Oh my gosh..where do I start? I am apologizing to you all in advance because this is going to be a bit lengthy. I named myself LawyersLunch, because I have just been had by some pretty sleazy people...the lawyer helped! Can you help me?
Here's my story: I purchased a lake property with my then spouse in 1994. It was nothing fancy, just an old mobile home on a lake with 100 ft of lakeshore infested with Lily pads and muck. It was a good fishing lake. When we bought the property we were informed that the driveway was ours, but there was an easement on it. We met the neighbor who had the property that we shared the driveway with. She was certifiably crazy (she had been hospitalized for hanging herself, or at least that is what she told us). She informed me right away that she had put a swing on my willow tree that was near the boundary line. I told her that was not a problem as long as my kids got to swing on it too that she could keep it there. She knew where the boundary line was, we mowed to her dock. She automatically left that section for us to mow.
Two years later she puts up a dog kennel and it is on her property. During this time I was over being affraid of her (huge mistake) and I felt sorry for her. She would let our kids swim on her sanded beach (ours was muck) and feed the geese on her dock. She really put on the hard sell that she was suffering from bi-polar disorder. She said that she was so depressed that she could not work and was on welfare. I don't know how someone buys a lake home on welfare, but it's not my business at the time so I don't worry about it. The following year I give her boyfriend a dog. They put up a fence, and since we were only there for about one solid month every summer we didn't know about this fence until the next year. She now has it wrapped around my willow tree, which is about 12 ft from the border line. Her excuse is that she had nothing that would hold up that fence at the time. It is a make shift fence, that she has taken from other peoples yards, so some of it is white, some wire etc.
The following summer the fence is no longer around my tree. No, now it is definately my tree again because it needs to be trimmed she informs me. It cost me quite a pretty penny to hire a boom to come out and trim it.
Over the next few years 99 and 2000 quite a bit happens. I divorced my husband and I just really wanted out, so I gave him the house and me and my 3 children lived in that little 2 bedroom mobile home on the lake. It wasn't winterized and I was ever grateful for el nino. There was one week I remember having just $7 for me and the kids to make it on. I was not in any position to fight with Jeanette (my crazy neighbor) over her growing wood pile on my property. I moved to a rental house before the snow set in.
In 2000 I offered to sell it to her. I know that she can't outright buy it, but I figured that the boyfriend might. I offered to sell it to her at a friends price of $20,000. They agreed and then 4 months later they backed out of the deal, because they said I was horrible for selling it to them at that price. They said they knew I hadn't paid that much for it. Okay....so I didn't but I knew it was worth at least twice that, so I was offended. I felt that they were trying to take advantage of a single mom who was going to school full time with two jobs and three kids. They were doing just that.
In 2003 I put an ad in the paper for it. I had several people looking at it. One gentleman was more serious than the rest. He had gotten a loan (I think from HUD...so if you think I can use this as leverage later let me know) for an island and then the deal went sour. He wanted several things from me. He wanted a survey, title search etc. I did all of those things.
I knew it wasn't going to make Jeanette very happy because she had a property dispute with the neighbors on the other side of her. At this point she had piled a lot of junk on my property. I sent her two letters asking her to please remove her stuff. She would not answer her phone, but would have her boyfriend Wes call and swear and scream at me. I then went to teh neighbors on the other side to see what had happened with their boundary issues. They told me that they had sued her to remove her junk from their land. Since she was on assistance from the state she had free legal counsel. They had been going to court over and over for two years and that they ran out of money. They ended up giving her 15 ft. They advised me to just move her stuff because she couldn't get free legal aid to sue someone.
So we did. We moved all her stuff off of the property. We had to have a sheriff there because this woman who use to be my friend had been trying to steal my property. The true her had come out. We had actually had a talk one day years before as to where the marker was and she showed it to me. Now she was telling me some goofy story about a blue post.
She had bought her property in June of 1989. Adverse possession in Minnesota is 15 years. So I figured even if she lied, that I would still be covered because she hadn't lived there long enough. Still, she kept going on about how the people before her had used that bit of land (even though we had mowed it and took care of it). So to be on the safe side I went to the courthouse and found out who the previous owners were. I called them and explained what Jeanette had said. They invited me over and we looked at the survey. This couple had also had problems with Jeanette. She would call and tell them that they needed to pay for her putting the property in her name etc. She was always looking for a free ride somewhere. To ease my mind they wrote me a letter stating that they knew where the property line was and that they had never in any way let alone adverse used that property.
In 2003 after making sure that Jeanette shouldn't have any lien on the property I sell it.
In 2006 Jeanette is convicted of welfare fraud. It has been found that she had been collecting from both states (Minnesota & North Dakota). She was not living in Minnesota during the winters, and yet she was collecting from there also. The state puts a lien on her property for about $180,000.
In 2007 she decides to go ahead and sue for adverse possession. I was told by the guy who purchased the property from me that the case was dead because of her felony conviction. On the Friday of Memorial day weekend his attorney calls me and tells me that I have to get all my pictures and evidence into him by the next day. On Monday (Memorial day) he wants me to come in and label pictures for him. I am thinking that we are all on the same team.
Two days later this same attorney (the one that is employed by the guy who bought the property from me) calls to tell me that I owe him $7,000 in attorney fees. He also tells me that if they lose the case that the lakeshore is now worth $1000/foot and that I will owe his client $20,000 plus attorney fees......even if his client decides to settle. He says this because I signed a warranty deed.
I sold the property to him for $54,000. He KNEW what was going on with Jeanette next door, this was full disclosure. How was I to know that 4 years later she was going to try for adverse possession? Even if she did, I figured I had it covered. We just went to court on Tuesday. I brought in 7 wittnesses, including the people who sold her property to her, videos and pictures. It never even went to court. We waited there for the entire morning for them to come in. When they came in I find out they SETTLED. They gave her an easement to that property that would only be good for her lifetime. Now they are planning on coming to me to cover all legal fees and pay him for loss of use of that land.
What can I do? I don't have $30,000 to hand over. We would be living in a box, and we have kids to raise. She takes advantage of the system and laughs, and the guy I sold it to gets it for less than half off and my life gets ruined. PLEASE HELP!