By Quentin Fottrell
My mom has been unemployed and on Social Security Insurance since 2017. Somehow In 2018, she “bought” a new house in Georgia that I suspected she could not afford. A year later she confessed to me that it was actually purchased by a family friend with whom she had had a secret romantic affair for over 30 years.
Mr. Secret is in an unhappy, open marriage and has no intentions to divorce. He never moved into the house with my mom, but they had a notarized agreement stating that he would pay the mortgage, and she would pay the utilities. They also agreed to put the deed solely in my mom’s name so that his wife or children would not inherit the house in the event he died.
By 2019 their affair came to an end and Mr. Secret asked my mom to move out of the house so that he could sell it, but she refused. As the deed was in her name he could not evict her, so he told her he would let the house go into foreclosure.
Due to her poor credit my mom was unable to have the mortgage transferred into her name. She made partial payments towards the mortgage as best she could, but she struggled to do so.
In 2020, she “fell in love” with a new guy she met on a dating app for seniors. Within less than a month of meeting New Guy, he paid to bring the mortgage up to date and moved into the home with my mom. A few months later, he bought the house and they had his name added to the deed.
Unfortunately, New Guy turned out to be an abusive con artist and their relationship ended in less than 6 months with my mom filing a restraining order against him. He also stopped paying the mortgage after he moved out, leaving my mother to struggle again to pay it herself.
She reluctantly moved tenants into her extra bedrooms as it was her only way to generate income, but according to her this income is still not enough to cover all of her expenses.
My mom continues to struggle to pay the mortgage. Somehow she’s been able to have it deducted directly from her bank account, but the monthly amount due has recently increased by a few hundred dollars (for unknown reasons) and the new payment amount exceeds the amount she had previously budgeted for (causing her to be short on other bills).
The mortgage is still solely in New Guy’s name so she isn’t able to speak with the lender to make payment arrangements. I asked my mother what prevents New Guy from evicting her since the mortgage is in his name, and both of their names are on the deed.
She said the police told her New Guy could not evict her since she has a restraining order filed against him (this doesn’t make sense to me). She also believes that since she has been making the mortgage payment herself that gives her additional protection from eviction (I’m not sure if that is correct either).
My mother has been looking for employment to increase her income but has not had any luck, and she has refused my suggestions to move into a more affordable apartment or senior living community that is within her means. I have helped her financially for most of my adult life, but I have my own debts now and cannot help her anymore without hurting myself.
Do you have any advice on how to advise her? What protections (if any) does she have from being evicted from her home? If New Guy dies what claims could his children make to this home? If my mother dies what would my responsibilities be?
I’m pretty sure she does not have a will in place, and honestly I want nothing to do with the house except to remove her belongings when she passes.
A Very Concerned Child
Dear Very Concerned,
This is an unfortunate sequence of events.
Each of the three parties — your mother, Mr. Secret and New Guy — all wanted something. Your mother wanted these men to pay her mortgage, or at least part of it, and they wanted love, romance and/or a stake in a property. It has become a toxic situation. Your mother is now left struggling to pay a mortgage on a home that she only has a 50% share in.
There are so many lessons from this sad tale. Don’t buy a home that you can’t afford. And never put somebody else’s name on the deed of your home. Once you have done that dastardly deed — unless it was done under duress or as part of some kind of fraud — there is very little she can do to reverse it.
Your mother’s next course of action will depend on what equity — if any — she has in the house. If there’s enough, she could file a partition action, thereby compelling New Guy to sell the property, assuming he won’t sign a quit claim and give up his right to the home. She should, of course, consult a real-estate attorney to consider her options.
If your mother lives in a judicial foreclosure state, the foreclosure must go through the court system. In non-judicial foreclosure states where the process is often speedier, the lender might only notify the owners that they are in default before putting their home up for auction. The process can take months or years, depending on the state.
What happens if New Guy predeceases your mother? It depends on what kind of tenancy they have. If they are listed on the deed as “tenants in common,” they each own 50% and, should one of them die, they can leave your half to a third party. So, yes, if New Guy passed away, his children would receive his share unless otherwise specified in his will.
If they have “joint tenancy with the rights of survivorship,” they each have an undivided interest in the home, and if New Guy dies, his share goes to the other person listed on the deed, in this case your mother. And vice-versa. This can also be used for bank and brokerage accounts. But their arrangement should be brought to a conclusion sooner rather than later.
It’s hard to tell what is true and what is fiction in this story. According to the tale told by your mother, New Guy is sitting back and is willing to allow his credit score to take a hit. Whether or not your mother’s name is on the deed of this home, I don’t recommend dipping into your own pockets.
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More from Quentin Fottrell :
• My married sister is helping herself to our parents’ most treasured possessions. How do I stop her from plundering their home? • My mom had my grandfather sign a trust leaving millions of dollars to two grandkids, shunning everyone else • My brother’s soon-to-be ex-wife is embezzling money from their business. How do we find hidden accounts? • ‘Grandma recently passed away, leaving behind a 7-figure estate. Needless to say, things are getting messy’