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Ask An Attorney

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My wife and I sold several acres of land on a contract for deed, and the purchaser is several months behind on his monthly payments.

Can I evict the purchaser and repossess my property?

"The answer is clearly “no.” Our laws in North Dakota are very clear and specific in terms of what needs to be accomplished before a seller can

reposes property that has been sold with a contract for deed."

Can you again just explain what a contract for deed is?

"A contract for deed or a land contract is a type of real estate transaction where a buyer purchases land from a seller, but the seller retains legal

title of the property while the buyer typically pays monthly installments. Title transfers after all the installments are paid and the purchase price is

paid in full. This is unlike the typical mortgage process. With a contract for deed, the seller still has title to the property."

If the seller has title, why can’t the seller evict a purchaser in default?

"Logical question. Eviction process is designed to enable the repossession of property that has been leased. A leasehold interest is different than

an interest in a contract for deed because the purchaser will never own the property in the former. As a result, the eviction process is tailored

toward the repossession of real property in circumstances where a renter has fallen behind on his or her rental payments."

What options does a seller have if the purchaser falls behind on contract for deed payments?

"If a purchaser falls behind or is in default on a contract for deed, there are essentially two distinct ways in which the seller can cancel the contract

for deed and repossess his or her property. The first way is through a statutory cancellation process and the second way is through a lawsuit."

Are the two ways quite different?

"Very different. The statutory cancellation process involves serving the purchaser with a notice that the contract for deed is being canceled. Six to

twelve month redemption period. File with county recorder after six-twelve months. Seller may have to wait six to twelve months to repossess the

property, and he might not even be able to repossess the property if the purchaser comes current on the installment payments."

And how is the court process different?

"There's no redemption period and it could be a quicker process or it could be a longer process...it just depends."

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