination date, among other things.

*A deed of trust, called a mortgage in a few states – This document basically tells you that should you default, you could lose your house by way of foreclosure.

The deed of trust is recorded among the land records in the jurisdiction where your property is located. Why? To put the world on notice that your house is subject to the mortgage so that you cannot sell without paying off the loan and having that document released.

But now you are about to pay off that loan. You must make sure that the recorded mortgage is formally released from land records. Typically, from my experience, most commercial lenders will arrange this themselves. They will charge you a nominal recorded fee and prepare and file the release among the same land records where your original mortgage was recorded.  Some places call this a “release” while other places refer to a “certificate of satisfaction.”

Regardless of what it is called, however, you want to make sure that the release is recorded. Within a few months from the date you made the final payment, your lender should send you the original deed of trust marked “paid and cancelled” and the original promissory note, similarly marked “paid and cancelled.”

That’s in the ideal world. In today’s economy, with lenders syndicating and selling their loan packages, your legal documents may be as far away as in Denmark or Geneva, Switzerland.

What’s the answer? Make sure that the lender has, in fact, arranged to have a form release filed with the local recorder of deeds.

Some lenders don’t do the release, but send the form directly to their borrower. If that’s the case, take the release to the recorder of deeds or to your attorney and have it recorded.

Bottom line: Don’t burn the mortgage documents until your lien is released from land records.

Benny Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C. and in Maryland. He is not providing specific legal or financial advice to any reader. He wants readers to e-mail him, but cannot guarantee a personal response. He can be reached at: mailbag@kmklawyers.com.

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