Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

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ResearchMed
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Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by ResearchMed » Fri Oct 06, 2017 4:53 pm

DH just received two modest "refund checks" from a real estate attorney, from a closing on this house, from more than 13 years ago.
He also had already received a similar letter and one check somewhat recently.

I wrote a longer description of the situation, but in case this isn't so unusual, here's the short version:

Apparently the fees due to the "Registry" were "unexpectedly" paid by the lender.

But the checks were dated more than 13 years ago (it was poorly "X'd out"), with a date earlier this week typed in.
And where the Payee had been "<County> Registry of Deeds", the words "or <DH's name>" were typed in.
Both "typing" was in font very different from what appears on the rest of the check (amount, "Registry name").

Why would these checks still have been in the attorney's possession IF the money was supposed to go to the Registry.
IF this was a recent error just "discovered", why would the check be dated more than a decade ago, and the date then clearly altered?

Does this smell extremely fishy?
Or does "this happen all the time"?
(I've never seen anything like this.)

RM
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MP123
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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by MP123 » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:06 pm

Certainly smells fishy to me...

If not I'd say they owe you 13 years of interest too!

ResearchMed
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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by ResearchMed » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:10 pm

MP123 wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:06 pm
Certainly smells fishy to me...

If not I'd say they owe you 13 years of interest too!
That was my thought, too.
(But not enough to celebrate, with or without interest.)

IF they've been doing this for all closings for years.......

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Christine_NM
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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by Christine_NM » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:28 pm

It's my experience that lawyers hold onto clients' checks until the payee requests them. It seems to be a point of pride not to volunteer payment even when the check has been written.

I'd guess here that no one ever asked the RE lawyer for the refund and so never got it. Now maybe an office has closed, a lawyer retired, and any checks in the files have to be reissued. The date has to be changed to make the check valid. Interest? Ha.
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ResearchMed
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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by ResearchMed » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:34 pm

Christine_NM wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:28 pm
It's my experience that lawyers hold onto clients' checks until the payee requests them. It seems to be a point of pride not to volunteer payment even when the check has been written.

I'd guess here that no one ever asked the RE lawyer for the refund and so never got it. Now maybe an office has closed, a lawyer retired, and any checks in the files have to be reissued. The date has to be changed to make the check valid. Interest? Ha.
??

Why would we ask for checks (3 thus far) that we didn't know existed?

As for the date, I would have expected newly dated checks, but perhaps with a memo/letter to explain what the payment was for (e.g., "funds forgotten since the ice age" or such :wink: )

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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by MP123 » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:37 pm

I'd probably take them to the bank in person and not just stick them in an ATM or mobile deposit.

At the very least they might bounce and you'd get stuck with fees. Sure sounds like a scam though.

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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by ResearchMed » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:51 pm

MP123 wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:37 pm
I'd probably take them to the bank in person and not just stick them in an ATM or mobile deposit.

At the very least they might bounce and you'd get stuck with fees. Sure sounds like a scam though.
The first one cleared fine.
We were a bit puzzled by it, and had some of the same thoughts (why *now*; where was this check all this time; etc.), but... we just deposited it as usual, and got on with other things.

But now?
And these two additional checks? Two *more*?
How many "fees" to the Registry of Deeds, for one closing...??

On Monday, I guess I'll call ... whom first?
Registry? Bank? (No longer our lender, as of just under a year ago, with another refi.) Bar Association? AG?

NOTE: DH has just reminded me that the attorney was "the lender's attorney"; that's how we "found" him.
So is he in cahoots with the bank somehow?
Maybe I won't start with the bank!

I did have a run in with a different attorney (for opposing side, a condo association) where things got "weird". I did call the State Bar Association, and they couldn't give any info "for confidentiality reasons", but the person INSISTED that I "make sure the money is there" (in a joint account; the attorney had indeed *tried* to get me to "trust him with the money", but no go!).
Sure enough, he was later disbarred, and he had scammed hundreds of thousands, mostly from elderly. My money was safe and long since paid out.
So I am all too able to think something is really wrong, although we prefer to think otherwise.

But why *2* more checks? And why alter the check rather than write new ones, with cover/explanatory letter?


