Property heir wants fair share of rental revenues

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Q: I inherited eight pieces of property that include vacant lots and two houses. I own them with nine other people who grew up with my deceased father.

They created a housing development corporation with the intent of building housing for the elderly, but that never happened.

They use empty lots as special event parking a few times a year. While I was originally acknowledged as a co-owner after my father's death in 2000, the active members of the group do not keep me informed of any of the activities, and I do not share in the thousands of dollars they make renting the lots or using them as a parking lot.

Please advise of my options as far as forcing the group to recognize my existence and include me in all activities of group, and sharing of revenues.

I am more than willing to pay my share of taxes or any dues and have considered forcing them to buy me out. The property is possibly worth a combined $60,000 to $100,000.

A: Have you confirmed that you are still an owner? While you would have to sign a deed conveying your interest in the properties, I have been involved in too many situations where deeds are forged. Accordingly, you should arrange to have a lawyer conduct a title search for you; the cost should not be more than $300 to $400.

Once you have confirmed that you still have an ownership interest, then I would send a letter to the other owners, advising them that you have an interest, and if they do not provide you with an accounting for tax purposes, you will have no alternative but to file suit.

While such a letter would best come from a lawyer, if you decide to send it, make sure it is mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested.

You should also check with the local real estate taxing authority to confirm that there are no outstanding tax obligations.

A yearly income tax return should be filed for the investment property. I suspect that the property is owned by a partnership rather than a limited liability company. There should be a partnership agreement spelling out who does what, who pays how much, etc.

You may have to file suit to get everyone's attention. I suspect, however, that if you ask for their partnership tax returns for the last several years, and if they don't have any such documents, they may realize they should work with you rather than against you. After all, the threat of an IRS investigation is often a catalyst.

Q: We are renting a condo for two years while we are trying to sell our home in another state. For some reason, suddenly we are unable to see out of one side of the sliding glass door to the patio. The management company states "you just have to live with it." I don't remember any place in the lease that says they won't do reasonable repairs and "we have to live with it."

We are paying a high rent. What should we do? We still have eight months on our lease.

A: You have to carefully review the lease. From my experience, most residential leases are one-sided in favor of the landlord. The typical lease requires the tenant to make minor repairs, and the landlord will be responsible only for major system failures, such as the dishwasher stops working and cannot be repaired.

I am not sure what the problem is with the sliding door. It does not sound like a major health or safety issue that would be the obligation of the landlord.

However, since this really bothers you, you might want to consult with a local attorney.

Benny L. Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Send questions to mailbag@kmklawyers.com

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