Real Estate Law and Construction Defects: How To Protect Your Rights As A Homeowner

Your home is probably the most valuable asset and investment you have. But sometimes for first-time homebuyers, the dream of owning a house can quickly turn into a nightmare because of construction defects. In extreme cases, defects can be serious enough for a family to abandon the property altogether. There is a shocking rise in construction defects as developers hurry through things in order to meet the growing housing demand.

You should speak with a dedicated construction defects attorney to recover financial compensation for any hardships related to construction defects, whether in a new property or renovation of an existing house.

Types of Construction Defects in California

Construction defects laws are in place for protecting homeowners. They cover a wide range of issues, such as code violations, faulty designs, cracked foundations, and unsafe structures. These are a few common types of construction defects:

Design deficiencies

These result from the work of engineering and design professionals, such as architects and structural engineers. Design deficiencies arise when professionals end up making errors or fail to respect applicable professional standards and building codes. For instance, if a roof is not designed as per applicable engineering standards and building codes, it can lead to inadequate support and water intrusion.

Material deficiencies

This includes the use of improper and defective building materials. For instance, the construction plan may be based on using a particular grade of wood for providing strength to the structure. Based on this, the contractors substitute it for a different grade when it’s time to build the element. Certain materials required for the structure may get damaged during transit, which is overlooked by the building contractor. A malfunction may occur in this situation because of the defective material.

Construction deficiencies

These are the result of poor workmanship during the construction of a building. Deficiencies in construction can lead to dry rot, cracked foundations, plumbing problems, electrical problems, and pest infestation.

Subsurface deficiencies

Deficiencies may occur in the preparation of the subsurface. This happens when soil conditions are not suitable for the structure, causing it to become unstable. Building on unstable subsurface can result in the development of cracks in walls, floors, and the foundation of a structure.

Most construction defects occur because the construction industry is highly competitive with many companies trying to offer the lowest bids for contracts. They salvage profits by employing unqualified workers, cutting corners, and poorly supervising subcontractors. If you are an unsuspecting homeowner that is left to foot the bill for these practices, get in touch with an experienced construction accident attorney today.

File a Builder’s Warranty Claim to Recover Costs

If the damaged or defective item in your house is covered under the builder’s warranty, you may be able to recover costs by filing a claim. Many warranties need homeowners to send a written notification to the builder. Sending your request in writing is always a good idea since it leaves you with the available evidence.

Make sure to keep notes of every conversation you have with the builder along with relevant dates. Your attorney may use this to prove that the builder failed in taking any remedial action. It’s essential that you act quickly. In some cases, all it takes is to alert the builder of problems within the warranty period.

You may want to consult an attorney since some warranties can be cleverly written to allow the builder to string a house owner along and delay making repairs. Never bring in outside contractors to take care of the issue. This may result in you losing the warranty benefits.

Causes of Action in a Construction Defect

You can file legal action if your house has a construction defect and you have suffered damages because of it. Besides, the legal claims you can bring against the property developer depend on a number of things, including the type and extent of damages. There are several different types of legal actions for construction defects. These are:

  • Negligence
  • Breach of contract
  • Implied and expressed warranty issues
  • Professional negligence against a design professional
  • Breach of a homeowner association’s declaration or covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs)

An experienced construction litigation attorney will be able to help you determine the right type of legal action to take for your particular construction defect.

Remedies for Construction Defects in California

There are different types of costs you can recover by winning a lawsuit for construction defects. These depend a lot on your circumstances. The remedies for construction defects are usually limited to the following categories:

  • Diminution of the value of property
  • Cost to repair the defects
  • Loss of the use of property
  • Legal fees
  • Recovery for litigation expenses
  • Inconvenience losses if you have to move out for repairs

Our Trusted Construction Defects Lawyers Can Provide Strong Legal Advice and Support

At Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP, we will thoroughly investigate your construction defect claim, hire engineering or construction experts as necessary, and prove the liability of the builder or contractor. Our attorneys are skilled in handling the most challenging construction or renovation defect cases. To schedule a consultation, call us at (415) 399-2900 or fill out this online contact form.


Common Legal Issues That Occur During the Sale of A Property

There are certain legal issues all homeowners should know of regarding the sale of a house. Sellers are often faced with multiple legal issues and risks when selling a house to a potential homebuyer. You may lose an opportunity to sell because of payment delays or failed commitment from the buyer or sometimes end up getting sued for damages if you have violated the terms of the contract. A strong real estate litigation attorney can make sure you avoid the myriad pitfalls related to selling a house.

Home Sellers Need to Disclose All Facts About the Property

California law states that home sellers are required to disclose any fact that may potentially impact the desirability of a property. As per California Civil Code § 1102, any details that may affect a potential buyer’s willingness to pay or desire to purchase the property should be intimated in writing.

