What Is Real Estate Litigation?
Real estate litigation means a lawsuit that involves real property (e.g. house or building).
What Types Of Real Estate Litigation Have You Handled?
Real estate litigation can arise when the sale of a property doesn’t go through, or when there is some sort of breach of contract regarding a sale. For example, one person might make a false representation in order to convince another person to purchase a piece of property. Most of the cases I’ve handled were for breaches of contract. Often, these cases involved the return of an escrow down payment. When a person or entity is buying a piece of property, they’ll typically put some money into escrow. Alternatively, money will be held in escrow until certain things are taken care of at the end of a sale, such as the removal of a lien on the property.
When making an escrow down payment, the buyer might want to get out of the deal and the seller may want to go through with the deal, so the seller may sue the buyer for breach of contract. The question then becomes whether or not the buyer is allowed to get out of the deal. For example, I once represented builders who were buying a one-family house to knock it down and build three houses. The contract drafted by the real estate attorney stated that the buyer could get out of the contract and get the down payment returned if they were to be unable to build at least two houses on the property. Lo and behold, they couldn’t build two houses, so they asked for their money back, but the attorney for the seller refused. Real estate attorneys who handle closings don’t usually go to court, which is why this client hired me to file a lawsuit and get their down payment back.
On the other hand, I represented a person who had purchased an apartment in Manhattan, and at closing the parties agreed to hold a significant amount of money in escrow in order to do certain things. The escrow agreement stated that if those things were not completed by a certain date, then the buyer would be able to keep the escrowed money. In this case, the seller refused to turn over the money, so I wound up suing and successfully obtaining the money held in escrow for my client.
Another common issue is what’s called a partition action, which is when business partners or even family members own a piece of property together and one wants to sell and the others do not want to sell. In order to sell the property under these circumstances, a party would need to bring an action for partition for that one person to be able to get their money out of the property or be paid for their share.
Please note that I do not handle small claims cases.
I have handled property line dispute claims between residential buildings. In the past, I have even handled cases for large developers. In one case, a large developer was sued for breach of contract for a covenant that a homeowner association claimed “ran with the land,” meaning that even though it wasn’t in my client’s contract, the homeowner association was trying to enforce it against my client. I’ve also represented a large building in Manhattan in a dispute with a neighboring building over the use of an easement in a very famous alley in Manhattan. We successfully recovered on behalf of our client.
What Are Some Alternatives To Taking A Real Estate Dispute To Court?
There are two main alternatives to taking a real estate dispute to court. One alternative is mediation, which is voluntary and non-binding. Mediation involves the two parties going with their attorneys to a neutral third-party mediator who will try to resolve the dispute. Some mediators are court-appointed and the first hour or two will be free. Other mediators work for private companies and must be paid. Parties usually split the cost of a mediator.
The second alternative to taking a real estate dispute to court is binding arbitration, which is used less often. I’ve handled arbitrations where large amounts of money were at stake as well as fairly simple arbitrations for real estate disputes. Arbitrations are binding, which means if one party does not like the arbitrator’s ruling, they are pretty much stuck with it; only under limited circumstances can an arbitrator’s decision be appealed, and these appeals are not often successful.
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