Fix Mistake from Closing

Should you fix mistake from closing or keep extra land that was included in the sale. Who should pay to fix the error.

By Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Q: I purchased a home last year during Covid. Prior to purchasing the home, the real estate agent’s listing sheet showed that the property. She told me it the seller was splitting it in two. The listing contained a suggestion to see the property marker where the surveyor left a stake to show the property line division.

Two lots for the price of one?

Going through the sale process, all of the documents showed the same legal description: “Lot 1 and Lot 2.” The appraisal noted that same legal description. When I got to the settlement all of the final documents showed “Lot 1 and Lot 2” as part of the sale. The seller and the seller’s real estate agent had already done their signing so I assumed they changed their mind on the split.

I purchased the house and life went on with me paying the taxes for both lots, taking care of the lawn and snow removal.

Seven months later, the seller contacted me through an attorney. He let me know that “an incorrect legal description was carried over.” The attorney asked that I sign a quit claim deed. This deed would convey the vacant lot back to them. Their argument was that the county processed the paperwork late due to Covid. They only recently found out that the deed gave me both lots.

I have not responded but they are now threatening a lawsuit. Do they have any legal claim to this lot?

Going after a buyer for a mistake at closing

A: Your assumptions are wrong. The seller never told you that they changed their mind about what they planned to sell you. You agreed to buy a home on a piece of land. The broker gave you the dimensions of the land you were buying. You saw the land and saw the dividing line for the two lots.

At no point in the information that you gave us did you show that you received confirmation from the seller that they were simply going to give you another parcel of land adjacent to the home you were purchasing for free. We suspect that you spotted the mistake, thought you could get something for nothing and simply decided to avoid raising the issue with the seller or settlement agent. You clearly didn’t want to confirm whether the seller intended to convey both parcels of land to you.

When you walked out of the closing attorney’s office or settlement agent’s office, you knew you got more than you contracted for. We don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that a seller would simply give you a piece of land they were planning to sell. At the very least, if they had intended to do that, you’d expect them to let you know so that you could thank them for it.

Paying for expenses due to a closing mistake

We hesitate to say what the seller’s legal rights are or what your defense might be. Suffice to say, we don’t think you should keep something you didn’t pay for. Having said that, we don’t think you should be out of pocket for any expenses that arise in fixing this situation or for any money you spent in taking care of the land or in the real estate taxes you paid.

You’ll need to fix the mistake from closing at some point or another.

The seller should make you whole so that at the end of the day you suffer no harm, nor are out any money as a result of their mistake. You’re entitled to the bargain you made under the contract but no more. We think you should enter into discussions with them about transferring back the property. ©2021 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin