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LEGAL TERMS

EXCULPATORY CLAUSE

A provision in a lease that absolves the landlord from responsibility for all damages, injuries or losses occurring on the property, including those caused by t... (more...)
A provision in a lease that absolves the landlord from responsibility for all damages, injuries or losses occurring on the property, including those caused by the landlord's actions. Most states have laws that void exculpatory clauses in rental agreements, which means that a court will not enforce them.

ASSIGNEE

A person to whom a property right is transferred. For example, an assignee may take over a lease from a tenant who wants to permanently move out before the leas... (more...)
A person to whom a property right is transferred. For example, an assignee may take over a lease from a tenant who wants to permanently move out before the lease expires. The assignee takes control of the property and assumes all the legal rights and responsibilities of the tenant, including payment of rent. However, the original tenant remains legally responsible if the assignee fails to pay the rent.

DEED IN LIEU (OF FORECLOSURE)

A means of escaping an overly burdenome mortgage. If a homeowner can't make the mortgage payments and can't find a buyer for the house, many lenders will accept... (more...)
A means of escaping an overly burdenome mortgage. If a homeowner can't make the mortgage payments and can't find a buyer for the house, many lenders will accept ownership of the property in place of the money owed on the mortgage. Even if the lender won't agree to accept the property, the homeowner can prepare a quitclaim deed that unilaterally transfers the homeowner's property rights to the lender.

HOMESTEAD

(1) The house in which a family lives, plus any adjoining land and other buildings on that land. (2) Real estate which is not subject to the claims of creditors... (more...)
(1) The house in which a family lives, plus any adjoining land and other buildings on that land. (2) Real estate which is not subject to the claims of creditors as long as it is occupied as a home by the head of the household. After the head of the family dies, homestead laws often allow the surviving spouse or minor children to live on the property for as long as they choose. (3) Land acquired out of the public lands of the United States. The term 'homesteaders' refers to people who got their land by settling it and making it productive, rather than purchasing it outright.

PRIVATE MORTGAGE INSURANCE (PMI)

Insurance that reimburses a mortgage lender if the buyer defaults on the loan and the foreclosure sale price is less than the amount owed the lender (the mortga... (more...)
Insurance that reimburses a mortgage lender if the buyer defaults on the loan and the foreclosure sale price is less than the amount owed the lender (the mortgage plus the costs of the sale). A home buyer who makes less than a 20% down payment may have to purchase PMI.

EMINENT DOMAIN

The power of the federal or state government to take private property for a public purpose, even if the property owner objects. The Fifth Amendment to the Unite... (more...)
The power of the federal or state government to take private property for a public purpose, even if the property owner objects. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows the government to take private property if the taking is for a public use and the owner is 'justly compensated' (usually, paid fair market value) for his or her loss. A public use is virtually anything that is sanctioned by a federal or state legislative body, but such uses may include roads, parks, reservoirs, schools, hospitals or other public buildings. Sometimes called condemnation, taking or expropriation.

BASIS

For income and capital gains tax purposes, the value that is used to determine profit or loss when property is sold. Often the basis is what you paid for the pr... (more...)
For income and capital gains tax purposes, the value that is used to determine profit or loss when property is sold. Often the basis is what you paid for the property, 'adjusted' to reflect improvements made or damage incurred while you own the property. See stepped-up basis, carryover basis.

RIGHT OF SURVIVORSHIP

The right of a surviving joint tenant to take ownership of a deceased joint tenant's share of the property. See joint tenancy.

ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE

A paperless method of entering into an electronic contract. To 'sign' a contract electronically, a person may be asked to click an 'I Accept' button or use a 'k... (more...)
A paperless method of entering into an electronic contract. To 'sign' a contract electronically, a person may be asked to click an 'I Accept' button or use a 'key' to encrypt (scramble) information that uniquely identifies the signer using a method called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). Electronic signatures are as binding as those in ink.