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Breaking Down Real Property Disputes: When to Litigate

As a property owner, real estate disputes arise frequently and can take many forms. These range from chain of title, lot line problems, issues involving contracts, or even eminent domain — in which the government is one of the parties involved in the dispute. If your real estate dispute winds up in a courtroom, a real estate litigation attorney can provide legal representation for you as a buyer or seller.

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Landowner vs. Landowner

Even if you have a good relationship, disputes among landowners are not uncommon. From inaccurate deed descriptions to boundary disputes to unrecorded deeds, there is no shortage of real estate disputes that can crop up. Before resorting to an expensive option like real estate litigation, it's important to take the time to get the facts. You could be dealing with a confusing description in a deed, an easement on the property, or an arrangement between previous owners that you didn't know about. A title insurance policy can lessen the odds that issues like these will arise, but the first step is figuring out there is a problem.

Landowner vs. Government

The United States federal government, states, and municipalities have the power to take private property for public use, so long as they provide "just compensation". One of the most common examples of eminent domain involves land and/or buildings seized to make way for a public works project. It may include airspace, water, dirt, or rocks. Types of eminent domain include complete taking, in which an entire property is seized, and partial taking, in which only a piece of the property is seized. However, homeowners, quite understandably, may not think this is fair. Examples of eminent domain cases arise, especially when owners feel they are not justly compensated. Inverse condemnation can happen when the deal is unfair to the detriment of the landowner.

What should you do in the case of a property dispute?

1. Collect the proper documentation.

If a dispute arises, begin with a survey, appraisal, and title search. A licensed real estate surveyor can determine whether any encroachment has occurred, a title search will find every document related to the property, and an appraisal will tell you the property's market value. You may have had some of these services performed already. If you ultimately decide to proceed to litigation, you will want these records on hand.

2. Try to negotiate.

In many cases, it may be more beneficial to resolve the issue by mutual agreement rather than litigation in court. Costs in court cases can run extremely high, and you may end up spending more than the land is worth. Simple negotiation may be the most cost-effective and efficient way of working out differences before considering litigation. However, your real estate dispute may be too complex to be resolved with a simple negotiation. You may need to hire an experienced real estate litigation attorney to consider possible legal action.

3. Send a letter.

If none of these measures result in an agreement, your real estate litigation attorney may choose to send a demand letter to the other party as a step toward proceeding to trial. A demand letter will explain the situation and request the action you wish for the other party to take, and may include an offer to settle, such as dividing the property. Once the other party receives the letter, their attorney will review it and consider their options. Ultimately, they may choose to negotiate or not.

4. File a complaint.

If you're still unable to come to an agreement, you can choose to file a legal complaint. The right attorney can help you navigate the process efficiently. The good news is that most disputes can be settled without going to trial. Real estate mediation could be a good option as well. Choosing a mediator well-versed in real estate matters can provide guidance and insight into the possible outcomes of your dispute.

Krogh & Decker's attorneys have over 100 years of expertise in even the most complex real estate disputes and other legal matters. Contact them today to learn more about how they are committed to serving your legal needs and those of the community.

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