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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
Senior Voice Archives

March 6, 1998: Parking Problems; Life Estate

Q: As a follow up to one of your previous columns, we have a parking problem in our neighborhood too but it is caused by landlords that rent out houses by the bedroom. Yet the City refuses to enforce the prohibition as to not more than three unrelated people living in our zoning designation. I am mad and frustrated.

A: I tried to contact various cities around the region and basically was told the same thing. A city will vigorously enforce the ordinance but a person needs to fill out and sign the paperwork. City Officials will not initiate proceedings on their own. The City then contacts the owner of the property and claims a success rate of about 80% in resolving the problem. If the situation has not been rectified within the time limitation, each city stated that they will vigorously pursue the matter in Court and are successful a majority of the time. The rumor that there are "constitutional" problems with such ordinances apparently is not correct.

The City loses if the tenants turn out actually to be related, one person is only "visiting", or a car parked on the street is only being "stored" for someone living elsewhere. But the bottom line is that the odds are greatly in your favor if you decide to do something.

Q: My grandson says I should give my house to him but retain a life estate. What is a life estate?

A: It is a technique that is used in estate planning but care must be exercised to insure that what your grandson is advising is best for you. A life estate means you give your real estate away, subject to your right to possess and to use the property while you are alive. Thus you have the right to live in the house without paying rent. No one can evict you. But you have to pay all expenses, taxes, insurance, and repairs to maintain the home in order to prevent it from deteriorating. But you will not be able to use the equity of your home if you need it because you gave it away. You can try to sell your "life estate" but you may not find many buyers because as soon as you die, the life estate ends.

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