These important facts are known as “material facts.” Any seller that fails in disclosing these facts can face severe consequences. As a rule, you should disclose any item that you are unsure of. Your real estate attorney will ask you to complete a Transfer Disclosure Statement to disclose these material facts.

Deliver a Clear Title at Closing

If you paid off your mortgage or satisfied a judgment without filing the necessary documents with the county clerk, their office will not reflect it. When a title search will be conducted by the buyer before closing, it will show the mortgage as a lien. Any judgment on the property will also come up. Clearing this may delay the closing or take time.

You should provide all necessary documents to the attorney you hire for handling the sale of your house. This includes copies of the title and deed you receive when you acquired it. Your attorney will identify and address any potential title issues before they delay the closing.

Home Sellers May Need to Pay for Buyer’s Title Insurance

In California, home sellers are usually required to use a title company. The company will perform a title search and provide a Preliminary Title Report or PTR. The title company will consider the PTR to provide title insurance to the buyer. Lenders usually require title insurance for funding the buyer’s loan.

The title company and insurance provider are usually selected by both sellers and buyers. In most cases, the company is suggested by the house buyer in the initial offer. The real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) is a federal act that prohibits a house seller from making the buyer use a particular title insurance company. You cannot make this a condition of the transaction.

Stemming from this, you can negotiate with the buyer about who pays for the title insurance. In most cases, the seller is required to pay for the title insurance in Southern California. Furthermore, in Northern California, local custom suggests that the buyer pay for the title insurance. Your real estate agent will help you negotiate a fair deal.

Payment of Transfer Tax

Before real estate gets transferred to the buyer, it needs to be informed to the county recorder’s office. This document shows that the property has changed ownership. Transfer tax gets imposed at the time the document is recorded. The payment of transfer tax is negotiable. As per industry standards, the buyer pays this tax in Northern California while the seller foots the bill in Southern California.

Attorneys Can Ensure the Sales Agreement Protects You

You should never sign a sales agreement with a buyer before having your attorney review it. Sales agreements that are prepared by brokers and real estate agents are legally enforceable contracts. You should not sign one until it has been explained and reviewed by your lawyer.

These are a few terms of the sales agreement that you should be careful about:

  • Sellers should make sure the time agreed to obtain a mortgage is listed within the sales agreement. This is if the sale relies on the buyer obtaining a mortgage. You may want to word the document to encourage the buyer to apply for a loan promptly and cooperate with lender requests for documentation.
  • Make sure the closing date is as per your needs. This can be important for sellers that are looking to replace the house by buying a new one. The closing dates of the transactions may need to be coordinated to complete the purchase on time.
  • In many cases, a buyer needs to sell their existing house to complete the purchase with a seller. You should have your attorney review the sales agreement to avoid any language that makes the sale contingent on the buyer being able to sell their property.

Talk to a Skilled and Knowledgeable Real Estate Litigation Attorney – Book a Consultation Today

The experienced attorneys at Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP can help you resolve disputes related to real estate sales and purchases. Our attorneys have decades of experience in helping clients obtain the most favorable outcomes in residential and commercial property disputes.

Schedule your confidential case review with our lawyers today. Call us at (415) 399-2900 or contact us online.

How Environmental Regulations Can Affect Property Owners in California

Environmental regulations are aimed to preserve ecosystems and improve the quality of the environment, including wildlife. The management of natural resources by the state government and the related environmental regulations can have a significant impact on ranchers, loggers, farmers, and property owners in California.

Impact of Environmental Regulations on Property Prices

Stringent environmental regulations are often imposed on the suppliers of housing and other property. This makes it possible for these laws to have a substantial impact on the housing market. The extent of the overall impact is measurable in terms of the changes in the number of houses available for sale and the property prices.

Environmental laws primarily impact the supply of land, which is a chief input for property development. Some regulations can change the price of lumber and other inputs as well. In this way, the regulatory regime has a major impact on the supply of housing. Prices of property will naturally go up if it takes more time to build housing units. The same holds true if environmental laws increase the likelihood of litigation faced by housing developers.

On the other hand, if environmental regulations are effective, they can improve the quality of the land and its surroundings, giving impetus to property prices and demand. This is particularly true in the case of residential properties.

NIMBY and Anti-Development Quagmire

There is a rise in California’s rental and housing markets. This is particularly true in the Silicon Valley Bay Area, which is the state’s economic engine. With many Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) backlashes, local elected officials and housing advocates are scurrying to find affordable solutions. There is a severe housing supply-demand mismatch because of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA.)

Using political pressure and misinformation, housing communities across the Golden State have successfully managed to prevent numerous new development projects. Property owners routinely use the CEQA as an onerous public policy intimidation tool. NIMBYism opposes the development of new projects near one’s own property.

