Legal Question in Real Estate Law in Montana

In hot water

I'm involved in a lease/option. I paid 28K down payment, $500.00 earnest money, and have made 3 monthly payments of $550.00 - all of which apply toward the purchase price of 56K. I must pay this amount for 4 years, after which I am given the option to purchase.

I have been making improvements to the property; trimming trees, removing dead or dying trees, removing brush/weeds, removing fences and 2 chicken coups attached to the back of the house. Most of the improvements I have been making have been for the sake of my 4 year old son; there were just too many hazards around the yard for a 4 year old.

Now, the owner phoned me and told me she intends to take me to court for ''tearing up the place.'' Her intent is malicious and vindictive - after not moving for 2 months after the contract had been signed,

I had to retain a lawyer to have her removed from the property.

Am I in deep trouble here? What recourses do I have should the owner decide to sue?

There is nothing in the contract that states that I cannot make improvements, other than ''the leasee is responsible for maintenance of the property.''

Also, is there any way to exercise my option to buy prior to the 4 years?



Asked on 11/26/02, 8:08 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Phillip Oliver Oliver Law Firm, P.C.

Re: In hot water

You haven't done anything that would lead to you getting in trouble unless you've actually destroyed the property. It appears that you have made improvements to the property and have not destroyed the property. Always refer to the lease, but as a general rule, you only have a duty to maintain the property. The improvements you make are done at your own risk; i.e. if you didn't purchase the property, the owner would not have to pay you for them. However, she cannot go to court to stop you from doing anything positive with the land. Again, this advice is tempered by what is stated in the lease. If it says you cannot do any improvements, then you may be in the wrong. However, I cannot see any court kicking you out of a place for simply making improvements.

If she does sue, you can counterclaim for harassment and can also claim that the suit is frivolous. Ask for your attorneys fees for having to defend the suit.

As for purchasing prior to the 4 years, you will have to look at the agreement. If it allows you to pre-pay at any time, then you can come up with the money prior to that and buy it. If she accepts the rest of the money, then you could also purchase it. Otherwise, you have no right to pre-pay.

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Answered on 11/27/02, 11:09 am

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