Can I Get Title to Building When Owner-Lender Dies?

ASK LEON 

Bankruptcy expert Leon Bayer answers real-life questions.

Dear Leon,

Six years ago I bought an 11-unit apartment building in Los Angeles, California. The seller carried a note for most of the purchase price. The seller died a month after I bought the property, which was six years ago. I don’t know who to pay and no one has contacted me for the note payments. I have paid nothing on the note for these past six years.

Can I file a quiet title lawsuit or adverse possession or some other kind of lawsuit to get free and clear title to my building?

Thank you.

Sheila

Dear Sheila,

The Los Angeles County Public Guardian is the branch of government that deals with unclaimed property when the owner has died. You need to notify them. They can open a probate case to administer the mortgage for the rightful heirs. If no heirs are found then the mortgage “escheats” to the State of California for the public treasury.

The bottom line:  You still owe the mortgage note to somebody, and you also owe the six years of mortgage arrears. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy case may help if you are serious about keeping the building, but do not have enough money to bring the loan current all at once. A Chapter 13 may stop any foreclosure, and give you up to five years to get current on the note. (Learn more about how you can use Chapter 13 to catch up on mortgage arrears.)

-Leon

Guest blogger Leon Bayer is a Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney.  He is a partner at Bayer, Wishman & Leotta, a California law firm specializing in bankruptcy.  The opinions and advice in this blog post are from Mr. Bayer alone, and should not be attributed to Nolo.  By answering a question on this blog, Mr. Bayer does not become your lawyer.

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