Everything from social noise to developing brownfields is used as an excuse to prevent a new property from getting developed. This has become a huge problem for local governments since it typically forces them to approve non-comprehensive, inefficient, and ad hoc development plans.

All residential property owners are not against development. However, it is still prudent for developers to speak with a skilled local real estate attorney before starting any new projects. NIMBY property owners demand slow growth focusing on the intrinsic feel of the neighborhood and preserving its culture. It flatly opposes any large government or development projects.

Misuse of CEQA by Property Owners

The California Environmental Quality Act was signed by Ronald Reagan in 1970 for protecting the natural environment in the development of both private and public projects. Unfortunately, it is routinely misused for stopping or delaying housing construction.

Anti-housing residential property owners in affluent communities use CEQA to block multi-family and high-density projects. They argue that such projects would alter their neighborhood’s bucolic ambiance. Construction unions routinely extract wage concessions from property developers by misusing CEQA.

Legislators and governors routinely grant CEQA exemptions in the absence of comprehensive reforms for particular projects. This is usually the case for narrow categories of housing or sports arenas. There is an increase in CEQA misuse with courts becoming a battleground over its application.

How Can Property Developers Make the Process Smooth

CEQA should not be treated as a direct land use or zoning regulation. There are no explicit restrictions placed on the development. However, the California Environmental Quality Act has become a major obstacle for property owners, developers, and businesses.

Environmental impact assessments are usually time-consuming and costly. Development can quickly grind to a halt during litigation if a lawsuit gets filed during the process. Developers should ideally do the following to make the process smooth:

  • Ensure the administrative record is strong. This will help in dissuading and defending against potential judicial challenges.
  • Get involved in the preparation and review of environmental documents (as much as the city allows). This will ensure that the records are accurate and complete.
  • Get your project approved faster with recent and developing legislation. This will provide you with better opportunities and standards from a planning perspective. It may also allow for a less rigorous CEQA review.

You should develop a plan for addressing potential environmental challenges before starting any major real estate project. An experienced land use and zoning attorney in California can help you navigate the multiple regulations.

There are several requirements from a CEQA perspective that property developers need to satisfy. In addition, there are also local regulations and planning and zoning laws that can make the task challenging.

Talk to a Skilled and Knowledgeable Real Estate Attorney – Book Your Consultation Today

The attorneys at Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP have a history of providing the right advice and solid legal representation to clients and achieving successful outcomes. To request your consultation, call us at (415) 399-2900 or complete this online form.


Understanding Real Estate Legal Matters Within Trust Administration

Many estate and trust disputes in California involve the allocation of real property or real estate among multiple beneficiaries. A trustee usually has the discretion to sell real estate and distribute the proceeds to all beneficiaries in equal shares. They may also allocate the property to one or more beneficiaries if there are no objections to the proposed distribution. But without an experienced real estate attorney on your side, trust and probate administration may hit a litigious wall.

Allocation of Assets

If a real estate parcel gets distributed on a pro-rata basis among two siblings, both will get 50% undivided interest in the property if they have an equal remainder share through the trust. This is commonly treated as a tenant in common. In the case of a pure pro-rata distribution of assets, both siblings would get equal interest in the real assets distributed through the trust. Any administrative expenses would be paid first though.

A pro-rata distribution can be rife with conflict. Tenants in common share an equal right to property but may not be able to allocate the use. For instance, which sibling gets Christmas week?

Non-pro rata distribution is the other form of asset allocation. The beneficiaries will receive a proportional share in the total value of assets instead of getting an equal interest.

The sibling that wants the real estate may receive it and the other sibling may get its corresponding value without asset co-ownership. As per California Probate Code section 16246, trustees can choose the manner in which they distribute assets.

Dealing With Divided Interest in Property

The property can transfer to more than a single beneficiary with equal interests in the property. This may seem fair to the transferring party but can give rise to several litigation issues. Problems can quickly arise when the beneficiaries fail to see eye to eye on the disposal of the property. The true owner of the property is not apparent in these cases since everyone owns an equal share.

For instance, if three siblings inherit the family house with only one sibling wanting to sell, they may file a partition action. This is usually when the other two siblings either don’t want to sell their shares or don’t have the money to purchase the third sibling’s share. The third sibling can move the court for forcing the sale of the property to cash out their interest.

Title Transfer Not Made to the Trust

In some cases, a parent will not transfer the title to the trust. Instead, they may transfer the title to a property to one of the children as joint tenants with survivorship rights to avoid probate. In this case, a big problem may arise if there is a trust stating that the property needs to be transferred to all children equally.

The child that has their name on the title as a joint tenant may not want to share the property and may argue that the property was a gift outside the trust. The matter will be tried to be resolved informally through negotiations or mediation among the parties. If no resolution is reached, the trustee or executor asserting the right to property in the name of the trust will need to file an 850 petition in probate court.

