Legality question involving land

Disclaimer: I am asking this out of curiosity only, I am aware that I need to hire a lawyer of my own if I plan on taking any action in regard to my situation.

I bought a house several years ago, with my ex-boyfriend. I was told prior to purchase that the house(and it is, in fact, a house, with a foundation, NOT a trailer) was on rented land, and that we would be purchasing the structure only, and that we would have to make monthly lot payments to the land company. Quite a few of the houses in my area have the same scenario.

We called the land company when we moved in, and the only thing they wanted to know was what name to send the bill to. We never signed anything. There is no contract or lease. We get a bill every month, and a statement once a year listing our payments and any overdue balances for the year. Every so often, they raise the price of rent, and let us know by enclosing a note with our bill.

Is this even legal? If I were to stop paying these people, could they do anything?

You bought a home, on a foundation, but do not own the land on which that foundation lay :confused:

Hmmm. First I’d ask why you did this, but I’d assume it was because the house was a great buy sans the land underneath.

Is it legal? I’ve got no idea…but it sounds like someone purchased the contract for the land and is subletting the lots to people. That could be legal. But they never had you sign anything? That’s very, very odd. I’m quite surprised you are paying them ANYTHING without ever signing something.

Exactly. In fact, I do not have the “deed” to the house, because a deed is for land. So, I have a “title”.

Put it this way. The house was paid off in 5 years, with a monthly payment less than half my previous apartment’s rent.

That’s kinda my issue. I haven’t been paying them recently, and I’m wondering what might happen…

No contract or lease?

And you’re yapping about rent increases?

Don’t bother going to court, you’ll lose.

Just what rights did you think you had?

You’re renting the land, you are subject to rent increases at the whim of the owner, unless you have something in writing, which you don’t.

Case closed.

Disclaimer: While I am a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer, I’m not licensed in Maine, and this is not legal advice (I know you know, but, well, I am a lawyer…)

  1. Is this legal?
    I would say yes (although, truth be told, I’ve never heard of a person buying a house and renting the land on it). Leases do not have to be in writing to be valid. In the absence of a written agreement, however, it will generally be construed as a month-to-month tenancy (especially so since you have been making monthly payments). Thus, you have no right to occupancy beyond the month of which you’ve been paying.
  2. If you stopped paying, they could evict you from the land. Since this is a month-to-month lease, they’d have to give you half a month’s notice if they didn’t intend to renew the lease. If you forced them to evict you, there would be some legal wrangling, but eventually a sherriff would come and get you off the land*.

*I say this with the idea of a typical landlord/tenant relationship in mind. Again, I’ve never encountered a situation where someone bought a house but not the land on which it was situated. I’m not sure how one would handle the logistics of forcing someone off another’s land and making them take their house with them. My best advice (which you’ve already alluded to) is to consult with a lawyer - personally, I’d want some sort of longterm lease (agreements longer than 1 year do have to be in writing) to ensure continued occupany; ideally, I’d want some sort of lease with an option to buy.

My family has a cabin with a similar deal, only we do have a lease. A lumber company owns the land, and leases out 40 acre plots to people. My father built a cabin and a few other structures on it. We own the cabin and all the stuff there, but the land itself belongs to the company.

We pay a yearly lease that’s pretty low - I’m not sure of the exact number, but I think it’s around $1k/year.

I don’t have any advise for the OP, I just wanted to point out that deals like this do exist.

Well if you own the structure you are living in, they can’t kick you out of that…Do you have a poured concrete basement?

Jesus Christ, I’m just asking a question, here. I’m not “yapping” about anything. As to your question of “just what rights did you think you had”, I don’t know- that’s kind of the point of my OP, isn’t it?

Yeah, except for the small fact that you have something in writing, and she doesn’t.

Yes, I have a basement. Not poured concrete, but concrete blocks(house was built in 1891).

Holy shit, why aren’t you paying them???

What might happen is that they might evict you and tell you to move your house off their land! This is a terrible situation to be in with a month-to-month lease. You should be on a multi-year lease if at all possible, even one with rent increases built in.

You have no legally congnizable interest in the land on which your house sits. If they tell you to get the hell off their land, what are you going to do? I frankly can’t think of a situation where non-payment of rent is a worse idea. Even if it was a trailer, you’d be better off in the event you were evicted, because it would be cheaper and easier to haul your trailer away.

I am not your lawyer and this is not legal advice, but I’d definitely talk to a lawyer about what your legal options are. I can confidently predict, however, that your legal options will not include not paying lot rent.

I honestly can’t over-emphasize what a bad idea this is.

Oh, OK. Sorry about that.

To answer your question: If you didn’t sign anything , you pretty much have NO rights.

I’ve had some financial difficulty stemming from a medical condition. I know, not the best excuse, but my land rent became less of a priority than my car payment, food, etc.

Thanks to everyone so far for your input.

I think that’s a little extreme. Again, I’m not licensed in Maine (or wherever the hell Maniacs are), but down here in Florida there are notice requirements before someone can be evicted for non-payment. So, I wouldn’t be waiting for a knock on the door telling you to get out - you’d have to be told that you were in arrears, and would likely be given the opportunity to pay what you owe (hopefully, you have a decent relationship with the owner of the land, so maybe there can be some sort of arrangement allowing you to pay the unpaid rent over a series of months, in light of financial difficulties).

My bigger concern than eviction is that you have not secured any long-term occupancy rights. For this, I’d want something in writing so that you can be assured of being able to live there beyond just “next month”.

Meanwhile, I’m still scratching my head regarding your arrangement; how do you have title to property without having a deed? Where I come from, a deed is the primary form of evidence for demonstrating title.

It says something like, “Ms. Pumpkin is the legal owner of the 1 and 1/2 story structure located at 123 Streetname, and situated on property owned by LandCompany, Inc.

Yeah, there are notice requirements if someone has something in writing.

If you have nothing in writing, you’re basically a squatter.

You live at 123 Streetname?! I live at 124 Streetname!

What do you mean by “it”? What document contains this language?

I’m not getting all up in your shnizzle, and I apologize if it seemed that way, but seriously, please consider reoganizing your payments or working with the car company and the land company to make temporary partial payments. Just not paying your lot rent could render you homeless in pretty short order, with a major asset – your house – that you may find nearly impossible to take with you.

If things are really that tough, have you thought about selling? Don’t answer that, but just something to think about.

Nothing to apologize for, you’re absolutely right. In fact, I just got a check and one of the first things I plan on paying is land rent. :slight_smile:

In most case like this it’s better to negotiate than to litigate and if you do nothing the landowner will eventually take you to court, so you need to take some action before that happens.
I’d suggest you first talk to an attorney, perhaps one who specializes in real estate law in your area. Once you determine your legal position you can approach the landowner w/ a proposal to get back on track.
It sounds like you should try to get some kind of written lease agreement between you and the landowner, which may be difficult since your trying to do it after the fact, but be guided by what you learn from the lawyer. Just a tip, get the lawyer to give you an estimate of the cost of their services before you authorize any work and make sure they have to clear it w/ you before doing anything that will cost you more money.