Dear Patti,

My mother purchased a home that was listed as a multi-family residence. It was originally a single family home, divided into a duplex; with a third unit converted from a garage. All of these changes were apparently made by the sellers; all without permits and all without having been disclosed. Surprisingly, the county lists her home as a multi-family residence, while the city shows it as a single-family dwelling. Now that my mother wants to refinance the property, she's concerned that the lack of permits may be a problem. How should she deal with this situation? – Chris

Dear Chris,

The fact that one municipality recognizes your mother's home as a multi-unit property could be helpful but may not be conclusive. The alterations to the building definitely required permits, and the sellers should have disclosed that permits were lacking. When refinancing, the lender may or may not become aware of the permit status, but when your mother resells the property, she will have to provide disclosure of this condition to the next owners. You should consult a real estate attorney like Ernest Fox in Santa Cruz to determine the full implications of this situation.