My client – let’s call him Jason – and his wife is extremely nice.
They’re salt of the earth-type people, so it was very distressing to me to learn that they could lose their home, even though they had paid for it! They were not being treated well by the seller/financier of their home. In fact, their seller was trying to take advantage of them. They were at risk of losing the title to their house even though they had paid it off completely.
Jason was not a very sophisticated man. He had never purchased a house before. He didn’t realize that he was purchasing his home in a backward manner by signing a “Contract for Deed” (aka an executory contract).
An executory contract for real estate is a major faux pas in Texas. The Texas State Legislature has done everything to discourage sellers from using these transactions just short of making their use a criminal offense.
In a contract for deed transaction, a seller sells a home to a buyer using a contract. This is common in real estate. The only difference here is that in a Contract for Deed, the buyer does not get a deed to the home until ALL of the payments are made.
In a typical real estate transaction, there is a closing date where the seller transfers title to the house. If there is debt used to finance the property, the buyer signs a Deed of Trust to secure the repayment. But, the buyer owns the property before all payments are made.
The Texas Legislator wanted to discourage the use of Contracts For Deed because the Seller has too much power in those situations and the buyer’s equitable right of redemption is almost never treated properly in such contracts.
In short: Contracts for Deed allow too many problems to persist.
Here’s Jason’s problem.
Over the course of 10 years, Jason made all payments that his Contract for Deed called for. He bought the house, so his seller owed him a deed transferring title to him. However, instead of abiding by the contract, the Seller, without providing a statement or accounting, just decided that Jason still owed him payments.
The Seller refused to give Jason the deed unless Jason paid another $10,000.00
Jason was so distressed about the whole situation that he could hardly talk about it. His wife basically had to carry him to my office and do all the talking to explain the situation go to me.
I explained to him that he really was in a pickle because the seller still had full title to the property because, in his case, no one had recorded the contract for deed in the real property records.
That means he could technically sell the property to someone else or borrow against the property which would create liens on the property’s title.
To make matters even worse, Jason could not even speak with the Seller anymore because the seller had left town, didn’t provide his new address, and would only answer text messages occasionally.
If things stayed the way they were, Jason would be living in a house that he technically did not own. He could never sell or borrow against it. He would always be worried the Seller could come and kick him out at any time for some bogus reason or another.
My representation of Jason lasted over a year.
One of the first things we did was create an affidavit that would alert any prospective title searchers to Jason’s claim of title to the property.
Then we sued the Seller under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and under Ch. 5 of the Texas Property Code, which mandates any specific acts a Seller must do to use a Contract for Deed.
It took us 3 months to track down the seller to give him personal service of our lawsuit – but it was totally worth it.
We went to a default hearing because the Seller didn’t file an answer, and at that hearing, I was able to show the judge…
- That Jason had made all of the payments and was entitled to a judgment granting him title to his house, and…
- That the Seller had abused my client so badly in this transaction, causing him undue stress and attorney’s fees, that my client should receive a $50,000.00 judgment against the Seller.
When we left court that day Jason and his wife were in tears.
They were so relieved that the title of their house was now really theirs, and that they could sell the home, borrow against it, or just keep it as long as they lived and pass it on to their kids.
About The Attorney
Matt’s passion for the law has led him to develop a broad-based practice that touches on almost every area of law that affects individuals in their everyday lives and small business representation. He also speaks Spanish.
Attorney Matt Zimmerman works tirelessly to achieve the greatest possible results for each of our clients and their families. This is a selection of one of his many successful results, settlements, and verdicts. Every case and client is unique and depends upon the individual facts and circumstances of each case. Clients may or may not obtain the same or similar results in each case.