This is to have the property transferred back to the trust and redistributed as per the terms of the trust documents among all children. Such matters can become full-blown lawsuits requiring discovery and a trial to determine rightful owners. The action is usually taken by a trustee for protecting the estate assets and bringing them back into the estate.

Estate litigation can become costly, and the trustee usually has the benefit of using estate assets for pursuing a lawsuit. In case the matter remains unresolved and leads to a lengthy lawsuit, the use of assets by the trustee will leave less money in the estate to be distributed. If the problem is not resolved early on, it can become a lose-lose situation for all involved parties.

Real Estate Inheritance Attorneys Can Resolve Legal Issues

Real estate distribution is not always seamless among family members. Inheritance disputes usually revolve around the allocation of property and money. These are a few common issues that an inheritance attorney may work to resolve:

  • Perceived inequity of allocation: Significant changes right before an individual’s death can be a concern. The same holds true for massively different inheritances among the beneficiaries.
  • Wrongful acts: Beneficiaries can always raise doubts about undue influence surrounding the trust.
  • Intention: An experienced real estate inheritance dispute attorney can assess the intentions of the deceased and present it to the court to ensure your loved one’s wishes are honored.

Talk to a Skilled and Knowledgeable Real Estate Attorney Today

At Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP, our attorneys have decades of combined experience in working with family members within the court systems to obtain the inheritance they deserve. We are dedicated to helping you receive fair treatment.

Call us at (415) 399-2900 or reach us online for a comprehensive case evaluation.


How Does a Real Estate Partition Action Work?

A partition action is required when multiple people co-own undivided interest in a property. The purpose of a partition action is to allow co-owners to obtain individual title to some defined portion of a jointly owned property. You should consult with a skilled real estate attorney to make sure your rights are protected during this type of legal action.

Filing a Partition Action

Partition actions, as per the California Code of Civil Procedure section 872.210, can be brought by:

  • Co-owner of a property.
  • Owner of an estate in real property if the property is owned by several persons.

Individuals with a right to the property specified in section 872.210 can bring a partition action even if they don’t have a right to immediate or actual possession of the property. Individuals that don’t have any right in a property listed under section 872.210 cannot bring a partition action.

Your Right to Partition in California

Co-owners of a property don’t need a reason to initiate partition proceedings. You have the right to commence a partition action if you have enough interest in a property to issue an action. This means that you should have a clear title. The determination whether you have a clear title or not will be determined by the court, regardless of whether the trial is contested or uncontested.

Other Types of Relief in a Partition Action

The court may order a property to be physically divided if it can be. This way each party receives a proportionate share. Taking this into account, this is not always the case since most real estate has improvements in the form of a house or building that cannot be physically divided between multiple owners.

This solution is usually possible where the real property is an unimproved and vacant lot. It’s generally more practical for a property to be sold entirely and the proceeds divided between co-owners.

When Does a Partition Action Become Necessary?

Property usually has a single owner. It’s passed onto multiple owners when the original owner leaves it in their will. The new owners may not have the same aspirations or goals regarding the property. If the parties are unable to agree on a single purpose for the property, a partition action may be required to divide the property.

Partition actions may be initiated by a couple that purchases a property jointly but doesn’t end up marrying. The couple may not agree on how the property needs to be used. This may again lead to a partition action.

Limitations to Partition Actions

A party can waive their right to real estate partition action through Code of Civil Procedure section 872.710. The waiver can happen through a valid contract or other methods. There are limits to partitioning partnership property. In general, property owned by a partnership doesn’t necessarily guarantee partition rights. This happens when the rights of unsecured creditors can become prejudiced.

Additional limitations can be imposed wherever a party’s right to partition happens from a successive estate. In the case of a successive estate, a partition can only happen if it is in the best interests of all parties.

These are a few factors considered by the court in making such a determination:

  • Expense of repairs
  • Taxes or other charges
  • Character of the property
  • Circumstances under which the estate was created
  • Factors deemed appropriate by the court

Recoverable Costs Through a Partition Action

There are several costs listed under the Code of Civil Procedure section 874.010 that can be recovered by various parties in a partition action. These include:

  • Referee costs.
  • Reasonable fees paid to the attorney for common benefit.
  • Compensation for those employed by the referee in the partition action, including the surveyor.
  • Costs for a title report.

Any other costs expended for the common benefit may also be recoverable through a partition action.

Resolving a Partition Situation Without a Court-Ordered Sale

In many cases, all parties to a partition action agree to sell their property once a lawsuit is brought. This can happen with or without court intervention.

The parties may decide to divide the proceeds fairly. However, it is necessary to have a binding settlement agreement to make sure the parties follow through on the resolution.

Another way of preventing the sale of a property is to have one co-owner agree to buy out the share of the other co-owners. A new deed may be necessary for such situations to show new ownership.

Our Northern California Real Estate Lawyers are Here to Give You Strong Legal Advice and Support. Call Now.

