When a dispute arises over residential real estate, the stakes are usually high, as most transactions – whether involving a personal residence or investment property – represent a significant personal financial investment by the parties involved.
Real estate litigation refers to the process of resolving legal disputes relating to the purchase, use, development, improvement, sale and transfer of real estate, as well as construction issues, zoning, and land use and development.
At Coover Law Firm, LLC, we have extensive experience representing real estate clients in Howard County, Maryland, and the surrounding areas, in a wide range of property and contract disputes, including:
• Breach of contract: This refers to situations where one party to a contract fails, communicates an intent to fail, or otherwise does not perform his or her obligation, as described in a contract.
• Breach of fiduciary duty: A fiduciary duty is an obligation to act in the best interest of another party. A fiduciary obligation exists whenever the relationship with another person (the “client”) involves a special trust, confidence, and reliance on the fiduciary to exercise his or her discretion or expertise in acting for the client. When one person does agree to act for another in a fiduciary relationship, the law forbids the fiduciary from acting in any manner adverse or contrary to the interests of the client, or from acting for his or her own benefit in relation to the subject matter. The client is entitled to the best efforts of the fiduciary on his or her behalf, and the fiduciary must exercise all of the skill, care and diligence at his or her disposal when acting on behalf of the client.
• Fraud, misrepresentation and nondisclosure: This occurs when a person (i.e., the purchaser or homeowner) relies upon the word and purported expertise of another person (i.e., the seller, contractor, or builder), who holds himself or herself out to be an expert in the field, in making decisions regarding the signing of a contract or the purchase of property or services.
• Construction defects and mechanics’ liens: A mechanics’ lien is a security interest in the title to property for the benefit of those who have supplied labor or materials that improve the property. The lien exists for both real property and personal property. When a contractor or subcontractor performs services and is not paid for the same, he can claim a mechanics’ lien against the property upon which the services were provided or the work performed.
• Environmental compliance issues: This includes matters related to failure to conform to environmental laws, regulations, standards and other requirements, such as site permits, to operate.
• Recovery of earnest money: Earnest money is a deposit made to a seller to show the buyer’s good faith in a real estate transaction. If the transaction is not completed per the terms of the contract, the buyer may have a right to recover their earnest money, or the funds may be forfeited to the seller, depending on the terms of the contract and the circumstances involved. Resolution of the matter may be accomplished through the Courts or mediation.
• Title insurance litigation: This may involve both the seller, the closing/settlement agent and the title insurance company. In some instances, it may take many years before it is determined that there is a defect in title as transferred. The purpose of title insurance is to protect the buyer from suffering because of these defects.
• Contractor Disputes: Matters related to the non-completion, or substandard quality of work, of contracted improvements made to a property.
• Wrongful foreclosure: Wrongful foreclosure typically occurs when a lender brings foreclosure action against a homeowner without proper legal cause and/or procedure.
Columbia, MD real estate lawyer Fred L. Coover has extensive knowledge and experience in both residential and commercial real estate litigation (*link to commercial page). He has been representing the interests of Howard County homeowners, home buyers, real estate agents/realtors, builders and developers for over 30 years.
Real Estate Arbitration vs. Mediation
If at all possible, most people want to avoid real estate litigation due to the significant time and expense involved with reaching a resolution in court. At Coover Law Firm, we do everything in our power to help our clients resolve their legal matters in the quickest, most cost-efficient manner possible. In most cases, resolving the dispute outside the courtroom is in the best interest of all parties involved.
Real Estate Arbitration
Many real estate contracts include written clauses requiring that the parties engage in arbitration to resolve any breach or dispute that should arise. Arbitration is a legal process where a third party arbitrator is selected to settle a dispute. Arbitration can be both voluntary or mandatory, depending on the legal circumstances.
Like court proceedings, arbitration requires both sides to provide testimony and evidence, but is usually less formal. In most cases, parties should seek independent legal counsel from an experienced real estate attorney that will represent their interests throughout the arbitration process. Unlike mediation, arbitration is usually binding on all parties.
Real Estate Mediation
Mediation is a process in which parties seek to resolve a conflict by enlisting the help of a qualified, neutral third party – referred to as the “mediator.” Unlike arbitration, the mediator does not hand down a decision, but instead encourages and facilitates negotiations between the parties.
Some benefits of mediation include:
• Potential for a quicker resolution, which typically translates to lower legal fees
• A greater sense of control, as the parties are making decisions for themselves instead of relying on a Judge or arbitrator to make decisions for them
• Promoting direct communication and cooperation between the parties. This is particularly important in situations where the parties will be required to interact with each other in the future. Mediation may help lay the groundwork for future cooperation and conflict resolution.
In addition to urging his clients to utilize mediation when appropriate, Mr. Coover also serves as a trained mediator for the Maryland Association of Realtors (MAR).
Contact Us Today
Real estate contract and property disputes can be complex and overwhelming, and it is often difficult to get the answers you need. At Coover Law Firm, LLC, our experience in real estate law includes representation both in and out of the courtroom, as well as before various state and local boards and agencies.
If you are facing a real estate contract or property dispute that requires legal intervention, Coover Law Firm, LLC is here to answer your questions. Contact us today at (410) 995-1100 to schedule an initial consultation with experienced Howard County real estate attorney Fred L. Coover. Our offices are conveniently located across from Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD. We look forward to serving you!