Common Real Estate Related Lawsuits
Buying and selling real estate is what ties families to communities. In Florida, real estate sales include residential properties, cooperatives, condominiums, and apartment complex. Many people are involved in real estate sales and management including property management companies, brokers, and developers. While many disputes can be resolved amicably through negotiations and settlements, there are often times when you need to file a lawsuit to protect your real property or your economic rights.
Common real estate disputes include the following types of legal actions:
Breach of Contract
The sale and purchase of real estate begins with a real estate contract. Generally, real estate agreements must be in writing so the terms of the sale are clear. Each real estate contract has numerous conditions that each side must meet. Buyers usually need to qualify for a mortgage. Buyers usually need to make a down payment. Sellers need to allow the buyer to inspect the property for any possible defects. Sellers may be required to advise the buyer about problems with the use or enjoyment of the home. There are time limits for each stage of the purchase. The buyer is normally entitled to obtain title insurance. The seller is normally required to comply with any legitimate title. Both the buyer and seller are required to review and sign the settlement documents.
If the buyer fails to comply with the real estate contract, the seller may seek to claim the security deposit and any financial damages caused by having to arrange for another sale of the property. The buyer may be entitled to damages for any defects to the property that the seller failed to disclose (provided there was a duty to disclose the defects) and other damages depending on the terms of the contract.
The best course of action, whether you are a buyer or seller, is to have a skilled Florida real estate lawyer review the contract – before you sign it. Often real estate contracts are prepared by the broker on standard forms. These forms may not protect you. You may have good reasons to want to modify the terms of the contract. Your lawyer can look for any problems that might arise and negotiate changes to the contract.
If the buyer or seller fails to comply with the real estate contract, your lawyer can file a claim – based on breach of contract on your behalf.
Failing to disclose real property defects
It used to be the law in Florida that a seller only had to disclose defects if the buyer asked about specific defects. That law has changed. Now a buyer can file a claim against a seller if:
- The seller knew of a specific property defect such as termites or a leaking roof.
- The defect should materially alter the value of the property. Courts don’t want to get involved in small defects such as a nail in a wall. They are generally concerned with defects that cost a lot to fix or significantly alter the home’s value.
- The defect must be one that the buyer was not aware of and wasn’t readily observable.
- The buyer must show that the seller did not disclose the defect.
Other defects may include costly electrical or plumbing problems, molds, and improvements that were not properly authorized.
Claims against real estate brokers or agents
Many real estate transactions begin when a seller contacts a real estate broker. The broker is normally entitled to a commission if he/she arranges a sale. The broker must comply with certain duties based on the brokerage arrangement and Florida law. These duties include working in the client’s best interest to obtain the best sales price possible. Brokers have a duty to keep their clients informed of the status of the sale. They must deal with their client honestly. They generally are required to help complete the sale once an agreement of sale for the property is made. In some cases, a buyer may also use a real estate broker.
Sellers may have a claim against the broker if they fail to advertise the property and use their best efforts to sell the property. Brokers may be liable if they fail to inform a buyer of a known defect. Brokers may have their own claim against a seller if they arrange for a buyer to buy the property.
Specific performance obligations
Some real estate contract breaches cannot be satisfactorily remedied with a cash award. Specific performance requires that a defendant (such as the buyer or seller) affirmatively do something. For example, if the seller is refusing to let a buyer inspect the property, a buyer may seek specific performance of the contract to force the seller to let the buyer’s inspector examine the property. In this case, many sellers will agree to let the buyer’s inspector examine the property once the complaint is filed. Otherwise, a judge will decide what remedy applies.
Disputes may arise as to the boundary lines of the property. A buyer may hire a surveyor to conduct a survey that includes an examination of the boundary lines. If the boundaries are different than the boundaries set forth in the real estate contract, the buyer may have grounds to terminate the contract or seek an adjustment of the purchase price.
There also may be issues involving the listing of the boundary on the deeds to the property. A seasoned Florida real estate lawyer advises buyers and when and how to study any boundary disputes and how to protect the buyer’s investments. Boundary disputes may also arise when a title company does it search of the real property.
Make the call to a seasoned Indian River County real estate lawyer today
At Lulich & Attorneys, our Vero Beach and Sebastian real estate lawyers advise buyers and sellers at every stage of the real estate sales process – including the sale agreement, inspections, title company issues, negotiations, settlement, the recording of the deeds and mortgages, and any disputes that may arise. Many disputes can be resolved through negotiation. When necessary we’re ready to litigate real estate disputes in court. To discuss your real estate contract, call us at 772-589-5500 or fill out our contact form.