The reputable real estate attorneys at Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP have the experience and skills to represent individuals and entities involved in any form of real estate and business disputes. Our attorneys can help you understand your rights and fight to protect your best interests.

To schedule a consultationwith our legal team, call us at (415) 399-2900 or fill out this online contact form.

Important Things to Know About Terminating An Easement In California

Many property owners, tenants, and other property occupants in California use easements in their daily life without really paying any attention to the legal considerations. Easements afford legal rights to a non-owner to use a property for a specific purpose. These usually last forever but can be set up to be valid for a certain period of time.

You may want to know more if you are looking to remove an easement on your property. There are several ways of terminating an easement in California. It is best to speak with an experienced real estate attorney and determine the most effective legal solution in your situation.

Easements Can be Permanent or Temporary

In general, easements are permanent and remain until something specific happens. There are clauses and terms within the contract binding the two parties together. Other aspects can also be specified in the contract, such as exclusive, express, or implied. There are certain easements that remain in effect even after the original landowner passes away.

Conservation easements are usually permanent in nature to protect the land. It can be difficult to extinguish permanent easements. You may require an attorney to carry out the necessary research and take the case to court.

Specific Easement Terms

Certain easement agreements have an express expiration date. The clauses in the document will have a concept of expiration or a specific day of termination if both parties agree to this term. For instance, there may be express clauses regarding the termination of the easement when the landowner sells the land to a new person, or the business gets dissolved.

Typically, easement terms specifically mention the events required for extinguishing an easement. It will also mention what the deal requires for any future benefits. You should hire a real estate attorney to review the terms and ensure it is in your best interests.

Specific Purpose for Easement Termination

In some easement agreements, there are specific purposes mentioned. This allows access in case of certain situations. For instance, a partial portion may be opened on a property to grant access to a neighbor if the land adjoining a public road is no longer open.

However, in this case, the easement will automatically get terminated when the road is open again. Similarly, a landowner is usually required to grant a temporary easement if a building has no access because of condemnation or destruction. The easement will continue till access can be created.

Express Release from Easements

You may be able to terminate an easement by creating a deed and extinguishing it. The dominant owner may decide to transfer the easement through deed to a servient owner. If the easement and servient land are owned by the same person, they can merge the two and terminate the easement.

The landowner with an easement on their property can also purchase the adjoining land that requires access because of need. In this case, the need for the easement will get terminated.

Abandoned Easements

The landowner or the easement owner can abandon the situation at any point. The easement can be abandoned by the parties if the need for it disappears. The ownership of an easement can be terminated if it is no longer viable or required.

An easement that is no longer active doesn’t necessarily become inactive though. Instead, the easement ends if it is inactive because of abandonment. If an easement holder stops using the easement, it clearly shows that they no longer have a need and can give up ownership.

Breach of Contract

An easement can exist when two parties agree to it. However, a breach of conditions or clauses of the agreement may result in the termination of the easement. This type of breach may also specify that the easement should have been extinguished because of the easement holder’s actions.

There should be something defined in the contract clauses to this effect. If not, the parties may need to proceed to the courts to enforce contract stipulations and terminate the easement because of the breach.

Easement Termination Should be Legally Sound

You cannot assume with certainty that an easement on the property or land you own or want to acquire was ended by any of the aforementioned methods. You need proper legal legwork and thorough research to determine the termination option that is most feasible for your needs. It is possible that the termination results in litigation making it necessary to work with a proven attorney.

Legal Help is Here from Highly-Rated Real Estate Attorneys in Northern California

The results-driven attorneys at Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP operate on the principle that real estate is too valuable to leave anything to presumption or chance. If you have a matter related to real estate law, our attorneys can make sure that all legal bars are cleared, and your rights are fully protected.

To set up your comprehensive consultation with a member of our team, call us at (415) 399-2900 or reach us online.

Most Common Causes of Real Estate Litigation

Real estate disputes are becoming increasingly common in California. You may be embroiled in real estate litigation whether you are an individual property owner, a manager of a condominium association, a property management company, or a commercial real estate developer.

With a skilled property lawyer on your side, your dispute can usually be resolved out of court. With that said, litigation becomes necessary when the parties are unable to arrive at a fair resolution. You should consult with a reliable real estate litigation attorney to make sure your legal rights are protected.

Here are some of the common causes of real estate litigation in California:

Breach of Contract

Contracts prepared for real estate transactions may contain specific terms related to title clearance, assets included, closing date, and other things. The plaintiff (or the wronged party) will need to prove that they satisfied their contractual obligations while the defendant did not. The plaintiff may be able to claim compensation for any losses suffered as a result of the breach.

It’s best that you work with an experienced real estate attorney to avoid breaking any provisions. Your attorney will review the agreement and give you an explanation of the clauses so that you don’t inadvertently break them.

