Q: In weak moment, I signed a quit claim deed on my home in Dupont Circle to a longtime friend who made certain promises — including the promise of paying the mortgages on the property that are in my name and paying my expenses for two years.
I moved to a nearby town. He’s paid the mortgage payments regularly but has stopped paying me for my expenses. The home is rented and he gets the rent. My friend never recorded the deed because, in DC — believe it or not — transfer fees totaled $5,500. I still appear online as the owner and he now ignores my calls.
I am disabled and I’m in dire financial need. I want to sell the home and need the money to survive. Can I sell the property or am I asking for more trouble? I want to move on this before he records the deed. I gave him the property for $5 “out of friendship.”
A: You say you gave the property to your friend. But in reality you entered into an arrangement to sell your property to your friend and in return he was to pay you money over time. Now your friend has failed to make good on his payments to you.
Now you want to sell the home even though you conveyed title to your friend. There is no way to know how much it will cost, but you desperately need the help of an attorney to get you out of this mess.
Other than the quit claim deed, did you get anything in writing? Did he ever pay your expenses? And if he did, did you keep copies of his payments to you?
Let’s go back to the beginning of your story. Was your “weak” moment, a time when you were physically impaired and unable to make decisions for yourself? Did your friend take advantage of you? (By the way, it doesn’t seem this person is much of a friend.)
Your situation is messy and you need to sit down with someone to discuss it further. Take all of the papers you have that relate to the property, the transfer of the home, the tenant that lives there, cancelled checks from your friend, any correspondence between the two of you.
When you sit down with your attorney, you need to determine whether the deed was obtained by your friend by illegal means, whether you can prove a contract with your friend for the money he owes, and whether you can place a lien on the home arising from the nature of your transfer of title.
The question of whether you can sell the property because your friend has failed to record the deed is interesting. In many parts of the country, if there are multiple deeds conveying title to a property, the first one to record the deed gets title to the home. However, in other cases, the first one to receive the deed prevails.
In the District of Columbia the deed becomes effective on the date of delivery of the deed; however, if you were to convey title to another person and that person had no knowledge of the first deed, then the first person to record the deed would get title to the home.
Unfortunately, you have placed yourself in a bad situation and it may cost you to get yourself out of it. Explain your financial predicament to the attorney. If there is a fair sum of money to be gained, he or she may be willing to take your case on a contingency basis. Good luck.
Dec. 6, 2006.