recently purchased a townhome w/ one car garage built in and one detached garage. purchased it off the mls using a real estate agent I knew. this townhome is part of an HOA (there are about 300 units total in the HOA) . the external garage is part of a separate structure that contains 17 single car garage units (each external garage has it's own tax ID and parcel #). the mls listing said this townhome came with 2 garages (one attached and one detached). this was said both in the COMMENTS section of the listing and the DETAILS section of the listing. anyway, 7 weeks after I moved in I received a note on my external garage that said "hi, we are the owners of these storage units." please call us immediately. I called my real estate agent and said, please look into this. this can't be right. I own the garage. the real estate agent, his broker, and the title company looked into this and found out the storage rental company does indeed own the external garage structure (they own all 17 garages). they had just purchased it from the original developer (who had also built all the townhomes). the developer built the townhomes (about 13 years ago) and sold them all (as expected), but RETAINED THE DEEDS to the external garage units. so the mls listing was wrong. the owners I had purchased the townhome from had told the listing agent they owned an external garage. and it looks like the listing agent did not verify this. so I just lost an external garage (worth about 20K) I thought I owned to a storage rental company.
that is the more simple part of the story. here is where the story takes in INTERESTING TWIST. the listing agent called the townhome sellers about this major error in the mls listing and asked them to explain. they said, we have used that garage for free the whole time we lived there. it even come with a remote that was inside the townhome when we first moved in. we purchased the townhome from the ORIGINAL owner (who is also a friend) and he told us he owned the garage. in fact the ORIGINAL owner said he had the original DEVELOPERS PURCHASE CONTRACT where the contract stated, he would OWN one detached garage when you purchased this townhome. and he even said the developer tried to kick him out of the external garage unit twice while he lived there but he managed to stay in (my guess is he showed them the original purchase contract that showed he owned a DETACHED garage and then they left him alone). but then I got asking around to some of my neighbors , they said the developer has actually been RENTING OUT most of the external garage units for years. there aren't many (if any) original townhome owners here. the turnover is pretty high and many of them are rentals. me and my real estate agent have not been able to get a hold of this original purchase contract (from the first time owner). but it appears the developer sold the external garage twice (once to the original owner of my townhome and once to the storage rental company). but they never signed over the deed of the external garage to the original owner of the townhome. when they sold it the second time (about a month ago) to the storage rental company then that is when they signed over all the external garage deeds to the new owner. so this townhome has been lived in for 13 years by 3 different people (all of whom were using this external garage) and never once did the developer try to charge rent? but apparently they did try to kick out the first owner twice. does that seem ILLEGAL or just UNETHICAL. I talked with the HOA manager about this and she said the developer had left her with a CONTACT NAME the tenants could call if they had questions of who owned the external storage rental units. so I called the developer's rep (contact) and said......"don't I own this external garage?" and I explained the situation. and he said....well, do the title documents and closing documents of your purchase of the townhome show you own the external garage? did you get the deed? and those documents mention nothing about the external garage. and there was no deed to the external garage (he already knew this). but I did ask him "hey, if I don't own it, why did you never charge me or the other 2 tenants that lived here rent in 13 years for this garage when you charge rent for many of the other garages? he said "I don't know". I think the answer is, they knew they had sold the external garage to the first tenant of the townhome. they may have just been waiting for enough turnover to occur to more easily sell the external garage structure without as much blowback from tenants.
so my question is, where should this go? who is guilty of what? (considering everything I say is true and can be proven in a court of law) developer? selling broker? listing broker? seller of townhome. and am I entitled to compensation from someone? that is the big question. I feel like a fool. I think I lost 20K in when I lost the external garage.
I will be meeting with a lawyer next week just for an initial consultation. the real estate agents admit they scrued up but really think the developer should have to re-imburse me for the loss of the external garage (they are hoping the get this original purchase contract so they can show it to the developer and say "hey, we know you SOLD THIS GARAGE TWICE". of course that would let the real estate agents off the hook. I do think there is a good chance the developer sold many of those external garages to the first time townhome owners (at least according to the purchase contract) but then never signed over the need to the external garage (as they should have). to sell something twice (like an external garage) should be FRAUD or something very serious. but a lot of these developers are smart enough they probably try not to cross that line that could land them in court, fined, and in jail.
also, there is no way I can keep that external garage is there? I am still in there. I talked to the owner of the storage rental company and he was very gracious saying I could stay in there free till the end of the month.....and even keep renting it from him if I wanted. but he did say "it is mine now, I own the deed so you either need to start paying rent or get out." I figure the only way I would keep the garage is of the original transaction between the developer and the storage rental company was considered fraudulent and had to be NULLIFIED. in other words, the developer didn't have a right to sell the external garages because they had already sold many (if not all) of them to the first time purchasers of the townhome (most of whom probably don't live in the townhomes anymore). I guess i am asking "IS IT THAT BIG OF DEAL THAT THE TOWNHOME OWNERS HAVE OCCUPIED THE EXTERNAL GARAGE FREE OF CHARGE for 13 years". it may mean nothing in this instance. but I know in some instances possession is huge (especially for that long of period).
all comments are much appreciated.