Not Disclosing Property Defects

The seller in real estate sales is obligated to disclose any known and non-evident defects to a purchaser. This is when the defects have an adverse impact on the value of the property. If a property buyer discovers an undisclosed defect later, they can initiate legal action against the property seller on the basis of the failure to disclose.

Taking this into account, for such a lawsuit to be successful, the plaintiff is required to prove that the defendant was aware or should have been reasonably aware of the defect. The plaintiff will also have to show that the defect was purposefully concealed by the defendant.

Breach of Duty or Negligence

Realtors and agents are legally obliged to act in their client’s interests and not the interest of a third party or salesperson. In addition, they are required to keep sensitive information about their clients confidential. Realtors also have a duty to inform the client of any information that will benefit them. The agent is required to perform these services to the best of their abilities and knowledge.

Boundary Dispute 

If property lines are not correctly set, it can result in real estate litigation. Property boundaries don’t get registered properly in most cases. Practical property lines may not be consistent with the legally registered lines. This can cause a dispute.

An easy way for the seller to fend off such disputes is to research legal property boundaries. You can speak with a real estate attorney to pursue action against any neighbors that are overstepping on your property. This is someone who has been through the legal corridors before and knows where danger likes to lurk.

Faulty Repairs 

Buyers can now easily find defects in a company through building inspection companies. In most sale contracts, the sellers agree to make repairs as requested by the buyer. Moreover, the quality of repairs may not be adequate.

Buyers can file a lawsuit against the seller in case of improper or faulty repairs. They can claim that the seller acted fraudulently. The seller can also file a lawsuit against any involved realtor.

Undisclosed Easements

An easement refers to a pre-existing agreement involving a specific piece of land or property. If a person or an entity has an easement, they essentially have the right to use the property for a specific purpose. This is regardless of who the new owner is.

The seller is required to disclose easements to a buyer before completing the real estate transaction. Easements can have a major impact on the purchasing decision. Undisclosed easements may lead to real estate litigation. The buyer may be unaware that an entity is granted lawful access to the property.

Title Defects 

The title may have a lien, mortgage, or other encumbrances. The seller may not be able to sell the property with these defects since the lender can claim ownership if the money owed to them is not paid.

A property title cannot be transferred to another entity if these encumbrances are not disclosed. In addition, real estate closing cannot be completed before having the title checked out. If the seller fails to disclose title defects and other encumbrances or fraudulently makes a sale, they can be held liable.

Breach of Construction Contract

Real estate investors and landowners that enter contracts with their construction companies can sue them if the scope of work is not carried out as outlined in the construction contract. The construction contract will also outline the legal rights and risks of both parties. Any failure to provide the duties as listed in the contract can result in real estate litigation.

Get Strong Legal Representation from a Knowledgeable Real Estate Attorney

If you are in the midst of an unraveling real estate dispute or have been wronged in a real estate transaction, the trusted real estate attorneys at Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP will make sure your rights are adequately protected. Our lawyers are skilled in litigation matters related to all kinds of residential and commercial real estate transactions.

To request a comprehensive consultation, call us at (415) 399-2900 or complete this online form.

Real Estate Law and Land Use Regulations in California

California land use regulation is notoriously complex even though the market opportunities are significant for both investors and end-users. There are new and changing regulations applicable to California properties that must be considered and addressed when you are entering into a real estate transaction.

It is important to work with an experienced land use attorney to guide you through the complex maze of these regulations and provide the right legal advice on every aspect of your project.

Land Use Laws in California

There are several different laws in California that apply to land use at the federal, local, and state levels. These laws basically dictate the manner in which a specified use is allowed for different structures and purposes. You can identify permit and zoning regulations by utilizing an attorney. You can also address any issues you may have with permits.

It’s critical that local land use decisions are consistent with the general plans of a community, such as public works, use permits, subdivision approvals, and zoning. General plans obtain meaning and purpose with this requirement for vertical consistency. State government public works projects and permit decisions usually have sovereign immunity, which means they don’t need to follow local general plans.

Special districts and school districts are allowed by state law to override city and county general plans and zoning for carrying out their own public works projects. It’s best that you work with an attorney that offers experienced advocacy before regulatory boards, city councils, and commissions on your behalf.

Regulations When Handling Environmental Matters

Environmental matters related to real estate and land use are usually complicated. They generally involve different statutes, political concerns, case laws, and ordinances. Land use attorneys can help you stay on top of things in this ever-changing fabric. They will use their knowledge to advance your interests and get the results you are looking for.

