(MCT)—QUESTION: I have been relocated, and my property is underwater. My credit is not important to me, so I am thinking about just walking away from my house as opposed to taking the trouble of doing a short sale. Is there any reason I should not just walk away?
ANSWER: Yes. If you just walk away, you are doing more damage than just accepting a bad credit score. You have the strong possibility of a money judgment following you for 20 years. Also, you are hurting your neighbors by not paying association dues and by leaving an abandoned property in the neighborhood.
Further, there are psychological ramifications from abandoning a responsibility, hurting your neighborhood and not trying to gain closure for yourself. You and your neighbors are much better off if you work with your lender to complete a short sale or a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Aside from the benefit you gain in a legal sense, trying to do the right thing is its own reward.
Q: I just received updated paperwork, and my house has been removed from a flood zone. I have sent copies to the mortgage company. Can the bank still make me carry flood insurance?
A: No. Under most mortgage loans, you have to carry flood insurance only if you are in a flood zone. But in all contractual relationships, it is the paperwork that makes the rules, so check yours to make sure of the answer for your individual situation.
Q: One day I came home to find that my neighbor had cut down several mature shrubs on my side of the property line. I spoke to him about it a while ago, and he said that he thought they were his and that he would replace them with new plants. But I’m still waiting. What can I do?
A: You should make every effort to work this out before taking any court action. It is not a great idea to be involved in any lawsuit if it can be avoided, especially if it is someone you will see every day. If all of your efforts to resolve this in a friendly way fail, you can try to sue him. While your neighbor is allowed to cut branches and roots that extend onto his land, he is not allowed to cut anything over the property line. If you are successful in the lawsuit, you will be able to collect the value of the plants or the reduction of your property value from the neighbor. But, again, try your best not to let it reach that point.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar.
©2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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