Q: Is this legal? The lease for the Bellevue apartment I want to rent says that if I die I'm still responsible for fulfilling the terms of the lease, and it even asks for the name...

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Q:

Is this legal? The lease for the Bellevue apartment I want to rent says that if I die I’m still responsible for fulfilling the terms of the lease, and it even asks for the name of the executor of my estate. It also has language saying the landlord may evict me for no reason.


A:

Obviously if you’re dead, your landlord won’t require you to remain on premises, but otherwise you are responsible for fulfilling the lease, which in simple terms is a binding contract, explains Seattle attorney Christopher Benis of Harrison, Benis & Spence.

Is this fair? Benis thinks it is. As he points out, if you buy a car and die still owing payments, your heirs don’t get a free car. The executor of your estate must deal with the issue of car payments, just as your executor would have to deal with your apartment tenancy. It could take time for this person to remove all your belongings — Benis says smart landlords don’t just open the doors to all family members — and in the meantime, the rent must be paid.

Once the apartment has been vacated, state law says the landlord must make a good-faith effort to re-rent it. Only when it’s re-rented does your lease obligation stop.

As for requiring you to provide the name of your executor, Benis says, “it seems hard to imagine someone would turn away a willing, paying tenant because he or she doesn’t have a will and an executor, but who knows?” Perhaps providing the name of your next of kin would suffice.

Are you sure the lease also says the landlord can evict you for any reason? That would be patently illegal during the lease year. However once the lease has run its term and your tenancy becomes month to month, either you or your landlord can dissolve this arrangement by giving the proper 20-day written notice. This notice doesn’t have to include a reason. Seattle, however, has a “Just Cause Ordinance.” This means that Seattle landlords can’t ask a post-lease, month-to-month tenant to move unless they have a “just cause.” Among them: The building is being demolished; the tenant is repeatedly late on rent; the owner (or immediate family) wants to occupy the premises.


Q:

My daughter is considering buying a unit in a condominium that’s in the process of having its synthetic stucco siding removed and replaced because of water damage. The owner/seller’s share of this cost is $21,000. If additional damage is found, who pays — the seller or my daughter? Also, is it possible to successfully complete this job so no more damage occurs?

A:
It’s absolutely possible, says Steve Amento, president of Corke Amento, a Seattle-based construction consulting company that specializes in investigating and repairing condominium projects.

There are two keys to this. First is having either an architect or other qualified consultant draw up proper plans and specifications. Second is hiring a qualified contractor.

How can you and your daughter confirm that this is being done? Amento suggests you ask the seller about who developed the scope of the repairs. Was an investigation performed and a reasonable repair program put together? Were drawings prepared for a permit? Does the contractor have a portfolio of successfully completed repair projects?

“If the documents are extensive, then you feel a lot better,” Amento says. “But if it’s just ‘We’re going to go with the low bidder and not have an architect involved,’ then you get what you pay for.”

As for who pays if additional damage is found later, Amento says two things could affect that.

The first is how the contractor is being paid. If he’s agreed to a set fee regardless of how much damage is found, then there should be no more special assessments for the owners. If he’s working on a pay-as-you-go basis, there could be.

The second is your daughter’s purchase offer and what it stipulates. “It all depends on what the buyer and seller negotiate,” Amento said.


Q:

My wife and I are newlyweds. Six years ago, before we were married, she went through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I have excellent credit. Can we buy a house together, or would it make more sense to buy it in my name only?


A:

Lenders commonly require borrowers to wait four years after either a Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy has been discharged (finalized) before approving a home loan. So if your wife has reestablished and maintained good credit, it’s likely she’ll qualify not only for a loan but also for a good interest rate, says David Hatlin, vice president of HomeStreet Bank.

However, if that’s not the case, you can buy a house in your name if your income could support it. To make that purchase happen, your wife would have to file a quit claim deed giving up any rights to the house.

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 erhodes@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies.