Reader question: I live in a two-family house that my sister and I inherited. It was free and clear of a mortgage. My sister wanted out for her half of the value, so I took a mortgage on the house to pay her. At the time, I was unable to take out the mortgage in my name, so my son signed for the loan in his name. He does not live in the house. I pay for the mortgage even though it is in my son’s name. I also pay for all the bills and repairs for the home. My son is now claiming the house because the mortgage is in his name. There are only two years left on the mortgage. After he pays off the loan, what rights do I have? How do I make the house solely in my name?
Monty’s answer: It is not clear in your question whether you transferred the title in your home to your son. Your last sentence suggests that you added him as an owner on the title. It also appears that you will be paying off your son’s mortgage. If your son became a co-owner to obtain a mortgage, when the lender provides your son a satisfaction of the lien, he should quit claim his interest in the property back to you if that was the agreement.
You have to make sure the lender records the mortgage satisfaction at the Register of Deeds office. The Register of Deeds may or may not be in the courthouse. Once the mortgage is paid off, and you resolve the title issue, it should be your home again.
If you are not sure in whose name the title is today, you can call a title insurance company and order a title search to learn the answer. The cost of this varies around the US. In my county, the price of a title search is $75.
The next step
It is unclear if you documented the arrangement with your son in writing. The problem with oral agreements, even between family members, is that the details are sometimes forgotten or misconstrued as time passes.
If he believes he will remain an owner, then it would appear you and your son have a misunderstanding. Is there a written agreement? Consider seeking a legal opinion now. Do not wait any longer.
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money - An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty.