1. Archive

Original title insurance policy is sufficient for refinancing

Question: I'm about to refinance my home mortgage. Should I buy a new owner's title insurance policy each time I refinance? Our home has more than doubled in market value since we bought it five years ago. It seems to me it would be a good idea to increase my owner's title insurance coverage. But the title insurance officer had a hard time believing I want a new policy because he said chance of an error was so remote after several refinancings. Should I get a new policy?

Answer: Several readers recently have asked similar questions. You don't need a new owner's title insurance policy because your original policy protects you and your heirs as long as you own your home. Save money! A new owner's title policy will give you no added benefits but will waste your hard-earned money.

Nothing owed listing agent

Question: After my mother died, her house did not sell quickly. During the listing period, a woman toured the house and wanted to buy it. But she was going through a divorce, and her lawyer told her not to buy until after the divorce was final. After the listing expired, she took a one-year lease on the house with an option to buy. If she buys, are we liable for the sales commission to the listing agent?

Answer: You say that after the listing expired, you entered into a lease-option. If your listing agent was not involved in obtaining that lease-option agreement, you legally owe no sales commission to her. It was her job to bring you a buyer, not a tenant. However, if you want to send her a thank-you gift, perhaps $1,000, that would be a nice thing to do. But she was neither the "procuring cause," nor did she find a "ready, willing and able buyer," so legally she's not entitled to a sales commission under the listing agreement.

The law of nuisances

Question: A few weeks ago you had a question from a condo owner who lives adjacent to a kennel of barking dogs. Didn't she look out the window and listen before she bought the condo? It's natural for dogs to bark. If she doesn't like the barking, she should move rather than sue the kennel owner.

Answer: That kennel question and answer provoked lots of rage, from both dog lovers and dog haters. When a person buys a condo near a noisy kennel, that buyer doesn't have to tolerate the kennel owner who refuses to abate the nuisance. The law of nuisances is clear: Just because a property conforms to the zoning and is legally operated, the owner doesn't have a right to continue a private or public nuisance. Sometimes lawsuits are the only effective remedy to abate a nuisance, such as where those condo neighbors asked the kennel owner to enclose the cages or keep the barking dogs indoors at night, but the owner refused to cooperate.

Mortgage contingency

Question: My wife and I contracted to buy a house. However, I have recently heard rumors at the plant that substantial layoffs will soon occur. If I am laid off, is it sufficient legal grounds to cancel our home purchase? We have been pre-approved for the mortgage, but I'm not sure we can qualify based on my wife's earnings alone.

Answer: Loss of job is not a legal reason for canceling a home purchase contract. However, if your purchase offer contained a mortgage finance contingency, as it should, you won't have to proceed with the home purchase if the lender won't fund your mortgage because you are unemployed.

E-mail Robert J. Bruss at or write to Robert J. Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010.