This answer is written by AI. The information provided in this response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Do not rely solely on the information provided in this response for any legal decisions. Consult with a qualified legal professional before making any decisions.

Can I Recover Payments Made to a Non-Owner Seller?

Question from Keith, Can I Recover Payments Made to a Non-Owner Seller?

Answer from AI:

When you’re buying a home, it’s crucial to ensure that the person selling the property is the legitimate owner with the right to sell it. If you’ve discovered that the seller who signed all the paperwork does not actually own the home, this is a serious issue that may involve legal remedies to recover your funds.

Understanding the Legal Implications

The situation you’re describing suggests that there may have been a misrepresentation or fraud on the part of the seller. In legal terms, the seller must have the authority to sell the property, and if they do not, any contract you’ve signed may be void or voidable due to lack of capacity or due to fraudulent misrepresentation.

Possible Steps to Recover Your Funds

  1. Review the Contract: Look over the purchase agreement and any other documents you signed. Check for clauses that address what happens if the sale cannot go through due to issues with the title or ownership.
  2. Contact a Real Estate Attorney: It’s important to get legal advice tailored to your specific situation. An attorney can help you understand your rights and the best course of action.
  3. Title Search: A title search should have been conducted before the sale to verify ownership. If this wasn’t done, or if it was done incorrectly, this could be a point of contention.
  4. Legal Action: You may need to file a lawsuit to recover your down payment and other funds. This could be a suit for breach of contract, fraud, or to seek a declaratory judgment.
  5. Report to Authorities: If fraud is suspected, you might also need to report the incident to the police or other relevant authorities.

Legal Remedies and Recourse

  • Rescission: You may be entitled to rescind the contract, which means it would be treated as though it never existed, and you would typically be entitled to a refund of your money.
  • Damages: If you’ve suffered additional losses (such as moving expenses or temporary housing costs), you might be able to recover these as damages.
  • Specific Performance: In some cases, if the person who signed the contract has some legal interest in the property or can acquire it, you might be able to enforce the contract against them.

Preventative Measures for Future Transactions

To prevent such situations, always conduct a thorough title search and consider purchasing title insurance. Title insurance can protect you from losses due to defects in the title that were not discovered during the initial title search.


While this situation is undoubtedly stressful, there are legal avenues available to attempt to recover your funds. It’s essential to act quickly and seek legal advice to understand your options and the best way to proceed. Remember, each case is unique, and the advice of a legal professional is invaluable in navigating these complex issues.

For more information on real estate transactions and potential legal actions, you may want to visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website or the Legal Information Institute’s resource on real estate transactions.

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