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Ragazzina, Renter in Springfield, MA

Our landlord (nephew of homeowner) didn't tell us that the homeowner died over a year ago. We've been writing the check out to her. Is?

Asked by Ragazzina, Springfield, MA Sun Dec 12, 2010

that legal? We had no idea that the homeowner passed away, we found the obituary just this morning by googling her name. We're having problems with this landlord not paying our heating bill, and the bank has been stopping by the house here & there for a year, so we were suspicious. Can the landlord legally cash checks made out to a deceased person for 14 months?

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Since you really are seeking legal advice, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney who specializes in real estate--he/she can best advise--most professionals do offer a free consultation.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Dec 12, 2010
Hi Ragazinna

Wow, amazing. It's possible that the house passed from the landlord to the nephew.

But according to you unlikely, as heating bills are not being paid, and bank agents are coming by.
Hence, it's prudent to get yourself an attorney as well as Start looking into paying your own utilities
While deducting the balance from your rent.

Prudent to get in touch with the Town Rental Board, you should be able to get a contact by calling City Hall.

Good luck.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Dec 12, 2010
I should not matter to you how you pay the rent or to whom, only that you do per your lease. The other party may be doing something wrong or it might be perfectly ok, but it should make no difference to you. Just pay the rent and be able to show you did. Obviously they are able to cash your checks so I would not worry about it. I would ask if they would like you to write it in some other way in the future to make it easier for them to cash.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Dec 12, 2010
Hi Ragazinna:

Thanks for the update. Clearly, it will be tough to get your security deposit back with a landlord
as explained. Sadly, he can write a letter but cant call saying that the heat will be being turned off.

Also, you can check with Springfield County accessor's office to check if the ownership has passed
from the Owners name to a Bank, that would indicate that it has been auctioned off. Also check if the Taxes have been paid? If Taxes are not paid, then find out if it has been for 6 months or 12 months

The challenge comes up when a property is acquired at auction by a New Owner for their Principal Residence. Also prudent to call the Springfield Rent board to figure out your rights.

Here are some good links to start:

Good luck and keep us posted.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 14, 2010
The rates are low and the home prices are the lowest I have ever seen them. You should get pre approved to see if you can purchase a home or condo. Mortgages are cheaper than rent in some cases. It sounds like you have been renting long term.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 14, 2010
you really need a good Attorney!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 13, 2010
Thanks everyone for your answers. The plot is a bit thicker, of course, than my initial query indicated.
I should clarify that this is a private house, the homeowner was a 95-year-old woman who could no longer care for herself so the nephew took her in to care for her. We originally met with the nephew to see the house & sign the lease, which the homeowner had signed, even though according to the landlord, she didn't know or understand what she was signing.
The landlord has notified us that the house is going up for sale in March, so we have to leave anyway.

I understand that our rent checks are being cashed and thus it should not be our concern, normally. However, he has left us with no heat or hot water in December, and wouldn't return our phone calls while we shivered all weekend. He finally called, said he refused to pay "another cent" to the oil company because he was in an argument with them. He then claimed that he had sent us a letter right before our lease was to expire 10 months ago, stating that now we were responsible for the heat. He added that since we didn't respond, that indicated acceptance of the new terms. We do know for a fact that this is illegal in Massachusetts. An agreement needs to be signed (not to mention received) and actually agreed upon in order to be legally binding.

We just don't trust this guy, we fear that he has spent our security deposit, and felt that if he was doing something illegal besides leaving us with no heat, that would be helpful for us should we need to go to court to get our fairly large security deposit back.
We had had another incident with him at the very beginning of our lease: When we moved in, he had left the house full of the homeowner's belongings, so much that we could not move in. He promised they'd be removed, but two weeks into our lease period we could still not move in because he had not removed her belongings. We reqested a partial refund of the month considering we couldn't move in, and he became irrationally angry on the phone and accused us of trying to take advantage of him.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 13, 2010
Your landlord is having trouble paying your heating bill??? That is the understatement of the year considering that your landlord has been dead for a year. Your landlord may not be paying the mortgage on the house either. So who have been cashing your rent checks? Is that fraud? Well, it looks like you rent is getting paid so maybe that does not matter. But if the person getting your money is not paying the mortgage you may end up without a home. If there is a tenant’s rights advocacy group in your community you should pay them a visit and see if they can be of help to you. An attorney is a great alternative. Many attorneys will give you a free consultation to see if there is something worthwhile to pursue.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Dec 12, 2010
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