Real Property


The law relating to the ownership, use and occupancy of real property (land) is complicated. A legal expert should be consulted prior to entering into any agreement relating to joint or multiple ownership of real property. Expensive and lengthy court actions may be avoided by timely and appropriate written agreements between the parties. Mr. Lashlee has over 30 years of experience advising clients, negotiating and writing agreements, dispute resolution and representation of clients in a wide variety of real property matters. The following is list of few of the real property issues that Mr. Lashlee handles regularly as well as an explanation of his usual fees:

TITLE

 

 

Ownership in real property is usually evidenced by a Deed of which the most common are the Grant, Quit-Claim, Trust Transfer and Interspousal Transfer Deed. An owner of real property named in a Deed is the “Legal Tile Owner.” Other persons who may have a non-title interest in the real property are known as “Equitable Title Owners.” Most people have at least one mortgage on their property. A mortgage is evidenced by document known as a “Deed of Trust.” Deeds of Trust do not evidence title to the real property, but act as a security device for payment of a mortgage or other debt, usually involving a Promissory Note (a formal written promise to pay).
 

TITLE DISPUTES

Title disputes arise in a variety of ways. Disputes often involve competing, faulty, unrecorded, fraudulent or forged deeds. Many disputes arise over oral title agreements, for instance where one party purchases the property in their name alone due to the poor credit of the other party. A lawsuit for “Quiet Title” (i.e. an action to determine the rightful owner or owners) may be necessary to resolve disputes over the ownership of real property.
 

CO-OWNER DISPUTES

Disputes may arise between co-owners of real property over upkeep, occupancy, payments, sale and other matters. If the parties are unable to work out their disputes, and cannot agree on the sale of the property, a lawsuit known as a “Partition” action may be necessary to obtain a judgment of the respective interests of the owners and an order for the sale of the property.
 

SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE

When a seller of real property enters into a purchase and sale agreement with a buyer, an enforceable contract arises. If either party fails to complete the sale, the failure may be a breach of contract entitling the other party to an action for damages. Because real property is considered under the law to be unique, when a seller backs out of a contract to sell real property, the buyer may be able to force the seller to complete the sale in a lawsuit called “Specific Performance.” In order to obtain a judgment for specific performance, the buyer must have done everything required of him or her in the purchase contract up to the breach by the seller and must be ready and able to complete the remainder of the contract requirements.
 

CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST

A court may rule that the legal title owner holds title to real property in “Constructive Trust” for the true or equitable owner.  This remedy is often requested in a Quiet Title action where the parties have a pre-existing relationship such as parent and child, trustee and beneficiary, caregiver or other relationship of trust.
 

ADVERSE POSSESSION

Adverse Possession” is the subject of myths and misunderstandings.  Adverse Possession applies to entire parcels of property.  A person cannot obtain title to a forgotten edge of their neighbor’s property by enclosing it with a fence.  Adverse Possession requires that the possessor “openly and adversely possess” an entire parcel land owned by another for five straight years and pay the real property taxes for those five years.  The possession must be adverse to the title of the owner.  This means that tenants, co-owners and others using the property with permission of the owner ordinarily may not obtain title by Adverse Possession.  In order to mortgage or sell land obtained by Adverse Possession, title must be confirmed in a Quiet Title court action.
 

 EASEMENTS

 

An easement is the right to use (not own) part of the land of another.  An easement may be for a driveway, walkway, power line or many other things. Although a person cannot obtain title to a portion of real property by adverse possession, it is possible to obtain an easement that way.  This is known as a “PRESCRIPTIVE EASEMENT.”  Mr. Lashlee reviews and advises clients regarding easements, negotiates and prepares easement agreements and Deeds and represents clients in lawsuits relating to easements.
 

RENTAL AGREEMENTS AND LEASES

Month-to-month rental agreements and long term leases should always be in writing.  In fact, the law requires that leases longer than one year must be in writing to be enforceable (although like most things in law, there are some exceptions).  Mr. Lashlee reviews and advises clients regarding existing rental agreements and leases, prepares new leases and represents clients in lawsuits relating to rented and leased property.  For eviction of tenants, please see the “Landlord and Tenant” section.
 

 NEIGHBOR DISPUTES

Neighbor disputes come in all varieties, including boundary line issues, invasive tree roots, overgrown yards, easement issues, encroachment of walls and buildings, noise, you name it.  Neighbor disputes should be avoided whenever possible as they may escalate into a feud and even violence.  Negotiation and resolution of neighbor disputes before they reach the level of feud is extremely important.  While lawsuits are sometimes necessary, the result may be unsatisfactory, because of the emotions involved and the close proximity of the parties.  If the dispute is allowed to fester, the only remedy may be to move away.
 

ATTORNEY FEES

The following is a general discussion of attorney fees.  Each case is unique and fees will be quoted as appropriate for the particular case. Fees change from time to time and may be higher for some legal matters.  For the current fee in your matter, please call the office.

Consultations: Free for up to an hour.  The attorney will be happy to consult with you by telephone, e-mail or in person.

Flat Fees: Transactional services, such as the preparation of Deeds, Leases, Wills, Trusts and other matters may be quoted as flat fee depending on the nature of the work to be done.

Contingency Fees: A “Contingency Fee” arrangement is one where the attorney is paid a percentage of the monetary recovery in the lawsuit for his fee.  Mr. Lashlee’s usual contingency fee is 1/3rd of the monetary recovers plus a non-refundable retainer fee due at the signing of the retainer agreement.  Contingency fees are not set by law and may be negotiated.

Hourly Fees:  Mr. Lashlee’s hourly fee is $350.  A minimum advance  payment is usually required at the time of signing the retainer agreement.

 

COSTS

“Costs” include court filing fees, service of process, delivery fees, fees for obtaining documents, expert witness fees, jury fees, court reporter fees, and other expenses necessary for the prosecution of the particular case. “Costs” are separate from attorney fees, and are usually recoverable in a judgment. Regardless of the type of fee agreement, the client is always responsible for payment of all costs in addition to attorney fees and must advance costs to the attorney promptly when requested.