Many people in Port St. Lucie, Stuart, and the surrounding areas of the Treasure Coast have questions about real estate litigation. This is a complex area that may include things like title disputes, foreclosures, partitions, breach of contract, quiet title, enforcement of contract issues, fraud or misrepresentation in real estate sales, rental disputes (e.g., residential or commercial evictions, lease disputes), escrow challenges, and boundary disputes. If you think you are having difficulty in one of these areas, it’s important to contact an experienced Florida real estate litigation attorney as soon as possible, so they can begin helping you work out the situation.
If you’re purchasing a piece of real estate, having a “free and clear” title is an important thing to check out early on. This means that the person or entity selling the property has all legal rights to it, and no one else has any claim on the property. Because, if they don’t, then you may not either even after you legally purchase the property. For example, if there’s a mechanic’s lien for some work that was done years ago that the current owner doesn’t remember or doesn’t know anything about, this could wind up being an issue for you. Or, if several siblings inherited a property from their late parents and want to sell, you might have a challenge if all their names are on the title but one person hasn’t signed off on the sale.
There are many other possible ways difficulties can happen with titles. If you’re considering buying a property, you should conduct a title search right away. Your real estate attorney may be able to do this for you, or they may advise you to hire a title search company (Apfelbaum Law provides real estate closing services in Florida). The last thing you want is to invest in a property only to find out someone else may have a claim on it, too.
What if there is an issue with the title? Usually, your real estate litigation attorney can work this out with negotiation or mediation. Often, the current owner just needs to make things right with the contractor to get a lien removed, or contact another party about signing off on the sale. If these things fail, in some cases, your attorney may recommend a quiet title action, or litigation to resolve this issues.
Breach of Contract
Often, real estate disputes involve breach of contract claims. Real estate contracts, especially commercial ones, are frequently very complicated. Even businesspeople who read them carefully may have misunderstandings about what different clauses mean, who is allowed to do what, who is obligated to do what, etc. This is why it’s always important to have an experienced real estate attorney help you with contracts, to assist you in understanding what all the parties may be agreeing on. Your Florida real estate lawyer can also make sure any issues regarding the property are specifically addressed in the contract.
Sometimes small businesses run into difficulties with these contracts because the owner or owners were operating on a shoestring and thought a pre-printed real estate form they found online was a good idea. This may also happen with individuals selling or buying property. A quick internet search will turn up lots of forms for the sale of real estate, or you can order a kit online or buy one in an office supply store. But these forms may not address all the unique aspects of your sale or the property in question, and may not be right for this specific situation. Hiring a Florida real estate attorney now may save you money on expensive courtroom litigation later.
That being said, even large corporations with in-house legal departments can get into disputes over real estate contracts. There may still be a disagreement between parties about what a particular clause or even word meant. The parties may disagree about whether one party fulfilled their obligations, or whether they were unable to do so for reasons beyond their control. For instance, there may be issues with maintenance, payment of funds, or the property being ready for transfer at the agreed-upon time.
Again, your real estate attorney will likely first try to resolve breach of contract suits with negotiation or mediation. In some cases, making a settlement with the other party, or accepting one from them, may be less expensive than a time-consuming trial. However, if efforts fail, your attorney may be able to represent you in court.
Real Estate Fraud
Sometimes people come to us because they believe they were the victim of fraud in a real estate transaction. They may have been promised that certain parts of the property were in good working order. For example, maybe you were told an outbuilding had proper electricity and plumbing. You checked the lights in the main building but didn’t get around to trying them in the outbuilding. Now you’ve found out it will cost thousands of dollars to repair the out-of-date grid in the building. You might feel that you were defrauded in this situation.
Other times real estate fraud cases are about things the seller simply didn’t mention at all, and the buyer didn’t know or think to ask about. For example, maybe you looked at a house several times that happened to be on clear, sunny days. Not long after you moved in, you realized the entire backyard plus your basement flood every time it rains and it will cost a fortune to put in a proper drainage system. Nothing about this was specifically mentioned in your real estate contract but, when you asked about problems, you were repeatedly told everything in the house was great. In this case, you might want to have a Florida real estate litigation attorney look over your contract and advise you on whether you have a claim for real estate fraud.
Co-Owner Disputes / Partition
Another common situation is when multiple people or entities share ownership of a property. Disagreements about how to manage or maintain the property, how to screen renters, how much to charge for rent, or whether or not to sell the property are common.
Many people are hesitant to take their business partner or co-owner to court, and your attorney will try to find other ways to work things out. In some situations, it may be possible to simply buy out the other owner. However, this isn’t always financially feasible or something the other party will agree to. You may have to negotiate to find a solution you can both live with. If all else fails, you can go to court and let a judge decide.
Sometimes, the solution is a partition lawsuit, which forces the sale of a piece of property when co-owners simply can’t agree. This commonly happens when several siblings jointly inherit a parent’s estate and find they can’t agree on how to manage a property. It can also happen when a couple who owned property jointly splits up, or when a business partnership ends and the partners can’t agree about how to split up the assets. In all these situations, the property gets sold and the co-owners divide the money and go their separate ways.
The court will decide how the money is divided based on factors like whether the owners contributed equally to the upkeep of the property, mortgage payments, investment to increase the value of the property, etc. For example, if the property was recently inherited by three siblings and none of had a chance to do much with it, the judge may divide the money equally. On the other hand, if one sibling spent time and money adding a garage and pool, or making other improvements that increased the value of the house, the judge may feel that person deserves a slightly large share of the money.
If you’re a contractor, you may have concerns about real estate litigation. You may not have deep pockets for a long legal battle, and the representatives of a larger business entity may know that. Sometimes contractors feel they’re in a bad spot if a large business has simply decided not to pay them for work completed, or there is some other cause for a disagreement between parties. On the other hand, sometimes small businesses get stiffed by contractors too, and they may also not have a huge budget for a court case.
But even bigger businesses can get into legal arguments with contractors if they feel a job isn’t done properly. For example, maybe you hired a company to construct your newest store. You thought everything looked good when they were finished, but a few months later a section of wall collapsed. Now you’ve got an expensive estimate for fixing the wall, you’ve had to close your business until it’s fixed, and you’re losing money every day. Worse, what if one of your employees or customers got hurt when the wall collapsed and is now suing you? You may want to contract a Florida real estate litigation attorney who can help you sort out the situation, particularly one who is experienced in determining how these challenges come up and whether the contractor (or someone else) was at fault.
All these situations may lead to real estate disputes, especially if the contractor places a lien on a property the owner later wants to sell. In many cases, a real estate attorney may be able to work out alternatives to litigation, like settling for a smaller amount of money, or paying a contractor for the amount of work they actually did, regardless of why they didn’t complete the job. If you feel a job was done poorly, the contractor may offer to fix the issue. However, some people are not comfortable having a contractor who did a job badly “fix” it for them. Your attorney will work with you on trying to find a solution that works for everyone in each unique situation.
How Do I Find a Real Estate Litigation Attorney Near Me?
If you need assistance with your Florida real estate litigation, or have questions about any potential legal matter, please contact Apfelbaum Law for a consultation. Here is our dedicated practice area for Real Estate Attorney Port St Lucie. We have offices in Port St. Lucie and Stuart, but provide legal services throughout the Treasure Coast and Florida.