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CAsage
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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by CAsage » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:37 pm

I had thought that checks were only valid from most businesses for 6 months... regardless of how one defaces the front! Would the entity that issued the check still honor it? Account still open? I would guess (not sure...) that it would have to be reissued? Very strange.
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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by staythecourse » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:47 pm

Strange indeed. Would love to hear from some RE attorneys their POV. I would call the RE attorney and just ask about 1. Why now and 2. The date was dated x years ago and is visible so what is the explanation. If it is not a decent explanation then I would call the state bar association and file a complaint. In it you can mention what transpired when you discussed it directly with him/ her and their response. I am sure their ethical responsibilities extend past the date of the transaction.

There are unethical folks in every field and at WORST should not be left without some complaint (if they are guilty of such action). Even if you don't get the interest at least reporting him and letting the state bar deal with any improper conduct is the right thing to do to prevent others from having the same thing happen.

Personally, I'm vindictive and prefer the authoritative board coming down on the individual if anything shady was going on then simply getting money with interest back. I want to make it hurt if they chose to do something unethical. Black marking the date of the check shows intent to deceive if anything else.

Good luck.
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ResearchMed
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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by ResearchMed » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:50 pm

CAsage wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:37 pm
I had thought that checks were only valid from most businesses for 6 months... regardless of how one defaces the front! Would the entity that issued the check still honor it? Account still open? I would guess (not sure...) that it would have to be reissued? Very strange.
According to some other threads here (and info elsewhere, but none of this official), some banks will not pay attention to the "date".
That's probably even more likely as things become automated (and probably especially with less-easy-to-read handwritten checks, which these are not).

We did have that first check a few weeks ago, and it was deposited and the money in our account, with no bounce back yet...
And these checks are from the same attorney, so I would doubt he's still at it if the first one (or batch if there are other victims I mean, clients who were already given similar checks).

I agree... why in the world weren't the checks re-issued after all this time!?

But our much bigger question is WTH has been going on with this attorney and the "fees to the Registry" that were never timely paid in the first place, such as "prior to realizing that" someone else had also paid.
I'd sort of think the best way for that duplication to be realized is if *both* checks were sent in, and the Registry returned one (or is that too optimistic about governmental efficiency, but that's a different issue).

How did it suddenly, 13+ years later, get noticed that the fees had "already" been paid?
And what's with the checks that were already printed... stuck under a desk somewhere? Many such checks stuck somewhere?
Really?
What else is "missing" in terms of "reconciling the books" back then?

The more we think about this, the more fishy it smells.
And two checks for identical amounts (after already receiving a previous check a few weeks ago), for a single closing?

:confused

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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by curmudgeon » Sat Oct 07, 2017 1:10 am

Lots of stuff gets dumped in a file somewhere, and just ignored unless someone complains. First thought is that I would make sure that the transfer was in fact registered correctly and there are no stray liens on the property. Second thought is that these checks could have been laying around at the courthouse in some sort of pending file all this time, until somebody who is efficient took over and cleaned up and sent them back to the lawyer. Because of the messiness of dealing with client money accounts, the lawyers office is trying to keep things simple with their hacks to the checks (maybe the original lawyer has retired).

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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by Meg77 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:39 am

As a banker and real estate investor (and regular refinancer), I can tell you that it's perfectly normal to receive a small refund check a few months after a mortgage closing. This has happened to me personally several times. The title company - i.e. the title attorney - collects all funds from all sides and then distributes them. They try very hard to get the closing statement perfect prior to closing, but mistakes get made and things change. Often the payoff on the prior mortgage (if it's a refi) is a few dollars off, or some fee got charged twice which looks like the case in your situation. Or the county quoted the filing fee wrong or who knows what.

So the existence of the check doesn't seem fishy to me at all. The issue is why it took 13 years for you to get it. Just call up the attorney! I'm sure they can explain - and if they can't, no one can. The bank isn't going to have any idea; detailed records of closings don't even have to be kept more than 7 years, and that's if they have them accessible anyway, which they may not. Odds are it sat in a file and no one found it until recently for some reason. I've almost overlooked these checks; sometimes they are buried in a giant legal size envelope that also contains copies of title work and closing docs etc. Of course if it went back to the attorney's office it should have been opened and you probably have a case against them for negligence. But I'm guessing this amount is less than $20 so certainly not worth fighting with their office over.
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wrongfunds
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Re: Refund from Home Closing - 13+ years later (!?)

Post by wrongfunds » Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:41 am

If you call the attorney, make sure the clock is NOT running! Sure he will look in to it and charge you $300/hour for the research.

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