Posted by JPiper on January 11, 2001 at 09:29:24:
I think this question is a great question. And it’s one that should undoubtedly be addressed to an attorney. Further, it may be possible that this type of thing would vary from state to state.
But here’s a few thoughts. I would think that one standard for legal competence would be the court. In other words, most people who reach a certain stage of mental incompetence ultimately will have a relative or perhaps nursing home, etc who will go to court for a ruling on mental competence. If the court decides that the person is in fact mentally incompetent then there will be a court ruling and probably a guardian appointed to handle their affairs. If this is the case then there should be a recorded document that would indicate this.
However, an interesting factor here is that they are evidently receiving payment for mental disability. Would someone say that this on the surface is an indication of “mental incompetence” and that therefore you should have known? Better yet, if they are otherwise qualified would NOT renting/selling to them be a violation under the Fair Housing laws?
On the other hand, evidently these people have illustrated their ability to handle their rental affairs evidently over the prior 12 years or so, a factor that I’m sure would be important in any ultimate determination of their competence.
As a practical matter my first step would be to contact my attorney to find out the facts for Texas. I would probably also check the court records to see if there has been any court determination regarding competence. I would further get a written reference if possible from the prior landlord about how well they handled his rental over the prior years…and then keep that in my file.
I might also contact the relatives (with the tenant’s permission) to have them attend the closing and perhaps sign a document stating that everything is fully understood and agreed to, and that the tenant’s are “fully capable of understanding the action” that they are about to take.
Again, I think the court would have to rule as to competence. But in the absence of that, evidently no relative has seen fit to be particularly disturbed over their status, they evidently have been capable of handling a rental up to this point, and if you can document some of this then it would be my “guess” that you shouldn’t have a problem.
What a great question. I’d be interested in any update after you have spoken with an attorney.