Q: We purchased a house and after the closing, the real estate agent called us and said, "the previous owners asked if they could remain in the house until their new home is ready, and I told them I was sure you wouldn't mind." We informed her they could remain only if they paid us $20 a day.

We had purchased this house in another state and left the following day to return to Maryland. However we have been told by a very reliable source that the previous owners occupied the house for three weeks. We wrote the previous owners and apparently the agent never told them we expected them to pay rent.

We have tried calling this agent, but she has never returned our calls. We also wrote to her (and wrote to the manager of the agency also) and all our attempts have been completely ignored. Is there any way we can collect our $420? We have also discovered another error. We didn't ask about a termite inspection. The present tenants called yesterday to tell us they have discovered termites throughout the house.

A: Write the state real estate commission (a governmental agency) and the local (county or city) board of realtors and, if there is one, the local consumer information office (or whatever it's called in the state where you purchased the house) setting out in detail your complaints. All licensed real estate brokers come under the supervision of the state real estate commission. The board of realtors is a non-governmental organization to which most active residential real estate brokers and agents belong.

If the brokerage you dealt with doesn't belong, the board should so advise you and tell you it has no jurisdiction. The consumer information office may have, among other help, an arbitration service.

If you don't get satisfaction in this fashion, then you can investigate the feasibility of filing an action to recover the $420 in what is called small claims court in the jurisdiction where the former owners now reside. (The small calims court may be called another name in that jurisdiction -- you'll have to determine this.) The concept behind these small claims courts is that their procedure is simple enough to allow laymen to handle their own litigation.

With respect to your termite problem, carefully read your sales contract to determine what obligation the seller had with respect to termites. If the sales contract obligated the seller to provide and pay for a termite inspection to assure that there were no termites, you can ask for damages for the seller's failure to do this.