An Unwanted Gift

It’s a case of a surprise real estate transaction.

The deed was signed and notarized. The sellers agreed to give up the property for $1. Transfer taxes of $281.73 were paid. An attorney confirmed the address of the new owner. The deed was filed and deemed in order at the Warren County Register and Recorder office.

Wanda Miller is the owner of the 10 Railroad St. property in Clarendon. The property was put in her name on March 29, 2012.

“How can that be?” Miller asked. “I’ve never signed anything.”

“I don’t have one shred of paper that I own that place,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t own that place.”

The deed does specifically exclude the mineral rights to the property.

An attorney familiar with real estate law but not involved with the case agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.

“When you sell property, the only person that signs the deed is the seller,” the attorney said.

The transfer could be official if Miller wants it to be. Or it’s possible she could deed the property back to Mark and Diane Truver on the basis that it was an “unsolicited, unwanted transfer,” the attorney said.

At one time Miller had discussed with Truver the possibility of using the property as a clothing consignment store. She even paid back taxes once and had the lawn mowed.

She said Truver had talked about improving the building on the property.

“I showed an interest in it,” she said.

She said she then decided Truver wasn’t going to work to improve the conditions at the property and moved on.

Later, she was contacted by Andrea Stapleford, the solicitor of the Warren County Redevelopment Authority, and notified that she owned the property.

The authority has talked about Miller and how to move forward in addressing the blight.

“Every time I turn around my name is in the (news)paper,” Miller said.

Miller said she does not want the property which has been on Warren County’s blighted list since 2010.

“That building in Clarendon, behind my back, was put in my name,” Miller said. “I don’t know who I can give that building to, but I want that building out of my name.”

Diane Truver said Miller wanted the property.

“We were under the assumption that the house was to be put into her name,” Truver said. “That’s what we were told to do, so that’s what we did.”

“We went to a lawyer, signed the paperwork, and all was well,” she said.

The authority doesn’t really care who owns the property, but it is now directing its efforts at Miller. “She’s still the rightful owner,” John Zavinski, authority chairman, said.

The members want to see the building demolished. “We’re trying to get somebody to tear the place down,” Zavinski said. Selling or giving away the property “doesn’t make the blight go away.”

Demolition could be costly. Because the structure was a commercial property, it will have to be checked for asbestos. If asbestos is found, some kind of abatement will have to be included in the demolition.

The authority could move ahead with preliminary plans to seek conservatorship of the property.

If conservatorship is granted, the authority would not own the property, but could make decisions – including demolition. The authority could then seek to recover the costs associated with improvements.