Real estate assets are incredibly valuable to have. According to research from Nariet, a worldwide representative for real estate investment trusts (REITs) and real estate companies, commercial real estate alone was valued at $20.7 trillion in 2021. However, with much at stake when it comes to purchasing or investing in real estate, disputes can quickly arise and often lead to the need for litigation.

Real estate litigation can include disputes that arise during the acquisition of a property, disputes over ownership rights, and many other instances. In these situations, real estate litigation is often a tool utilized both by and against real estate agents and brokers, buyers and sellers, and landlords and tenants to assert legal rights and address perceived or experienced wrongs.

Real estate properties are often among a person’s or company’s most valuable assets. Because of this, owners need the experience of a real estate litigation attorney to protect their interests when a dispute arises. From multimillion-dollar homes to 10,000-foot manufacturing facilities, the attorneys of Burford Perry are well versed in the many complexities of real estate disputes and regularly handle such cases.

Real Estate Disputes

Disputes over real estate can range in severity. They can include disputes as simple as a disagreement over an easement or as complicated as untangling the ownership of real property in a complex commercial transaction. Real estate issues can also arise when one or more parties fail to fulfill their end of an agreement.

Real estate disputes can include any type of property, including homes and apartments, commercial spaces, warehouses, empty lots, and even roads. These disputes are often complex and can involve many different parties. Some of the most common types of real estate disputes that can arise include:

Breach of Contract: When real estate is purchased, sold, or leased, it involves the use of a contract. These contracts often involve very nuanced language that outlines each party’s obligations during the time the agreement is in effect. If a party does not perform its agreed to obligations under the contract, it can be found to be in breach of contract; and, the other party can pursue damages for any losses sustained as a result of that breach.

Boundary or Property Line Disputes: Disputes can arise between neighboring property owners when there is a disagreement about where the property line lies. Often, the property boundaries were never clearly registered, or a practical property line supersedes the legal line.

Co-Owner Disputes: In certain situations, more than one person or entity owns real estate property. If co-tenants, joint tenants, or partners disagree on a property issue, a co-owner dispute may arise.

Earnest Money Contracts: Similar to security deposits, earnest money contracts can be awarded to a party interested in purchasing a property. These individuals put aside a sum of money – typically in a trust or escrow account – as an act of good faith they want to purchase the property. Once the deposit is made, the seller will take the property off the market and negotiations to finalize the purchase will begin. Disputes can arise when a buyer or seller perceives the other party to be at fault for failing to close promptly. Additionally, buyers can unknowingly lose their right to the return of earnest money by failing to notify a seller of the failure of a condition to close.

Lender Liability Law: Lender liability laws generally hold that lenders must treat their borrowers fairly. If they fail to do so, a lender can become subject to costly litigation.

Adverse Possession Disputes: These disputes arise when the legal ownership of property is in question. Under certain circumstances, trespassers can inhabit a property and occupy it to gain legal ownership. The law regarding adverse possession is complex, and related disputes will require a real estate attorney to determine whether the proper qualifications are met for ownership.

Deed Restriction Issues: Issues concerning deed restriction are particularly common in Houston, as our city’s real property is not regulated through zoning. Rather, most restrictions on Houston real estate arise through deed restrictions, which restrict or prohibit certain uses or activities on a particular property or set of properties. [1] Deed restrictions are recorded with the county in which the property is located and remain in force even after the property is transferred to a new owner. New owners are frequently deemed to have notice of the restrictions regardless of their actual knowledge. While deed restrictions can be enforced by individuals and associations, the Texas Legislature and Houston City Council have also authorized city attorneys to bring enforcement actions against property owners.

Partition Litigation: Partition litigation is sometimes necessary to properly divide jointly owned property between owners. The need for this litigation often arises when real estate owners disagree on the property’s use. Through a suit to partition, one or more joint owners can seek a court-ordered division of the property. [3] A judicial partition can be in kind, which means the property is physically divided among the owners, or by sale, where the court orders the sale of the property and a division of the proceeds among the owners when partition in kind is not feasible or cannot be achieved fairly and equitably.  In addition to procedural requirements, a suit to partition may give rise to ancillary issues such as accounting for rents and profits or expenditures for maintenance and improvements to the property, such as mortgage payments, insurance, or taxes.

Government Taking and Inverse Condemnation Law: When the government performs an intentional act that results in a property being taken from the owner for public use, such as flood control or road construction, eminent domain or condemnation law becomes an issue.  Article I, section 17 of the Texas Constitution states that no person’s property can be taken, damaged, or destroyed or applied for public use without compensation. With this constitutional prohibition on improper interference with a landowner’s rights, sovereign and governmental immunity does not apply, and an injured property owner need only prove the government’s intentional taking materially and substantially impaired or burdened the owner’s property or the use and enjoyment of the property.

Real Estate Fraud: When a party to a negotiation falsely represents their property and that misrepresentation causes another party harm, such as by withholding information about the state of the property, it could be considered real estate fraud.

Litigation, Mediation and Other Alternative Dispute Resolutions

It’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all approach to resolving a real estate dispute. Each issue will require a thorough investigation and creative thinking to determine the most efficient and effective way to resolve it. Although some disputes can be resolved through mediation or another means of alternative dispute resolution, others will require litigation. Because these disputes are often complex and involve highly valued property, it’s important to consider all options and take the best approach when seeking a resolution.

A dispute requiring real estate litigation can arise at any time during the purchase or lease of a property and even while the property is in use. Issues concerning property acquisition and financing, development and construction, and/or management and leasing can all present situations that make real estate litigation necessary. These disputes can be as varied as the parties and the projects themselves.

It’s never too soon to involve a lawyer in disputes concerning real estate; however, waiting too long to incorporate legal counsel in a real estate dispute can prove to be costly. This is because while many disputes can be resolved in the early stages of a real estate transaction, they can quickly escalate out of control if left to fester.

Real Estate Litigation – Representative Matters

The real estate attorneys of Burford Perry have obtained substantial verdicts and settlements for clients both in and out of the court. Our firm utilizes our extensive experience to determine the best course of action for each unique situation.

At Burford Perry, our attorneys have obtained substantial verdicts and settlements for clients involved in real estate disputes both outside of court and through court proceedings. We use our extensive experience to determine the best course of action for each unique situation.

For instance, in AIG Highstar Capital, L.P. v Stagecoach Holding, LLC, et al., Robert Burford represented John Thrash, E Partners, and E Corp in a dispute over the ownership of a high-performance, multi-cycle natural gas storage facility in New York. The case was uniquely resolved by a sale of the entire storage facility to a third party, with clients obtaining more than $50 million in the sale—preserving their ownership value.

Similarly, in Thornton v. Martha Turner Properties, Brent Perry negotiated a favorable confidential settlement for a family that was the victim of real estate fraud by the family’s realtor in connection with the sale of their 12,000 square foot home. The family’s agent made false representations about a prospective buyer and encouraged the family to allow the buyer to lease the house before closing on the purchase. The prospective buyer caused significant damage to the house and failed to close on the purchase.

Real Estate Litigation Attorneys

Many real estate disputes present unique challenges and diverse issues that require specific experience. At Burford Perry, our trial attorneys have represented contractors, property owners, real estate developers, investors, lessors, and lenders in a wide variety of real estate disputes, including both individuals and large businesses in residential and commercial real estate litigation. By analyzing the unique aspects of each case, our award-winning lawyers can identify the most efficient path to a favorable outcome for our clients. Contact us today to discuss how we can help resolve your real estate matter.