It’s critical that you have the necessary tools and resources to manage and resolve any environment-related land use matter. This includes disputes as well. In California, local and state agencies are required to analyze and identify the potential environmental impact of a proposed project as part of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Real Estate and Land Use Regulatory Compliance

You should get proactive counsel if you have been accused of non-compliance in land use matters. These are a few environmental regulations you should be familiar with:

  • The National Environmental Policy Act
  • Proposition 65
  • The California Environmental Quality Act

Land Use and Litigation

It can be difficult to reach an amicable solution in some instances involving land use. Your case may need to be litigated in such situations. You should find top-rated representation for all your litigation issues.

The attorneys you consult with should have a deep understanding of eminent domain, regulatory takings, inverse condemnation, and California Coastal Commission violations among others.

Dealing With Condemnation in California

Condemnation occurs when a state, local, or federal government takes over privately-owned property by remunerating the owner. The government is allowed to do this for public use through eminent domain. You will receive a payment for your property.

But just because the government wants your property, doesn’t mean you need to approve the sale. You should speak with an attorney as soon as possible if you receive a notice of eminent domain.

Your attorney will use their experience in land development litigation to create a solid strategy for opposing the eminent domain. They will also help you determine a fair dollar amount for compensation if there is no way to stop eminent domain from being asserted.

The government can use eminent domain to take property for building schools, railroads, roads, and other public use projects. The government can also seize private property to help facilitate other private projects. This is not commonly known. For instance, the government may purchase land if there is a housing shortage in order to create condominiums and apartments.

Land deterioration is another reason for the government to purchase private property. And this can also be done without the property owner’s approval in some instances. This is another case in which it is important to speak with an experienced California land use attorney.

Legal Help is Here from Reputable Real Estate Attorneys in California

The attorneys at Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP have a deep legal understanding and the extensive experience needed to enable clients to overcome land use and development hurdles. Our attorneys have achieved proven results with cases involving eminent domain and other issues related to land use.

We work in a strategic and timely manner to help you accomplish your goals. Call us at (415) 399-2900 or write to us online to set up an initial consultation with one of our attorneys.

Who Can Claim Property Based on Adverse Possession in California?

California is one of the largest states in the US in terms of land, and it is governed by complex real estate laws in both rural and urban areas. Under California law of adverse possession, your neighbors can possess parts of your property.

It is essential that you consult with an experienced real estate attorney immediately if you are worried about adverse possession or would like to know how to protect your legal rights.

Overview of Adverse Possession Laws

Adverse possession is a legal concept that allows a trespasser to obtain legal title over another person’s land. The concept first originated in Britain centuries ago. It essentially allows trespassers on the land to gain ownership of it. This occurs if the true owner of the land doesn’t object within a specified period of time or if the trespasser pays property taxes on the land.

The law has been kept alive in various states to achieve a fair result where one owner leaves their land unused or idle, while another has been tending it for a long time. In such instances, it is believed that making the trespasser leave the land should seem unfair or create an undue hardship. Adverse possession in California is defined and regulated by both state courts and statutes.

It is important to understand that government property in California is immune to adverse possession actions. For instance, if you attempt to annex a portion of the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, you won’t be able to claim ownership. This is even if you build a shed on the land and wait for 5 years.

Trespasser Needs to Prove Adverse Possession in California

There are a few hurdles the trespasser will need to clear before they claim a piece of your land in California using this approach. The burden of proof falls on the trespasser.

You will be presumed the owner of a piece of land as long as you hold the legal title to it. This is unless the adverse possessor comes up with enough compelling arguments and evidence against you to convince a judge to give them ownership of a piece or all of the land.

It is important to understand the difference between adverse possession and having an easement to use another person’s land. For instance, a neighbor may have an easement to use your driveway for accessing their property. But they cannot claim ownership of the land they are allowed to use. In adverse possession, there is a shift in the title and the owner gets a right to exclude others from the property.

Requirements for Adverse Possession in California

There is no single statute dictating the elements required to be established by a trespasser for proving adverse possession in California. The courts have instead established a wide array of such factors over several decades for issuing decisions in different cases.

Adverse possession in California, as in most states, is established from the nature and length of time of the possession. In California, a trespasser’s possession should be:

  • Accompanied with a color of title or claim of right. This means the trespasser should assert ownership even when they don’t have purchase documents or when they have title documents that make them look like the owner.
  • Hostile, which means it should be without the true owner’s permission or right.
  • Actual, which means the trespasser should exercise control over the physical property by continually improving it or enclosing it.
  • Open and notorious. The property should be used by the trespasser as if they are the real owner. They should place the original owner on notice and possess the property without hiding their occupancy.
  • Continuous for at least 5 years as per Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 325

There is another vital element that needs to be established in California. The adverse possessor should show that they paid taxes on the property for all five years.

Action to Quiet Title to Cut Off Adverse Possession Claim

If you spot an encroaching neighbor or a trespasser on your California land, you should speak with the person and ask them to remove all structures from it. You should also ask them to refrain from entering your property. The person will likely comply with your request if it was an honest mistake.

