Real Estate Law

Whether it’s a home, a workspace or an investment, owning property is a big deal. Individuals who buy and sell either commercial or residential properties must follow a complex set of regulations under real estate law. These federal, statea and local laws afford certain rights and enforce various regulations.

Major Federal Real Estate Laws

In the United States, there are four major laws that have a large impact on real estate transactions. Two of them, the Truth in Lending and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Acts, were enacted in 1974 and 2011 respectively, in an effort to protect the rights of the consumer. These laws require that sellers disclose interest rates, the buyer’s right to cancel loans and how to resolve disputes that might affect their mortgage rates.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law in 2010, allows borrowers to file civil lawsuits when lenders have acted unfairly if the acts resulted in monetary losses. This law helps protect consumers from lenders’ hidden fees and fine print.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination during the buying, selling, renting or leasing of housing. This act covers discrimination based upon the consumer’s race, gender, nationality, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. This area of real estate law can also fall under civil rights law, and a civil rights attorney could help you discover what legal options to pursue.

Landlord-Tenant Law

Landlord-tenant law governs both residential and commercial property leases. These laws may vary by state, but some overarching rules apply across the country.

The implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, which is relevant in all 50 states, gives tenants the right to enjoy their leased or rented property free from interference by their landlords. The warranty of habitability requires that rented or leased properties must be habitable, which generally means that they must have running water and heat, be free of pests and have no exposed wires. If a landlord fails to keep a property in habitable condition, constructive eviction may come into play. If constructive eviction applies, the tenant has the right to refuse to pay rent until repairs are completed.

Foreclosure Actions

Another major area of real estate law involves foreclosures. Foreclosure proceedings can be initiated by a lender against a property if the borrower defaults on their mortgage payments or fails to make monthly mortgage payments for a certain period of time. Foreclosure actions must follow specific legal procedures, beginning with the lender issuing the consumer a written notice. They also give them the opportunity to pay back any past due amounts, as well as late fees and other penalties.

Other actions to stop a foreclosure proceeding might include certain chapters of bankruptcy, negotiating with the lender, short sales and loan modifications. Some lawyers concentrate their entire real estate practice on foreclosure litigation.

How a Real Estate Attorney Can Help

Purchasing property can be a complex, involved process. A real estate attorney will look over any purchasing documents, mortgage agreements and contract terms, explain them to you and ensure they are in your best interest. If you become the victim of fraud or someone else claims to own the property you have just sold or purchased, an attorney can offer legal guidance.

If you find yourself involved in a landlord-tenant disagreement, a lawyer can assist with dispute resolution. It is also a real estate attorney’s job to provide advice when subleasing issues, zoning issues or title discrepancies arise.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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