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Q: I recently inquired at my bank concerning refinancing my home mortgage, and they told me they require an abstract of title. Can you tell me what that is and why the bank requires it?

I have tried to obtain this document and have not been successful. I called the town clerk, the county clerk and my lawyer, and none of them could help me. I found out what company produced the abstract when my husband and I bought our house. The company could not give me a copy. What do I need to do to obtain the abstract of title on my house?

A: The abstract is a legal history of your real estate, including information such as: who bought it; what mortgage was placed on it and when it was paid off; who resold the property or placed another mortgage on it; and who inherited the property or had a judgment placed against it. The lender wants proof that it's safe to take your property as security for the loan, with no loose ends that might give someone else a claim against it.

An abstractor searches for these documents in the county's public records (much easier in these digital times) and compiles them into the abstract. Your lender probably doesn't need information going all the way back to the 1800s. Old lengthy abstracts, some in fine Victorian penmanship, do make for fascinating reading. Often, though, the past 40 years of history is considered enough assurance.

Ask the person who handled your original purchase whether anyone has kept the abstract. Even if you find it, it must be brought up-to-date, showing what, if anything, has happened since you bought the place. Locating the old one might not save you that much money. You'll have to order up and pay for a current abstract anyhow. Your lawyer can arrange it.

Do rental rights last beyond house sale?

Q: If I buy a house that is being rented, does the renter have to move before the closing date?

A: If the tenants have a lease, it "survives the sale." Their lease is just as binding on you as it was on the seller, and they'd have the right to stay for the rest of the term.

If the tenants don't have a lease and are simply on what is known as month-to-month, they must leave after receiving proper notice from their current landlord. In most areas, that's a full month's notice, from a date before the rent is due, usually the first of the month. Example: If they must leave by the end of June, they're entitled to notice, preferably in writing, before the end of May.

If you buy a rental property, your sales contract should state just what you and the seller have agreed to about occupancy.