Created: Wed, 12 Jun 2013 11:01:00 PST
Updated: Wed, 12 Jun 2013 11:51:00 PST
EL CAJON -- A real estate company says it's not responsible to resolve a dispute that's left an East County family unable to move into their new home because the sellers won't leave.
Steve Adler closed escrow May 17 on the five-bedroom, 1.5 bath house on Carob Tree Lane in El Cajon. The purchase agreement, signed in December, said the sellers would be out on the day escrow closed, but they haven't moved out yet.
"Mr. Adler’s possession issue is a matter involving only Adler and the Seller. Brokers are not parties to the purchase agreement. Mr. Adler has a forum to argue his position with the Seller which is clearly set forth in the purchase agreement as starting with mediation," according to a statement attributed to Keller Williams Realty and Baruch Rosenberg, Adler's real estate agent.
As San Diego 6 reported last week, Adler, his wife, and their three kids see the sellers every day. With their previous lease expired and nowhere else to go, the Adlers have moved into an attached two-bedroom "granny flat" next to the garage of their new house. The sellers still live in the main portion.
Adler is paying the full mortgage himself.
"It's unfortunate because this could have been the house of our dreams, but really it's turned into a nightmare," Adler said.
The transaction was a short sale, meaning the bank agreed to allow the owners to sell the property for less than they owed. One of the sellers told San Diego 6 he was never informed of the date of the close of escrow, and was caught off guard. He said he didn't have enough time to find another place to live.
A statement by Keller Williams said Adler was aware the sellers wanted to stay in the home after the close of escrow -- something Adler does not dispute. The statement said Rosenberg, the realtor, took a back seat in negotiations over a leaseback agreement because Adler had established a personal relationship with the sellers; they began attending the same church.
A leaseback agreement allows the previous owners of a home to stay and pay rent to the new owner after a sale.
"Mr. Adler personally drafted his own leaseback agreement which did NOT involve Keller Williams. Apparently, the Seller did not agree to Mr. Adler’s terms and eventually the parties fell out of favor with each other," according to the statement sent by attorney Jacqueline Oliver.
Adler says he only began negotiations on his own -- after the close of escrow -- because Rosenberg failed to negotiate that portion of the deal.
Rosenberg and Keller Williams say any dispute over the house now is between the buyer and seller.
"As your article [from last week] indicates, the Buyer has already taken partial possession and the Seller has not moved from the main house. How is that the Broker's problem? It's not."
Adler filed a complaint Wednesday with the California Department of Real Estate.
"Could you imagine buying a mattress from a name brand store and when it doesn't show up you call and they tell you that's between you and the delivery driver? How could you sell someone a home, make thousands of dollars off of him, then not deliver what is promised?" Adler said.
Contracts can vary, said San Diego State University real estate lecturer Mark Goldman, but in general, purchase agreements are between buyers and sellers, not real estate agents.
The sellers have begun to move furniture into moving pods outside the home and say they will be out by the end of June. But the Adlers say their move-out date keeps changing.
An attorney told San Diego 6 last week, the family may have to start the eviction process to get the sellers out, which could take 30 to 70 days or longer. Because these cases involve civil breaches of contract, people who “hold over” are not typically criminally liable, attorney Steve Wedeking said.
Adler doesn't want to begin the eviction process because of the cost to hire an attorney. He says a lawsuit against the sellers probably wouldn't yield much, given their financial situation.