Real estate lawyers conduct everything from title search of a property to conflict resolution. They have to complete the due diligence for the parcel to see if the title is clear for development or sale. Then they have to generate title search reports or title search certifications as per their client’s requirements. They also search for pending mortgages and lawsuits on the property to find a reasonable and acceptable solution for their clients. They counsel their clients on numerous property-related concerns. They draft MOUs, leasing agreements, leave and license agreements, etc. They also manage land or property-related problems. Their clients range from individuals investing in an apartment to developers or promoters. So, if you’re a developer wanting to secure the land to create a property, you have to get in touch with a real estate lawyer.
A real estate attorney can be a beneficial partner when purchasing or selling property. But is one usually necessary? Not. Though real estate lawyers can certainly help provide legal advice, resolve disputes, manage problems, or even just offer general guidance, they’re not suited for every transaction.
Finding a real estate attorney
If you’ve decided you want the services of a real estate attorney for a real estate concern, ask your lender, title company, or real estate agent for a referral. You can also ask for recommendations from friends and loved ones.
Before choosing a real estate lawyer, schedule a consultation to evaluate if it’s the appropriate fit. Do they have experience with the type of transaction or issue you’re dealing with? How does their price system operate, and when is payment required? You should also make sure to hire an attorney in the correct section of the industry, as residential and commercial real estate transactions are highly different.
If your state doesn’t require a real estate lawyer, there’s a strong possibility you can proceed without one. As long as you hire an experienced real estate agent, they should be able to guide you through most of your real estate transactions. If you run across any legal concerns or disagreements, though, a competent attorney is always your best defence.
Why Would a Real Estate Lawyer Contact You?
In most circumstances, you probably didn’t expect a problem worthy of a lawyer’s assistance to come up after closing. The lawyer might be coming to you on behalf of the buyer about a problem with the property that has only recently been found.
These problems could include asbestos, inadequate or unpermitted construction, infestations, mould, leaks and septic problems. You can discover more about how these flaws can lead to real estate E&O claims here. As the seller’s agent, it’s your job to report any such difficulties if you know about them and ensure the seller includes all known faults with the property in the disclosures.
As the buyer’s agent, you must persuade them to complete any essential inspections on the house. If they deny a review, make sure you have the documentation trail to indicate you advised it. Another reason a lawyer might want to examine you is failing to keep a client’s information secure. A security breach resulting in theft or inadvertent disclosure of social security numbers, names and addresses, bank account numbers, and financial information is one of the top claims brought against real estate agents today.
A security breach could arise from numerous sources but is typically due to physical theft, an email or system hack, or access. Implementing best practices for handling electronic data should be a top focus. Even though you documented disclosures, notified customers to get inspections, and did everything right, an aggrieved party could nonetheless engage you in a real estate lawsuit to try to gain compensation for claimed misconduct. Knowing in advance how to approach a reaction will be your biggest asset to prevent an E&O claim.
What To Do Before Responding to Questions From A Real Estate Lawyer
Your purpose in the phone contact or initial email is ONLY to acquire information quietly. If you are reached by phone, ask the attorney to follow up with an email clarifying the information requested. That way, you can answer by email and ask your questions to gather as much detail in writing from the lawyer as possible. What transaction is the inquiry about? What is the exact challenge or issue? When was the problem discovered? Do they have specific documents that are being referenced? Can they supply copies to you? What is the individual making a claim seeking? Gather information and assure the attorney you will get back to them.
You may have represented the person the lawyer is representing or acted as the agent for the other party in the transaction. Make sure they have approached the proper agent. There are occasions where persons are accidentally misnamed in real estate litigation, and you should not be involved at all.
Once you have the essential data, you may search your transaction records and analyze your documents, emails and other communication notes around the sale. This is a critical stage in establishing what information you have relevant to the situation before replying. And before you answer questions or even request further clarifying details, consider visiting your lawyer.
Five Tips to Keep an Attorney’s Inquiry From Escalating
Before and when responding to an attorney query, follow these five tips:
- Act professionally and keep emotions under check. This isn’t personal. An angry or defensive answer is merely fuel used against you should someone take a claim further.
- Review your documentation on the transaction and have them on hand before crafting your response. Sometimes the sale occurred years ago, so it’s good to examine and refresh your memory of the transaction and any raised disclosures or difficulties.
- Get legal guidance.
- Stick to the facts. Answer only what you are asked with concise, brief factual remarks substantiated by the documents you have. Don’t volunteer additional information or answer questions you weren’t invited. You may unknowingly open the door to subsequent queries. (This is one reason why you want to react by email. You’ll have a written record of everything, and you’ll have time to contemplate your response.
- Don’t presume anything, and don’t feel under obligation to reply if you are in doubt. Be willing to say “I don’t know” instead of speculating.
Actions You Should Take To Avoid A Real Estate Lawsuit
While doing transactions, make sure you capture everything in writing. Ask the seller for complete disclosures, or discuss any difficulties. Keep records of all communications, especially regarding what the vendor disclosed to you. Keep copies of the appropriate permit history or inspection reports. Make sure you recommend that the buyer orders a complete home inspection. If they decline, make sure you get it in writing that you recommended it, but they elected not to go ahead.
Good written communication and documentation are crucial during each transaction. Save all email and physical touch in an orderly form for simple retrieval in the future. (This is why it’s better to contact clients by email rather than text, so you’ll have an easily retrievable record should you need it.)
Before a lawyer becomes engaged, you may get letters or calls from the clients regarding issues. In this scenario, again, act professionally, and GATHER INFORMATION FIRST before replying. Review your documents, react by email, and stick to the facts. If they threaten legal action, then ask your lawyer’s opinion on how you should handle the next step.
What Questions Should I Ask My Property Lawyer?
Depending on why you are employing a property lawyer, you should have a set of questions ready to go. Here are some common questions you may ask to help evaluate if a property lawyer is an excellent fit for you:
- Ask if they can simplify down legal jargon for you.
- Ask whether they can draft up contracts on your behalf.
- Ask how much experience they have in the area you need help with (selling, purchase, landlord or tenant relations, etc.). (sale, acquisition, landlord or tenant relations, etc.).
- Ask them how much they charge and how and when they anticipate payment.
What to Look for in a Quality Property Lawyer
A professional property lawyer will be able to explain your legal problems to you in words you can understand. They should also offer you advice on how to go about this scenario in the best way possible. Quality property lawyers can provide you with actual examples of coping with various property management problems and will have experience addressing such issues themselves. A qualified property lawyer can help you acquire or sell a property with current renters, create legal papers to protect you, and will be able to help negotiate on your behalf.