When ____ Hits the Fan

by David Walker, ILTA Past President

John and Mary Smith were ready to buy their first home in the town they had both grown up, Strasburg, IL. They were childhood sweethearts and were married three years ago and now expecting their first child. It wasn’t easy to save for the down payment, but through frugality and determination they were successful. They wanted their son (nobody wants surprises anymore) to be able to run and play in a backyard of his very own.

It just so happened there was a local farmer, Mr. Bull, who was selling the lot next to his own house and the price was very reasonable. They had known this farmer when they were children and even though he had a reputation as being an ornery kind of guy, they figured they could sweet talk him into being a decent neighbor.

So the deal was done. They closed on the lot and hired a local builder to build their dream home.

Unfortunately, when the builder started excavating the property to put in the basement, he came across a septic tank that was in use. (Don’t ask me how he knew it was in use; it wasn’t pretty.) He notified his clients. When they approached their future neighbor about the issue, his response was less than desirable. He explained that the property was now theirs and if they wanted the tank moved, it would have to be at their expense. He sold it to them “as is”, and it was up to them to know what they were buying. I guess he was as ornery as they had remembered.

Luckily, the Smiths had hired an attorney to represent them even though it was not custom in their area of the state. When they consulted with him, he knew what to do. He had represented them well. At his recommendation, they had purchased an Owner’s Title policy from the local title underwriter at the time they bought the lot. And even though it was to be used for residential use, because it was vacant land, extended coverage was not automatic. The attorney knew he had to ask for the coverage, and he did.

He filed a claim with the underwriter, which then had to deal with Mr. Bull. Needless to say, the underwriter stepped in and resolved the matter to all the parties’ satisfaction, saving the Smiths’ financial expenditures they had not anticipated, not to mention the needless stress that would have been inevitable in working it out with Mr. Bull.

I can’t say they have ever invited their neighbor over to share a cold drink, but at least their backyard is no longer encumbered by Mr. Bull____!