The Neal Team - TNT
Wally & Patricia Neal
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AZ Attorney General Mortgage Relief

In February 2012, 49 state attorneys general and the federal government announced a historic joint state-federal settlement with the country’s five largest mortgage servicers … Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase , and Wells Fargo.

The agreement settles state and federal investigations finding that the country’s five largest mortgage servicers routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct.  Both of these practices violate the law.

The National Mortgage Settlement (NMS) provides as much as $25 billion in relief to distressed borrowers whose loans are owned by the settling banks as well as to many of the borrowers whose loans they service, and direct payments to signing states as well as the federal government.

In Arizona, the NMS is administered by the Attorney General’s office. There is a wide range of statewide assistance programs that could benefit someone facing challenges to pay their mortgage.

In an article in the July/August issue of the Arizona Journal of Real Estate & Business, these programs were explained in some detail.

More information is available at www.arizonamortgageresource.org or by calling 1-855-256-2834.

Water Well Certification

Despite that there are approximately 120,000 private water wells in Arizona, regarding these wells:

  • well certification is not regulated
  • anyone can conduct a well “inspection”
  • there are no standards for water quality or quantity
  • “safe and potable” has no standard that must be met

Gary Hix teaches courses pertaining to water wells at the AZ School of Real Estate & Business that are certified by the Arizona Dept. of Real Estate. He is also a Certified Professional Geologist and a Certified Well Driller & Pump Installer. In a recent article in the Arizona Journal of Real Estate & Business, Gary went into some detail regarding the lack of Arizona regulations pertaining to private water wells.

The surprisingly large number of people considering the purchase of Arizona property that does not have a “city/public” water source need to consider these issues carefully … and choose carefully the “expert” that is to inspect and report on the status of wells on that property.

Mediation verses Arbitration

The AAR (Arizona Association of Realtors) Purchase Contract, which is used near universally for residential real estate transactions, includes a section for “Alternative Dispute Resolution” that requires mediation as the first step to resolve disputes between buyer and seller. If agreement is not the outcome there, the second step is “binding arbitration”, although either side may opt out of this process.

Why does that contract “require” mediation?  What’s the difference between mediation and arbitration?

Mediation is required by the AAR Contract because (1) it’s the quickest and least costly process that might lead to an agreement, and (2) it’s not mandatory that an agreement be reached. Thus, no rights are given up for mediation, and it’s the easy, cheaper way, if it works. Mediation is a settlement “conference” presided over by a mediator who will try to get the parties to come to a negotiated resolution of the dispute.

Within 30 days of conclusion of an unsuccessful mediation conference, if neither side has opted out of “binding arbitration” then that’s the next process. The decision of the arbitrator, who is basically a “judge”, is final and not appealable. Binding arbitration basically serves as a substitute for a trial, and is usually quicker and less costly than a trial, but not necessarily. The for-sure difference between binding arbitration and a trial is that the former is final. A trial can be appealed to an appellate court.

Within 30 days of conclusion an unsuccessful mediation, ” … either party may opt out of binding arbitration … by notice to the other and in such event either party shall have the right to resort to court action.”

The majority of residential real estate disputes are settled in the mediation process. Rarely does it make any sense for one of these disputes go to either binding arbitration or a trial. The dollar amounts are not big enough to justify the delay and expense, and the issues are more practical than legal in nature.