What rights does someone have tostill buy land if they defaulted under a purchase contract?

I own 1 acre of land and am currently renting space for mobile homes. Approximately 4 years ago I was selling it to someone; they gave me half of what I was asking and they were was supposed to pay the balance in 1 year. They did not. This year they want to go ahead and pay the balance in increments. They want to use the rent that I have been collecting to go toward their balance. Can they legally do that? And what if I decide not to sell it to them, do I have to give back to them what they already have paid? I think that they forfeited on the first and only contract we had.

Asked on December 7, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Alabama


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

For definitive answers, you have to review--and should have an attorney review with you--the original contract of sale, the one the would-be buyer defaulted on. His or her rights will be determined under the contract. So for example, if it said the rent would be applied against the balance, it would be--but it does not say that it, it would not be. Similarly, what happens to the money they already paid in the event you choose to not go through with the sale would be based on the contract, too.

Generally--and not in reference, obviously, to your specific contract--(1) you would not apply the rent to the balance; and (2) if you decide to not sell to them after this period of time, you probably should return the money, but would be entitled to keep some reasonable amount as damages for their default and your costs thereunder (maybe 10% - 15%). But those are only general guidelines for how matters like this often work--you really need to go over the agreement carefully.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.