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Real Estate Law - The Basics

Real Estate Law covers all aspects of real estate, including home and condominium purchases and sales, leases, and purchasing and selling of other residential and commercial property and commercial leases. The Constitution guarantees that U.S. citizens have the right to acquire property. There are two principal ways of acquiring property – by descent (inheritance) and by purchase. Purchase includes acquisition by alienation, that is, through sale, gift, or devise, and by escheat, adverse possession, and prescription. Real estate law also covers the financial aspects of property, such as mortgages, short sales and foreclosures. Buying or selling a home or commercial property can be an overwhelming task. Complex real estate terminology, contracts, and closings can make the process confusing and it is always best to consult with an experienced real estate attorney to ensure an efficient and successful process.

Common real estate disputes

Listed below are a few common real estate disputes that can arise:

  • Landlord and tenant Issues
  • Mortgage Foreclosure
  • Condominium and co-operatives disputes with the association
  • Title and boundary line disputes
  • Zoning and property use

Buying and selling property

There are 3 important facets to buying and/or selling property:

  1. Brokers: Real estate brokers are individuals who assist people in finding, buying, and selling properties. They also help with the paperwork involved with property transactions. Buying and selling property is almost always done through brokers.  You should be aware of the nature of your relationship with your broker, including exclusive, transactional or non-representational.
  2. Disclosure: This means that when selling a property, the owner must be sure to reveal all of the property’s defects that he is aware of, such as any structural or electrical issues or other defects that are not otherwise detectable by the buyer but known to the Seller.
  3. Buyer’s Duties: It is also a buyer’s responsibility to inspect the property for defects that the seller may be unaware of. Buyers should also always check to see, among other things, if there are any mortgages, liens, or zoning issues related to the property. An experienced real estate attorney can assist with this process.

Landlord and tenant duties in residential property

In most instances, a landlord is responsible for:

  • Guaranteeing that the property is habitable by regularly maintaining the property and repairing any problems that arise
  • Guaranteeing that the property conforms to all city and state laws (ordinances)

A tenant is responsible for:

  • Paying rent on time
  • Adhering to the lease’s restrictions (such as no pets, no nuisance, etc.)

Failure to fulfill these duties could result in eviction from the property.

Local zoning ordinances

Typically, localities will have a Planning or Zoning department that regulates land use in the area. Any land use ordinance must be followed by all properties in the locality. However, there are a few exceptions to following ordinances, including:

  • Variance:  Applying for a variance would mean that your property would be excused from confirming to the ordinance. However, the zoning committee has discretion over whether or not the variance will be granted.
  • Non-Confirming Use: Zoning laws which are new do not apply to already existing buildings or uses. Therefore, a building that predates the new zoning law is a non-conforming use of the land and does not need to conform to the new law.

Do you need an experienced real estate agent?

Real estate law and the issues surrounding it can be very complex and frustrating. Real estate laws vary from state to state and even from city to city. Consulting with an experienced real estate agent can help you be sure that your property transaction conforms to all local laws. Whether you are an owner or a renter, a lawyer can help guide you through the real estate process and help resolve any property issues. Go to our contact us page for help.



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