Skip to comments.In need of legal resources for elderly parents
Posted on 07/16/2012 10:34:12 PM PDT by ChocChipCookie
It's hard to believe that my sharp, savvy parents have gotten to the age (72 this year) where they aren't making smart decisions and have been scammed more than once in the past year.
Recently they purchased a house (cash purchase) and, against my advice, used the services of an "ethically challenged" realtor. This woman promised all kinds of little "deals" that she would work out for them once they sold their house (20K less than the asking price) and then purchased a second house with her. Of course none of those so-called discounts became a reality, but incredibly, they continued to work with her.
They bought a house believing that the roof was new, since it was described that way in the official listing. That was a selling point since they knew it would be hard to afford a new roof at some point in the future.
A month or two after the purchase, my mom had the roof inspected to find out if they might qualify for a discount on their homeowner's insurance policy and was told the roof was ten years old. Her realtor urged her to file a legal complaint against the seller, told her she could easily represent herself, and that she was sure to win her claim/case.
Well, a couple of weeks ago she received a letter from the attorney representing the seller's real estate agency. Using pretty intimidating language, they denied that my parents have any claim whatsoever, they're going to prove as much in a mediation, and that my parents may be required to pay fees, etc. (Don't have the letter in front of me.)
The mediation meeting is legally binding and is set for August 9. My mom intends to go there with a copy of the listing and the emails from her realtor. I'm very, very concerned that she and my dad will lose and will have to pay legal fees, etc., claimed by the opposing side. Her realtor told my mom that she was told by HER boss to stop giving any legal advice to my parents, so they have absolutely no one. They have a very limited income and if they lose this claim, it could cause them irreparable financial damage.
Never before in their lives have they dealt with lawsuits. They are absolutely clueless. I informed my mom that a paralegal, alone, charges upwards of $250/hour. I hope that hit home because she told me that she had originally, "dissed" the attorney's letter.
I'm not looking for legal advice but am wondering if there are any legal resources out there for elderly people on limited incomes. At this point my parents aren't able to withdraw their complaint because the mediation has been officially scheduled. She has to show up and make her case, one way or another.
Does anyone know where she might be able to get free or inexpensive legal advice?
What state did they buy the property in?
Look for Legal Aid near where they live. Or some law schools have clinics where law students (under supervision of licensed attorneys) help out lower income folks. Or look for an attorney who might be willing to work pro bono. They could also hire an attorney for consulting advice. You would want to look for one experienced in real estate law in Arizona.
Other options include making complaints to Arizona’s AG or whatever state agency licenses real estate agents there.
Don't even think about a Paralegal...paralegals cant practice law.
Contact the bar association. Pro bono services are available in AZ.
You have a conundrum. If you are nearby, perhaps you can help. If not, there really is only one way to achieve legal representation and that is to pay for it. Upon doing so, you really do not know the quality of representation you are paying for until he/she does something and then you get to judge the results. I just went through about 5-6 years of caring for my folks, one of whom passed last year and the other is in eldercare. There are very surprising resources available to elders for all sorts of things, but legal help, without paying for it, is not one of them. By law.
Your folks are probably making a mistake trying to represent themselves in mediation.
They may be able to obtain some guidance by asking specific questions at $15 each on answer.com, but the entire problem with amateurs trying to play lawyer is that they do not know the salient questions to ask.
The bigger question is that this level of cluelessness and “think we can do it ourselves” is that they are very possibly in the same state as far as their estate plans. That, of course, is a whole other kettle of fish but a word to the wise better be sufficient.
In the case of the roof, they had an opportunity to inspect the roof pre-sale, and why they did not do so then, versus after the sale is, for want of a better word, thoroughly goofball. They have no business trying to represent themselves, but if they can demonstrate that the roof was misrepresented as new when it wasn’t, via a written inspection report versus the listing, they could well prevail on that point. I am a former realtor in CA but AZ could be a lot different law-wise, there are lots of laws there that derive from the time AZ (and NM) were territories and I wouldn’t try to apply CA law to AZ. In CA we have a “seller’s disclosure statement” which is a checklist of “what condition stuff is in” when the realtor takes the listing. The buyer gets a copy of that. The whole problem with the legal system, or one of them, is the very important principle that he who gets their hands on money first has a very powerful claim on it, no matter what’s right and what’s wrong.
They should not call the Atty General, they should call the state department of real estate and possibly see the Board of Realtors for the county they are in. Nobody, nobody can supply legal advice other than a paid atty. They should ask if there are any resources there for elderly buyers/sellers. I would suspect not.
At some point, you are going to have to step up and take some degree of control over their affairs. That might be now, that might be 10 or 15 years from now. It may be that that they have to undergo the punishment from this experience to bring them to the state where they are ready to admit that they need external, professional-grade help.
Are there any witnesses to this?
