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Business

How did early settlers in America divide up, pay for land?

November 27, 2009

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When the first Pilgrims came to America, how did they divide up the land? How much did they pay?

The first Pilgrims came ashore in 1620 in Plymouth Rock, Mass. They soon struck up a friendly alliance with Massasoit, a local tribal leader, who simply gave them the land for free.

The Pilgrims and Native Americans lived together relatively peacefully for the first few decades, but the constant influx of newcomers eventually began taking its toll on the environment. Even a modest house required 12 tons of lumber to build, writes author Nathaniel Philbrick in “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War” (Viking Press, 2006).

Each Pilgrim family also needed several more tons of wood for cooking and heating purposes. “It’s been estimated that the average 17th century New England home consumed 15 cords, or 1,920 cubic feet of wood per year, meaning that a town of 200 homes depended upon the deforestation of as many as 75 acres per year,” writes Philbrick.

As the amount of trees and available land dwindled, so did the natives’ natural food supply of fruits, vegetables and wildlife. So, they wisely began charging for their property. For example, settlers purchased the site to build the township of Dartmouth, Mass., around 1650 for 30 yards of cloth, eight moose skins, 15 axes and hoes, 15 pairs of shoes and 10 English shillings’ worth — the modern equivalent of about one U.S. dollar, not including inflation — of assorted goods.

My husband and I are having financial problems because he was laid off from his job last May and I was “let go” from my secretarial job in July as part of my employer’s corporate restructuring. We have used our weekly unemployment checks and our bank savings to cover our monthly mortgage payments, but now our lender has sent us a notice that states it is going to foreclose because we did not pay the first installment on our annual property-tax bill. Is this legal? Isn’t the county the only entity that can begin foreclosure proceedings for unpaid taxes?

I’m sorry that you and your husband are suffering through a bad financial situation now, and hope that things will get better soon. But alas, the bank has the legal right to begin foreclosure proceedings over your past-due property taxes even though you apparently have done everything you can to pay your monthly mortgage bills on time.

Most mortgage contracts include a provision that requires borrowers to keep all of their property-tax payments current, and allows the lender to begin foreclosure proceedings if they don’t. That’s because the bank doesn’t want to see its entire loan wiped out by a tax sale launched by the county’s assessor over a few thousand dollars in missed property-tax payments.

Call your bank’s customer-service department for help. Lenders know that times are tough, and most are willing to work out a deal with financially troubled borrowers who are facing foreclosure. Also call the local tax assessor or collector’s office: Many offer special tax-deferment programs for homeowners who can’t pay their annual bill immediately. Good luck, and again, I hope you regain your financial footing soon.

We signed a one-year lease for a condominium in July, but now the owner has informed us that he is selling the unit to someone else. The new buyer gave us a notice last week stating that we must vacate the premises within 30 days because he wants to move into it himself, even though our rental payments are up to date. Can he legally do this? If not, can the new owner raise our rent?

You probably don’t have to worry about losing the condo or facing a rental increase until next summer. That’s because real estate laws in most areas require rental-property investors like your new landlord to honor terms of any existing leases signed by a previous owner, provided the tenant has made (and continues to make) the rental payments in a timely fashion and adheres to all other terms of the rental agreement.

Of course, if you stop making your rental payments or break other terms of the lease, the owner can evict you in a matter of days and then sue for any back rent you owe and any damages that might be caused by you while living there or moving out.

Your new landlord might not be familiar with local rental laws or instead might just be trying to bully you into abandoning the lease so he can move into the unit himself or rent it out to other tenants who will pay even more than you are currently paying. Contact your local rent board or similar agency for details about your rights in such a peculiar situation.

Comments

lounger 5 years, 5 months ago

Oy-were still paying for land that the Europeans took from us. It will go on forevermore.....

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