La Porte, IN asked in Contracts and Real Estate Law for Indiana

Q: For Indiana, what is the legal distinction between breach of contract and fraud?

My mother signed a land contract 12/5/2015 to purchase a certain property for $50,000. The contract is now completed, all monies have been paid and she is seeking the deed. Recently my mother has accepted an offer on the sale of the home. She called the seller at this time asking him to meet her at the title company to sign over the deed in which he agreed in writing. The title company has confirmed that the land contract is legal & enforceable. However a person can not be physically made to sign the deed over.

Attorney hired by the seller called several days later to say that the seller (his client) wanted to discuss dissolving the contract so he could “do with his house as he pleases.”

$1,000’s was invested in the improvement of this property, paid mortgage, paid property taxes each year. It is my belief that the seller never intended on honoring his deal and merely used her to help him out of debt through the mortgage payments. When is it time to get law enforcement involved

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1 Lawyer Answer
Michael Ray Smith
Michael Ray Smith
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Licensed in Indiana

A: I'm not sure this is a matter for law enforcement. This sounds more like a civil matter than criminal fraud. There might or might not be a civil tort claim for fraud, but the fact that the seller had a lawyer contact your mother makes this sound more like a case of "seller's remorse" than fraud. You could try reporting it to the local police or sheriff, but I think your mother is likely to have more success with a civil lawsuit than criminal charges.

You're correct that the title company can't force the seller to sign a deed, but a court can issue an order that, by one means or another, will clear up the title record to show that your mother owns the property. She should consult an attorney about filing a lawsuit to do that.

There's another alternative suggested by the fact that the seller had an attorney contact your mother. Unless your mother is simply dead set on owning the property no matter what, she may want to investigate the possibility that the seller will pay more to keep the property than your mother paid the seller to buy it. In other words, your mother may be able to effectively sell the property back at a profit. Again, she should consult an attorney for advice.

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