If the trespass continues, however, you should immediately get in touch with an attorney and bring an action to quiet title. This legal recourse is available to property owners for determining the rightful owner of the land.

In this process, you will essentially ask a California state court judge to issue an order that declares you as the true owner or the title holder of the land and not the trespasser. Action to quiet title is usually helpful when a person is trying to sell their property and needs to reassure the potential property buyers.

Get a Dedicated Real Estate Lawyer on Your Side to Protect Your Rights

The seasoned attorneys at Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP are here to help you avoid the mistakes that can place your legal situation in jeopardy. Our real estate attorneys have a deep understanding of California laws and regulations and can provide the right advice for obtaining your goals.

To schedule a consultation with our property lawyers, call us at (415) 399-2900 or contact us online.

Conservation Easements in California

Conservation easement refers to a voluntary agreement that places permanent restrictions on the use of a specific land for protecting its conservation values. Owners continue to control the piece of land by placing a conservation easement on it. While they can also take advantage of a tax deduction, they cannot usually develop it. The limits of conservation easement continue even when the land gets sold in a sale or passed on to an heir.

It’s best to consult with a real estate attorney in California to identify the right legal steps that will help accomplish your end goals regarding your property.

Everyone Doesn’t Qualify for Conservation Easement

Everyone cannot take advantage of a conservation easement. You can probably get a conservation easement if you meet any of the following four categories found in the IRS Code, Section 1.170A-14(d):

  • Preservation of a relatively natural habitat of fish, plants, or wildlife.
  • Preservation of agricultural lands or forests with open spaces.
  • Allowing public access to a portion of the land.
  • Protecting the property as per a clearly delineated government policy regarding local open-space plans.

Conservation easements are required to provide public benefits.

Tax Deduction on Conservation Easement

The primary benefit of a conservation easement is the tax deduction you will receive from it. You can deduct 50% of your income for the next 16 years until the appraised value of the easement. This means that if you make $60,000 a year, you can obtain a tax deduction of $30,000 for the next 16 years, which can amount to a total deduction of $480,000. Pertaining to this, this deduction is only up to the amount of appraised value of the easement.

Customizing a Conservation Easement

Conservation easements can be customized to meet your needs, depending on your plans for the property. The goal of an easement is to benefit everyone – the owner, the land trust, and the government agency.

Public Access Is Not Mandatory

While a few landowners choose public access as a condition of the conservation easement, this is a rare process. If you are worried about public access, you should know that this is not a requirement of the conservation easement. In other words, your land remains private property. By placing a conservation easement, you forego your development rights and prevent future development on the land you own.

Government Does Not Get Automatic Access

A conservation easement will not give the government direct access to your land. Most conservation easements are held by non-profit land trusts. These are designated by the IRS under section 501(c)(3).

These organizations play a role similar to tax-exempt companies and NGOs. In rare circumstances, a government entity may hold a conservation easement. Typically, government entities get involved in conservation easements when they audit or scrutinize the easement transaction.

No Need to Sacrifice Agricultural Production

Many people don’t want to get a conservation easement because they profit off the land in the form of ranching or agricultural production. You can work the productivity of your land into the easement. Conservation easements are flexible and you can work around your goals. The only thing you may not be able to do is future development.

You may still be able to use the land in the same way as outlined in the easement. To qualify as a farmer or rancher, more than 50% of your gross income should be from the business or trade of farming. These are a few activities that qualify as farming:

  • Raising or harvesting any horticultural or agricultural commodity.
  • Cultivating the soil.
  • Drying, handling, grading, packing, or storing a horticultural or agricultural commodity in its unmanufactured state.
  • Planting, caring, cultivating, and cutting down trees for the market.

You can place a restriction in the conservation easement stating the land is “available for agriculture.” If you qualify as a farmer or rancher, you should be able to receive tax deductions of up to 100% in exchange for the conservation easement.

Conservation Easements are Financially Beneficial

You have options even if your income doesn’t justify tax benefits. If your land has a high conservation value, the land needs to pay you for the conservation easement. Land trusts may purchase development rights through grants and donations since there is a great benefit to the public if development is prevented. Even if you do not get a tax deduction or credit, you can still get cash for the land.

Conservation Easement Need to be Accurate

You need to file forms for documenting the transaction if you want to claim tax benefits on both state and federal levels. You will need to provide IRS Form 8283 along with an appraisal if the deduction is more than $500,000.

You need to have a defensible appraisal since agencies pay close attention. You will need to pay for the property appraisal while actively avoiding overstating the conservation easement.

Get a Comprehensive Case Evaluation from Our Seasoned Land Use Law Attorneys

Speak to the experienced real estate and land use attorneys at Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP to discuss the details of your conservation easements, possible consequences, and the available legal options to protect yourself from losses. To schedule your initial consultation, call us at (415) 399-2900 or fill out this online contact form.