Real estate, whether it is residential or commercial, is the single greatest asset, investment, and liability that a person or business can make. Real estate transactions, leases, and other undertakings, including the maintenance of the property, must adhere to rules, regulations, and contractual obligations. Failure to comply or unaligned interpretations of obligations can lead to disputes, and disputes can lead to litigation if not handled properly, timely, or adequately. But even then, real estate litigation in Texas may be inevitable to solve problems.
Common Causes of Real Estate Litigation in Texas
Real estate litigation is a legal dispute over a matter related to real property and it can have a variety of causes. Some of the most common are briefly described below.
Breach of Contract
Parties enter into real estate agreements, or contracts, on a regular basis. When one of those parties does not adhere to the terms of the contract, the other party may sue for a breach of contract. It is imperative that when you sign a contract you understand what exactly you are agreeing to. This means reading the entire contract, even the tiny print.
In order to avoid any problems in the future, it is a good idea to speak with a real estate attorney in Texas before signing a real estate contract. The attorney can advise you of any concerning issues with the contract, what is expected of you under the terms of the contract, and what you can expect of the other party or parties.
Dispute Over Boundaries
Every property has a boundary, where ownership of one party ends and ownership of another party begins. Often, there is confusion over the exact location of a boundary line, which leads to litigation. Sometimes, neighbors have been operating under the assumption that the property line is something different than what is registered in the county where the property is located. A quiet title action is the correct way to settle a boundary dispute.
Before purchasing a piece of property, it is best to have a survey completed so that you know exactly where the boundaries are and if there are any encroachments on the property.
Partition actions are unique in that the party bringing the action is not necessarily alleging that any other party has done anything wrong. These actions are often used when a property has more than one owner, and the different owners no longer wish to be co-owners. One party may want to buy out the others, or all parties may want to sell the property and split the proceeds. The court may also conduct an accounting so that it can accurately determine if one party deserves more proceeds than another.
Real Estate Fraud
Real estate fraud occurs when one party misrepresents information to the other, causing them to rely on bad information, and then they suffer damages because of it.
For example, if you are purchasing a piece of real estate to build a home, you need to know if the property can support a septic system. Let's say the selling party gives you documentation that the land has passed a PERC test, which means that a septic system can be installed. You rely on that documentation and purchase the property. However, after closing, you find out the PERC test documentation was falsified, and the property cannot support a septic system. In this scenario, you would have a case for real estate fraud.
When there is a question as to who is the proper owner of a piece of property, a quiet title action is often brought to settle the matter. A quiet title action allows the court to look at the evidence and determine the correct owner. Quiet title actions are used for boundary disputes, adverse possession cases, or when ownership of property needs to be determined.
Alternatives to Real Estate Litigation in Texas
Litigation is not always the best route to resolve a real estate dispute. Other options are available to parties involved in a disagreement. The most common is alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR comes in two main forms: arbitration and mediation.
Arbitration is when you and the other party attend a hearing where you present your side of the case to a neutral and knowledgeable arbitrator or panel of arbitrators. In most cases, decisions reached through arbitration are binding on both parties. It is a formal process but is still less time-consuming and less expensive than litigation. It is also more private, and the parties can agree on who they wish to be the arbitrator(s).
Mediation is a less formal process than arbitration, where the parties meet and attempt to reach an agreement to which they can all consent. Mediation allows the parties to have a say-so in what happens. In most cases, either party can walk away at any time. The mediator is present to facilitate an agreement and does not make a final ruling.
How Can a Real Estate Litigation Lawyer in Texas Help Your Case?
Litigation can be overwhelming. For someone who has no experience, the rules of procedure alone can be intimidating, let alone building, supporting, and persuasively arguing your case. A litigation attorney in real estate offers real benefits, which include.
- Determining the right legal action to take
- Interpreting any contracts and/or legal action against you
- Obtaining additional and relevant documentation you may not possess yourself
- Drafting documents needed to move your case toward a resolution
- Corresponding effectively with other parties, particularly their attorneys, to negotiate a settlement or non-trial resolution
- Taking the proper steps to bring a case to court or counter a case brought against you in case a non-trial resolution is not reached
- Oversee your case from start to finish
- Defend your rights and protect your interests
A real estate dispute can be all-consuming. Retaining competent legal counsel may be the best way – both for you and your business – to resolve your real estate problem.