Regardless of Language Barrier, Representations Must be True
Question: Although my mother speaks some English, her native language is Spanish. My father spoke English and handled the financial transactions for our family, but he passed away almost a year ago. Unknown to me, my mother wanted $50,000 cash for her grandchildren’s education, and decided to take out a $50,000 mortgage on our North Phoenix family home. Because of her poor English, however, she signed a purchase contract with a $50,000 purchase price, rather than loan documents for a $50,000 mortgage. The home is worth $300,000 and is free and clear. My mother thought that she was getting $50,000 cash through a mortgage, but would still own the home. What can we do now?
Answer: The general rule is that, even if an individual does not understand the English language, the individual is bound by the signing of a document in English if the individual had a reasonable opportunity to get the assistance of an interpreter. Nevertheless, if your mother can prove that there were representations made to her in Spanish or English as to what she was signing, and that those representations were false, she should be able to keep ownership of the home, especially in light of the purchase price being less than 20% of the value of the home.
Note: The standard Arizona real estate purchase contract, which is used by REALTORS® in more than 95% of residential sales in Arizona, has a Spanish language version.