Q: I used an easement authorized by my condo association to run an electrical pipe through a neighbor's garage. After the work was completed...
Q: I used an easement authorized by my condo association to run an electrical pipe through a neighbor’s garage. After the work was completed the neighbor decided he wanted the pipe moved to a different location. This would be expensive. My neighbor insists I pay for this. I say he needs to share or bear the cost. What’s my legal position on this?
A: Every condominium is governed by its own set of documents. They provide a framework to answer questions like yours. If your documents are like most — and there’s no way to tell without reading them — “the garage is probably a limited common element,” said Seattle attorney Jim Strichartz of Strichartz & Morgenstern. This means it’s your neighbor’s to use, but he doesn’t personally own it.
Further, “the easement is probably granted in the condo declaration, and the easement typically would require the owner to get approval from the board.”
If you met all the requirements contained in your documents, and the pipe was installed correctly, “it would be my opinion that if the user of the garage was unhappy with the location that they would have the right to move it at their cost. But absent something specific in the declaration, or any noncompliance with the declaration, it would surprise me if the neighbor had any right to compel the person who put the pipe in to move it,” Strichartz concluded.
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Q: My apartment wasn’t painted before I moved in. It needed it, so I asked my landlady if I could repaint it. She said yes. I paid for the paint. I’m moving out now and my landlady says my paint job wasn’t good and if I don’t repaint it she’ll keep my deposit. Can she do this?
A: Landlords have no legal responsibility to repaint before a tenant moves in, although many will, said attorney Joseph Puckett, with the Seattle firm of Puckett & Redford. Deposits, on the other hand, do have legal requirements. “Before the landlord could legally collect a refundable security deposit there should have been a move-in inspection report completed and signed by both parties when the tenancy commenced,” Puckett said. Additionally, a Seattle landlord who collects a refundable deposit must provide the tenant with a copy of landlord-tenant laws.
Assuming the rules were followed, “if the landlord gave permission to the tenant to paint, and the tenant did a reasonable job of painting, then I don’t believe the landlord would be able to make a claim for repainting the apartment,” Puckett said.
If you haven’t moved out yet, Puckett suggests you photograph each room so you have proof of the color and quality of the paint job. That way if your landlord keeps your deposit you’ll have proof and can argue your case in small claims court.
Q: I’m hearing that a lot of people are getting into mountains of debt because of the rush toward home buying and the practice of lenders offering ever-more tempting, but riskier loans. Is there a cautionary tale here?
A: Certified financial planner Robert Frey thinks there is. “If the manic home-price appreciation were powered by a corresponding income growth, one might have little cause for concern, but it is not,” said Frey, who’s with Lakeside Advisors in Seattle. “Instead, home prices are booming on the back of a related boom in high-risk mortgage lending, especially interest-only mortgage lending.”
These loans require the borrower to pay only the interest — not the underlying debt — in the early years of the loan. But at some point, the debt, or principal, is not just added. It’s accelerated, requiring the borrower to pay off the mortgage amount in a shorter time frame.
“What happens,” asks Frey, “when millions of homeowners must begin making much larger monthly mortgage payments or lose their homes — at a time when real wages are perhaps diminishing?”
His prediction: Consumption will slow as homeowners are forced to devote a larger portion of their income to house payments. Or home prices will fall if enough of them can’t make the payments and the market is flooded with for-sale homes.
Home Forum answers readers’ real-estate questions. Send questions to Home Forum, Seattle Times, P.O. Box 1845, Seattle, WA 98111, or call 206-464-8510 to leave a question on a recorded line. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.