Real Estate Litigation – The most common subjects of contention
Real estate litigations are incredibly challenging not only because they involve intricate interactions that involve many different policies, laws, and legal rights, but also because New York courts are extremely pro-tenant. This is true in both the commercial and residential context, even where there is substantial evidence that the tenant is in violation of the contract. Accordingly, landlords and their lawyers frequently have an uphill battle.
Real estate is the single largest asset an individual or business will own financially. It is also the one asset that will be owned for the longest amount of time. Considering the importance of real estate for both its economic value and impact on daily life, any disputes involving real property are serious by definition.
Real estate litigation strives to resolve these legal disputes using court processes, so the end result is the award of damages from one entity to the other. There are many subjects of contention, especially because of the difficult market economy.
The most common subjects of contention in real estate
When it comes to real estate litigation, some of the most frequently made claims include:
1. Breach of contract
A contract is anything from a private handshake agreement to a formal document drafted by an attorney and signed in the presence of a witness, signifying an exchange of legally enforceable promises. Breach of contract, or failure of one of the entities in a contract to honor their promises, is the most common source of contention in real estate deals.
Relief for breach of contract in real estate litigation is usually in the form of specific performance, whereby the court forces the other party to execute the contract. Relief can also be in the form of damages or economic compensation for the aggrieved party.
2. Title Issues
Land ownership is not a straightforward matter, so you need to know exactly what you are paying for. In fact, one of the questions that usually arise in real estate transactions is: who owns it?
This is a valid question as land can be transferred multiple times. Your attorney can help you check the title history of a piece of land to establish who owns it – keeping in mind that someone might have recorded a forged title some time before. For instance, there have been cases where someone who has used another person’s land for over ten years claims ownership to that piece of land.
Your attorney can also investigate whether:
- There are any restrictions built into the title, like on what can be constructed on the land with regard to size, type, and style limitations.
- The land ownership has obligations attached, like paying for street maintenance
- The land is located on water, or need extensive irrigation, with consideration of laws about water usage
In an ideal situation, all these terms should be clearly expressed in the title, but is most cases they are not. As a real property investor, you should be careful about what you are purchasing, and seek the services of a real estate attorney when facing a dispute over the terms of a title.
3. Mortgage and foreclosure
Most real property is usually secured by a mortgage, which may give rise to mortgage fraud or foreclosure issues. Even though a bank has the right to foreclose when the mortgage is in default, the homeowner has a guaranteed period after the foreclosure sale to rescue their real estate.
Real property also presents other issues of:
- Inheritance and survivorship – future interests (in the form of remainder interests and reversion) in a piece of estate
- Leasing – issues involving landlords and tenants are very common, especially since many land agreements exist for decades.
- Regulation – when landlords and their managers violate the Federal Fair Housing Act or fail to follow the rent control and stabilization rules.
Should you seek legal counsel when dealing with a real estate litigation issue?
Property litigation issues generally need serious merit before they can be filed in court. So, the plaintiff must believe that there is a good chance of succeeding if they file the lawsuit. Considering that these claims often involve very intricate legal issues, it is best that you retain a New York real estate attorney to help you file a clam or support you during the litigation process.