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Seller’s refusal to sign paperwork likely constitutes a breach of contract

By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law | Mar 4, 2021

Eric Feichthaler

Mr. Feichthaler:

I signed an offer to purchase a house in Cape Coral, with no contingencies for financing. The contract clearly stated that the seller was to pay off all utility assessments at closing. Well, the seller either didn’t read the contract, or just wants out, because we got to the closing table this week and he refused to sign the documents unless he didn’t have to pay off the assessments (which are about $11,000). He claims he didn’t realize that is what the contract says. Is this a valid argument?

— Dave R.


Dear Dave:

My answers to readers’ questions often begin with this statement – the contract is vital in determining the rights and obligations of the buyer and seller. Parties should never sign a contract they do not understand. 

Regardless of what was discussed, if the contract provided for seller paying off these assessments, he is responsible to do so. His refusal on the day of closing likely constitutes a breach of contract. Your remedies likely include cancelling the contract and obtaining a refund of deposits, or specific performance. The latter option would involve you filing a lawsuit against the seller to force the sale under the agreed terms. The typical contract provides for prevailing party attorney’s fees, which hopefully will give further incentive to your seller to follow through with what they agreed to.

Every situation is unique, so I recommend you seek counsel to review your contract and other relevant facts to confirm your rights in this situation. In the meantime, I do hope your seller sees the potential liability in refusing to sign, and agrees to comply with his obligations to sell to you under the agreed terms.          

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 33 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continues his service to the community through the Cape Coral Caring Center, Cape Coral Historical Museum, and Cape Coral Kiwanis. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for over 20 years, and they have four children together. He earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell for professional ethics and legal ability, and is a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

Mr. Feichthaler can be reached at eric@capecoralattorney.com, or (239) 542-4733.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.