Question (DC): Our 12-unit condo building has an undeveloped basement area that is large enough to build into another unit. Can the condo association hire a developer to develop the space and maybe split the profits on its sale?

We are not necessarily looking to make a profit although it would be nice to have for reserves or additional improvements, but more to get another condo-fee paying unit into the building. Also, it's just such a waste of valuable space in a rapidly developing prime real estate area. Currently, the only thing in the space is a bike rack and we have enough space in the rest of the basement area to relocate that in addition to building other improvements such as a gym or lounge.

Answer: Your condo association needs to hire an experienced attorney in such matters to review the declaration, bylaws, plats and plans (called "Condominium Instruments") recorded pursuant to the provisions of the District of Columbia Condominium Act.

Specifically, you are asking if the basement area can be defined under Section 42-1901.02 (10) as a Convertible space (a portion of a structure within the condominium, which portion may be converted into 1 or more units or common elements, or both, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter). Make sure you get not only the attorney's cost to your Association for fees, but also any additional filing fees that may be applicable as well as a timeline to determine when to contract with a developer/contractor if you can add another condo-fee paying unit to the 12 units you already have.

Question (GA): My house is under a contingency contract with a 48-hour kickout clause. The contract ends in this month, however, the buyer is eager to extend. Since it is a very good offer, I would have no problem agreeing to this. The trouble is with my Realtor. Although he promised to actively still market my house, it seems he is ignoring me. There still are no fliers in front of my house and it took several phone calls to get back on Realtor.com. I have not had a showing in a month.

My question is, "How do I go about renewing my contingency without dealing with this Realtor?" I am willing to give him this sale, if it happens, but would like a new Realtor to work with in order to keep my house on the market. Will another Realtor accept me while under a contingency contract with someone else? Thank you.

Answer: You can list with the new Realtor by dating the listing to commence after your current listing expires. You should exclude the buyer and your current Realtor in the event the contingency transaction goes through. Naturally, you should obtain written agreement from your current Realtor as well as the new Realtor with whom you wish to list.

Question (MA): I have referred to the State of Massachusetts Attorney general's website, but cannot find the answer to this question: does the State of Massachusetts have a requirement for builders to warranty their product (homes)? I thought that I had heard they were required to warranty a new home for 1 year from date of purchase, even if they don't offer a written "limited liability warranty/guarantee." Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Answer: Massachusetts has had an implied warranty of habitability of new construction homes -- including condominiums, since 2002. However, to our knowledge there are no statutory provisions requiring builder warranties in Massachusetts.

In order to establish a breech of the implied warranty of habitability, a homeowner must demonstrate that (i) he or she purchased a new house from the builder, (ii) the house contained a latent defect, (iii) the defect manifested itself only after the purchase, (iv) the defect was caused by the builder's improper design, material or workmanship, and (v) the defect created a substantial question of safety or made the house unfit for human habitation. In addition, the homeowner must bring the claim within the three year statute of limitations and the six year statute of repose.

If you are contemplating making a claim against a builder for a breech of the implied warranty of habitability, we strongly recommend that you consult an attorney, successful in this type of litigation to review the merits of your case.

Question (ND): My father was a son of a farmer in North Dakota who had 12 children. My grandpa was one of the only men around that did not lose his land during depression.

My father is 80 now and has received some of the mineral rights from his brothers that have passed on but they are in a life estate so once gone they go to land owner. There is still 320 acres he did not get and the current owner got in the late 60s. This bothers my dad because none of the land was probated during the war. My dad went off to war and his brothers kept farming. They never bought the land from his father. It was just passed down to the ones farming and surviving. They later sold it when he was gone to war and got nothing. Now it's booming with oil. Is there any law to land never probated?

There is also another 620 acres his father sold and he does not think that was probated and has no idea if his father kept those mineral rights? What advice can you offer?

Answer: You need to consult a North Dakota attorney experienced in probate and other aspects of estate law.

North Dakota Century Code, Title 30.1, Uniform Probate Code, deals with what happens when a person dies without a will (Chapter 30.1-04, Intestate Succession). Needless to say, this can be a complex area of the law and gets even more involved with the number of heirs and the mineral interests, if any.

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