Real Estate Litigation
The Litigation Group has significant experience in real estate title disputes, including commercial and residential agreements of sales and leases, eminent domain (condemnation), quiet title and ejectment actions, partition, storm water, zoning and municipal litigation, improper tax and foreclosure sales, adverse possession, and easements.
Partition involves the division of real estate, or its proceeds, among multiple owners. Often disputes between owners arise regarding taxes, repairs, rents, improvements, and use. Partition serves as a remedy to those disputes.
Quiet title and ejectment relate to the title to real estate and its lawful occupation and possession. Quiet title may be used to resolve questions as to the legitimacy or correctness of a deed, mortgage, or other real estate document. Ejectment is a companion action that removes a person from real estate who does not have title to it.
Storm water is a common enemy every owner of real property must contend with. Generally, water must be permitted to flow naturally and cannot be channeled, dammed, or concentrated and redirected. Damages that occur as the result of man-made change to the natural flow of water, its concentration or direction, are recoverable.
Adverse possession and related concepts concern boundary and property ownership disputes. These disputes usually occur where one owner possesses, occupies, or uses another owner’s land without permission and in defiance of rightful title over significant periods of time. Disputes may also occur as to fence or tree lines, hedges, or the location of driveways that are placed upon the wrong land.
Easements and deed restrictions are rights or burdens placed on real estate for a specific purpose, such as a driveway, a trail, or a limitation on the number of homes that may be built or the uses permitted at the property. Over time, the purposes of the easements or deed restrictions may have changed, or the affected owners may have violated the applicable terms, requiring renegotiation or action by the court.
Title litigation often occurs where more than one person or entity claims legal ownership of all or part of a piece of real estate. Title litigation may involve fraud, questionable real estate transactions, faulty legal descriptions, overlapping boundaries, inconsistent surveys, and encroachments.
Breaches of an agreement of sale for real estate may result in the loss of the transaction, escrow deposit, and/or cause additional damages. Nevertheless, valid defenses or grounds to enforce the agreement may exist. Breaches of a lease may result in eviction, loss of deposits, monetary damages, acceleration, and, specifically in the context of a commercial lease, may also result in the entry of confession of judgment for money or possession of the property.
Tax and foreclosure proceedings involve the divestment of interests in real property. Notice and compliance with the applicable rules and the law are key to an effective sale. It is important to know that every person or entity with an interest in the real estate must be notified, not just the record owner. If notice is faulty or the applicable rules and the law are not followed, a sale may be set aside or determined to be a nullity.
Eminent domain (condemnation) involves the taking of private property for public use by a governmental body or corporation given the power of eminent domain by law. An owner whose property interests have been taken must receive estimated just compensation from the condemnor, the party taking the property.
Zoning, land use, and municipal litigation arise in various contexts under the codes and ordinances of a municipal body and under the statutes of Pennsylvania. Interested parties in opposition to proposed land use and zoning matters must obtain party status and must appear before the municipality.
Trespasses and nuisances are torts committed in connection with real estate. Certain actions by one party over, or on, the property of another, without justification or permission, may constitute a trespass, such as unauthorized dumping or hunting, or other unauthorized use or occupation. A nuisance is an action that occurs on the real estate of another that harms another’s property, such as excessive light, noise, noxious smell or fumes, or a violation of zoning or safety codes.