How far does an interpretation of a clause can go when both buyer and seller have different views on what the clause is saying?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How far does an interpretation of a clause can go when both buyer and seller have different views on what the clause is saying?

I signed a condition of sale on my property with a clause I thought that said if i
received another offer then the people who I originally signed with have 48 hrs to
meet their conditions or the offer is void. However, my real estate agent when
drafting the agreement instead of writing conditions put ‘condition’ as they had
3 conditions. The buyers realtor interprets this as just 48hrs to remove one of the
conditions not all three. While all of this is happening I received a better offer,
clean and straight however my realtor is saying I cannot take the other offer and
that I’m stuck in this agreement. Is there a way to get out of this?

Asked on March 24, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Alaska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The only way, if you and the buyer cannot agree/work this out between you, to resolve the matter is by a legal action (lawsuit): when two parties to a contract are at loggerheads about what it says or means, only the courts can definitively resolve it. You can bring an action not seeking monetary compensation but rather a "declaratory judgment," or court determination, as to what the clause means and what would constitute compliance with it. You would, as a practical matter, need to seek relief on an "emergent" (think "urgent" or "emergency") basis, which will get you a hearing faster--usually within 1 - 2 weeks. It would be better to have an attorney do this, since seeking declaratory judgement is more complex than, say, a small claims suit for a fender bender or unpaid invoice, and filing on a emergent basis increases the complexity yet more, but you are allowed to represent yourself (so long as you, and not an LLC or corporation own the property to be sold); you should be able to get instructions and probably sample forms from the court. 

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 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.

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