Real Estate & Title Litigation
Real estate and title disputes come in many forms. Purchasers often assert claims involving contract disputes, fraudulent seller disclosures, boundary line encumbrances, cracked or failing foundations or other structural defects, and many other issues related to land transactions. Landowners may also find that their title to land has become encumbered by liens, mortgages, claims of adverse possession, or problems with closing documents.
Many purchasers acquire title policies at the time of their purchase which may assist in clearing these encumbrances. If insurance coverage exists, the underwriter is generally responsible for clearing title and paying legal expenses associated with these problems. Our real estate attorneys assist in making claims with title insurers and will work with the underwriters to remove liens and achieve clear title. We have assisted many local and national title insurance companies and landowners in litigating title claims.
What problems arise with a real estate purchase?
Purchasers and sellers often find that their home or land is encumbered by a lien, judgment, unreleased mortgage, or a boundary line dispute. Unfortunately, title searches do not always disclose the existence of these problems. When a lien is missed, a purchaser risks losing his or her investment in the property if the lien cannot be removed. If a lien is discovered prior to closing, sellers may lose the sale if the encumbrance cannot be cleared prior to the sale date.
What do I do if I have a boundary line dispute with a neighbor?
Boundary line disputes may arise due to inaccurate legal descriptions or surveys. They may also arise due to a neighbor’s claim of adverse possession or an asserted agreement with a prior owner (commonly called boundary line agreements or “acquiescence”) In some cases, boundary line disputes may be covered by title insurance. If coverage exists, landowners should seek advice in forwarding the claim to the insurance company. If no coverage exists, the dispute should still be resolved or litigated to establish true boundary lines. These disputes can cause problems with mortgage companies, who may consider such a dispute an event of default and will render a seller liable to his purchaser upon selling the disputed land. Actions to establish true boundary lines are commonly called “quiet title” actions. Generally, the end result of a quiet title action is an enforceable court order establishing property lines.
Why are fraud or misrepresentation claims asserted against sellers?
Sellers may become liable to purchasers for false or inaccurate information conveyed in an effort to sell real property. In some cases, the inaccurate information may be contained within marketing materials, such as an incorrect description of the home, its size, or other attributes. Often, these claims arise from inaccurate information contained within a Seller’s Disclosure Form wherein a seller has represented that certain problems within the home do not exist, when in reality, they do.
What warranties exist with the purchase of real estate?
Warranties may arise in many situations. A new home purchase generally carries written warranties and warranties implied by the law. A real estate purchase, even the purchase of an older home, may also bring warranties. Warranties may be implied or may be expressed within the contract documents. Further, a purchaser who receives a warranty deed, as opposed to a quit claim deed, receives certain warranties concerning the real estate and his purchase.