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Richard, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 55708
Experience:  32 years of experience as lawyer in Texas. I'm also a Real Estate developer.
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I wrote a registered mortgage on a house to a friend. Last

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I wrote a registered mortgage on a house to a friend. Last year she got in financial difficulty and let the insurance on the house lapse without telling me. While the house was uninsured, an outbuilding on the property next to me (a foreclosed property owned by a bank) caught fire while some people were partying in it - the property was unsecured. The fire spread to my yard and burned up an out building in my backyard. At that time the owner contacted the bank and attempted o get them to cover the damages. Nothing happened. I took back the house via a quit claim deed early this year and have fixed it up to put on the market. I have contacted the bank to ask them to cover the cost of demolition ($2500) and replacement ($5900) of my outbuilding. First, are they legally liable for the damage their fire caused to my property? Second, if they do not respond, can I place a lien on their property so I can recover damages when they eventually sell the property?
Welcome! My goal is to do my very best to understand your situation and to provide a full and complete answer for you.

Good afternoon. Yes, the bank is liable for damages caused by a fire on their property. And, when you took back the property, you stepped into the shoes of the prior owner. The bank may have a claim against the people that were partying, but the bank is liable to you because it was a fire on its property that cause the damage to your property. And, if the bank does not pay voluntarily, you have the right to sue the bank and get a judgment. You can't place a lien on the property prior to being awarded a judgment, but once the suit is filed and a judgment awarded, you become a judgment creditor, and if the bank doesn’t then pay the judgment, you can have the sheriff serve a summons on the bank for a debtor examination. That forces the bank to meet the judgment creditor in court and answer questions under oath about its assets. After that information is obtained, you can attach bank accounts or have the sheriff seize other property, including the property next door, to satisfy the judgment.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your help. Just a couple of followup questions. Is the amount involved ($8400) too large for small claims court? Do I need to engage an attorney and file a formal suit? Can I recover legal costs as part of the settlement?



You're welcome and thanks so much for following up. $5,000 is the limit in Florida for small claims court. So, you can file this in small claims court and won't need to engage counsel. Most small claims courts allow you to file your suit on line, but if not, it's a simple complaint form that you will file with the court clerk. Since you don't need a lawyer, you won't really have legal costs. But, had you had them, it would be up to the judge whether or not to award them.
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