Real estate and property law encompasses a wide variety of topics, including buying, selling, using, and leasing residential or commercial property. Some common real estate and property law disputes involve establishing property title and boundary lines, landlord and tenant disputes, and zoning or land use issues.
Real estate and property law also covers the financial aspects of real property, such as mortgages, liens, and foreclosures. Additionally, wills and trust law can fall under the complete umbrella of real estate and property law, but may also be separated as their own minor subtopic of estate law.
What are Some Tips to Know About Buying or Selling Property?
The following is a general list of some key terms and tips that are useful to know when involved in buying or selling property:
- Brokers: Buying and selling property is usually done through agents that are commonly known as real estate brokers. Brokers are those who either help people find property to purchase, or alternatively, assist owners in selling their property. They also manage all of the paperwork involved with property transactions.
- Disclosures: In the event that someone is selling their home, they must be sure to reveal all of the property’s defects that they are aware of, which refers to things like structural or electrical problems. This duty is called the “disclosure of material defects” or simply, “disclosure.”
- Buyer’s Duties: Typically, a potential buyer of property has a right to inspect the property before closing for any potential defects or zoning issues. In addition, buyers should also check to see if there are any mortgages or liens on the property. A buyer can review this information at their local county recorder’s office.
In the instance that a person is renting a property, it is good to know that a landlord owes their tenant several important duties, which include:
- Habitability: This means that the landlord guarantees that the property is habitable or livable, and that they regularly maintain the property and keep it in good shape. Part of this duty involves that a landlord repairs any problems that arise (e.g., heating or plumbing issues). This is also called the “implied warranty of habitability.”
- Ordinances: The landlord guarantees that the property conforms to both city and state laws.
- Duty to Deliver Possession: Although this will depend on the jurisdiction, a landlord generally has a duty to deliver possession of the premises to the tenant (i.e., giving keys to the tenant and ensuring that no one else lives within the housing unit).
- Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment: This refers to a tenant’s rights to have the landlord not interfere with their use of the premises, such as by making the property uninhabitable or by wrongfully evicting a tenant in some way.
In contrast, a tenant also has their own duties to uphold by renting the property. A tenant must:
- Pay rent on time in accordance with the terms of their lease;
- Follow any rules or restrictions listed within the lease (e.g., no pets, no loud noise, etc.);
- Not use the premises for any illegal purposes, such as dealing drugs or gambling in states where it is illegal; and
- Make ordinary repairs and upkeep to the property (e.g., no vandalizing the apartment and alerting the landlord if there is an issue with the plumbing, etc.).
A tenant who fails to adhere to the terms of a lease will result in a breach and could lead them to lose their security deposit, subject them to further money damages, and may even cause them to face eviction.
Does My Property Have to Conform to Local Zoning Ordinances?
Most localities have a planning or zoning committee that assists in regulating land use. When such a committee passes a zoning ordinance, all properties within that locality must follow them unless one of the following exceptions applies:
- Variance: A person may apply for a variance when such a scenario exists, which means that if the variance is granted, the property will be excused from conforming with the zoning ordinance. The zoning committee will have discretion over whether or not to grant the request for a variance.
- Non-Conforming Use: When a new zoning ordinance prohibits using property in a certain way, owners that have already been using their property in that manner will most likely be able to do so despite the new ordinance.
Should I Hire an Attorney for Help with Issues Involving Real Estate and Property Law?
Real estate and property law issues can be very complex. They often involve different areas of law and the rules that apply will vary according to the laws of each state. Additionally, real estate ventures often involve large financial investment.
Therefore, if you are dealing with matters regarding real estate and property law, you should consider hiring a property lawyer for assistance.
An experienced property lawyer can provide legal advice that specifically relates to your issue, can help you prepare any legal documents that pertain to buying or selling a property, and can represent you in housing court if necessary.