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House Calls: Hurricane Damage

Edith Lank on

Dear Edith: We are buying a house in Cape Coral, Florida, and are supposed to close soon. The seller has evacuated and may not return.

If there is more than $5,000 damage, I can get out of the contract. But how is the amount of damage determined? Because of the scope of the storm, it may take weeks just to get an insurance adjuster there. -- to

In most sales contracts, the closing date is just a target, not binding. Unless "specific performance" has been made part of the agreement, you can ask for postponement till everyone knows more.

You don't exactly say whether you want out, but in any case, it may be time for legal help. If you have a family attorney, you might ask him or her to suggest a lawyer who specializes in real estate in Cape Coral. I'm sure they're flooded with similar questions there.

Useless Plot

Dear Ms. Lank: My mother purchased a plot of land in Arkansas back in the 1960s for $50. She is gone now and as an only child I inherited this worthless undeveloped land. Her attorney advised me to just keep it, pay the taxes and perhaps some day it would be worth money. I have been paying taxes of $4 to $6 per year.

Apparently, there is a lake somewhere nearby and they sent me a letter a couple of years ago with an assessment fee to use their boat docks. I told them I had no intention of paying and have not heard from them since.

Well, it is 2017, I am 77 years old and don't want my son to be saddled with a worthless lot when I am gone. Do I just quit paying the taxes and ignore the county's threats to claim the land? Or is there something else you could recommend? I am on fixed income and do not wish to pay an attorney for an opinion. -- V. R.

On the internet you -- or a younger friend -- can find names of real estate brokers where the land is located. It won't cost anything to consult an agent or two in that area. It's hard to picture a plot that is taxed for that little but they'll have opinions on whether it has any value. Even if small, it may, for example, be attractive to the owners of parcels directly adjoining it.

If you just stop paying taxes, by the way, the county will eventually take the land. But if you don't care about it, that's one solution.


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