In Arizona there is a “Seller Property Disclosure Statement” (SPDS) that is used to disclose seller known improvements or defects in the property being sold. That is the first place to look.
Please note that I am not an attorney and I do not play one on TV. Take it to a lawyer.
Good luck to you. I sympathize. My dad has Alzheimer’s now and my mom is in over her head too and wants to stay independent in an obsessed, not brilliant way. Independent over safe or smart, you know?
Definitely consider that they may have been scammed because of their age.
This part of life sucks.
Mom needs to get the roof inspected and the fact that it is 10 years old in writing. Perhaps several inspections and reports would be in order. She also needs to bring in the listing agreement or whatever she has that states the roof was new. The other side would need to bring in receipts showing that the roof is indeed, “brand new” or whatever they said on the listing.
I think it’s a winner for your Mom. By the way, the opposing counsel is just blowing smoke with his letter threatening fees. This is what attorneys do. Have faith in your mom, help her prepare her case. Don’t let her walk in there with nothing more than, “the inspector said the roof was 10 years old.” She needs paper and lots of it.
It would be good if she could get an attorney to represent her and perhaps the attorney could negotiate a settlement for her. If an attorney appears for her at the mediation it might cost her $500-$1000 but if the attorney is good it would be worth it. She might also have a case against one or both of the realtors (I know, one is her “friend” but there’s another one involved, isn’t there?).
Another thing she will need is the amount she is out. What does a new roof cost and what is the value of the old roof. How much is the 10 year old roof worth compared to the value of a new roof? This is the amount that is being argued over.
And I don’t believe that the mediation can’t be stopped. Whoever told you this is misinformed. If your parents want to walk away and made the offer to the other side to dismiss for waiver of costs, I’m pretty sure the other side would go for it. They stand to lose a lot more than what they’ve spent.
I really think your parents need representation though. If they come off as naive, they will be rolled.
“The mediation meeting is legally binding and is set for August 9.”
Um, mediation is never legally binding unless you sign off. Arbitration can be legally binding.
You’re clearly getting bad advice from someone. Rule 1: trust nothing the other side says. Rule 2: follow some of the advice above and call the AG, bar, and local law schools. (Some students are shockingly good at what they do in those clinics.)
Fk that mediation meeting. You get an attorney. In fact, there are many resources for the elderly.
Make your complaint online and then get on the phone to resolve this. You make clear what you know and gather every last piece of evidence.
All receipts, txts, emails, contracts, MOU’s. Everything.
Jump on this right now.
In addition to other advice, if you have any proof of wrongdoing..letters/emails/cell exchange, etc. which state anything promised and not delivered, contact the Board of Realtors. They can remove her license.
Start with the local board of realtors. File a formal complaint.
Did the sellers fill out a disclosure form? Did your parents’ agent discuss the disclosure form?
Is your parents’ agent the broker or just an agent? Call the broker and make the broker aware of the responsibility of the brokerage in the shoddy transaction.
Where in AZ is the house?
You have received some good advice here. Once you handle this issue take ASD's advice and get involved in their affairs and take control. Aim for POA and then executor. Go to the Nolo Law web site for some good books on this and paperwork as well.
This is not easy. I am going through it now as well. There is a certain type of scum that seeks out Arizona because of the retirees there. It seems everyone is after these old folks money. It is your job now to be their protector.
This generation of elderly are very stubborn. They want to do it themselves and it is hard to see them taken advantage of or end up dealing with unwise decisions they have made.
God bless you in this challenge ahead of you. Take comfort in this. You love enough to take care of your parents and get involved. There are many elderly out there who do not have anyone who cares.
Regards, Mr. Sol.
Agreed with Mr. Sol.
My MIL is 85, the essence of sweet purity, a true honest- to -God Southern bell who knows the Bible like the back of her hand.
I married her son and being I am with her much of every day, it is my job to protect her from the telemarketers who constantly ignore her listing on the do not call list, the nonstop solicitations for money for starving children, orphans, benevolent funds and people with cancer- then we have the shopkeepers who try to pull one over on her- incorrect change, won’t accept a return, piddly things they use to try to get the upper hand on an old lady, for some reason.
Calmly, I deal with this. It is not pretty for them. But I am privileged to have her in my life. I can and will make those dishonest, uninvited, who try to invade her life, regret the day they are born. Nothing like getting on the other line and hearing some woman talking over my MIL, who is tearfully begging this stranger to stop calling, while this POS is asking for money for dying children- my MIL’s youngest died of cancer- ignoring the repeated fact that my MIL has cancer now.
If it is legal in AZ to record a phone conversation, can you call the realtor? How is it ethical to go in on a property with a client? I would think that is pretty bad professionally and she could be called out on that alone.
Report the realtor’s unethical behavior to the Real Estate Commission and demand that she lose her license to sell real estate.