Real Estate Litigation Lawyer in Seattle, Washington
Real estate, whether it is residential or commercial, is often the single greatest asset, investment, and liability that a person or business can make. Real estate transactions, leases, and other undertakings, including the maintenance of the property, must adhere to rules, regulations, and contractual obligations. Failure to comply or unaligned interpretations of obligations can lead to disputes, and disputes can lead to litigation if not handled properly, timely, or adequately. But even then, real estate litigation in Washington may be inevitable to solve problems.
At Meyler Legal, PLLC, our real estate attorney in Seattle, Washington can assist you with strategic, practical advice and will handle real property litigation when problems arise. However, through our representation, we aim to minimize real estate disputes so that costly litigation can be avoided. Contact us at 206-876-7770 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation today.
Common Causes of Real Estate Litigation in Washington
Real estate litigation is a legal dispute over a matter related to real property and it can have a variety of causes. Some of the most common are briefly described below.
Breach of Contract
Parties enter into real estate agreements, or contracts, on a regular basis. When one of those parties does not adhere to the terms of the contract, the other party may sue for a breach of contract. It is imperative that when you sign a contract you understand what exactly you are agreeing to. This means reading the entire contract, including the so-called “fine print.”
In order to avoid any problems in the future, it is a good idea to speak with a real estate attorney in Washington before signing a real estate contract. The attorney can advise you of any concerning issues with the contract, what is expected of you under the terms of the contract, and what you can expect of the other party or parties.
Dispute Over Boundaries
Every property has a boundary, where ownership of one party ends and ownership of another party begins. Often, there are disputes over the exact location of a boundary line, which leads to litigation. Sometimes, neighbors have been operating under the assumption that the property line is something different than what is registered in the county where the property is located. Claims may need to be pursued for adverse possession, ejectment, trespass, nuisance, quiet title, or another cause of action that is appropriate under the circumstances.
Before purchasing a piece of property, it is best to have a survey completed so that you know exactly where the boundaries are and if there are any encroachments on the property. While surveying property prior to purchase is common practice in transactions involving commercial real estate, the practice is much less common in residential transactions in Washington. The extra expense could save you the cost, time and headache of a dispute down the road.
Partition actions are unique in that the party bringing the action is not necessarily alleging that any other party has done anything wrong, but they are often coupled with other claims that lead to the party seeking partition. These actions are often used when a property has more than one owner, and the different owners no longer wish to be co-owners. One party may want to buy out the others, or all parties may want to sell the property and split the proceeds. The court may also conduct an accounting so that it can accurately determine if one party deserves more proceeds than another.
Real Estate Disclosure Issues and Fraud
In Washington, the law is generally “buyer-beware,” putting the burden on the buyer to conduct a thorough and reasonable inspection. In the interest of creating some fairness, the Washington State Legislature enacted laws requiring the seller of property to disclose specific information to the buyer unless an exception applies or the buyer waives the right to receive the disclosures. Different disclosures are required for commercial real estate, unimproved residential real estate, and improved residential real estate. The seller disclosure statement is often referred to as “Form 17” because this is the form number assigned to the preprinted form developed by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service which real estate agents provide to their clients.
Besides statewide disclosures, some counties have enacted laws or regulations that require disclosures in certain situations as well. For example, King County requires certain notices and disclosures if the property has an On-Site Sewage System, often referred to as a “septic system.”Real estate fraud can occur when one party misrepresents information to the other, causing them to rely on bad information, and then suffer damages because of it. The required disclosures are one potential source of information that may give rise to claims for fraud or misrepresentation, but there could be many others. The omission or failure to disclosure material information can also give rise to claims in some situations.
When there is a question as to who the proper owner of a piece of property is or a question as to the superiority of one party’s claim over another, a quiet title action is often brought to settle the matter. A quiet title action allows the court to look at the evidence and determine the correct owner or superiority. Quiet title actions are used for boundary disputes, adverse possession cases, or when ownership of property needs to be determined.
Alternatives to Real Estate Litigation in Washington
Litigation is not always the best route to resolve a real estate dispute. Other options are available to parties involved in a disagreement. The most common is alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR comes in two main forms: arbitration and mediation.
Arbitration is when you and the other party attend a hearing where you present your side of the case to a neutral and knowledgeable arbitrator or panel of arbitrators. In most cases, decisions reached through arbitration are binding on both parties. Arbitrators are typically retired judges, experienced attorneys or other knowledgeable and trained professionals. It is a formal process but can be less time-consuming and less expensive than litigation, although that is not always the case. It is also more private, and the parties can agree on who they wish to be the arbitrator(s).
Mediation is a less formal process than arbitration, where the parties meet and attempt to reach an agreement to which they can all consent. Mediation allows the parties to have a say-so in what happens. In most cases, either party can walk away at any time. The mediator is present to facilitate an agreement and does not make a final ruling.
Boundary Line Agreement
The Washington State Legislature has also enacted RCW 58.04.007, which is a statutory procedure that allows parties to resolve a boundary line dispute or an ambiguity regarding a property without the need to commence litigation. This is a great alternative that can save the parties significant costs and delays but requires an agreement between the parties.
How Can a Real Estate Litigation Lawyer Help Your Case?
Litigation can be overwhelming. For someone who has no experience, the rules of procedure alone can be intimidating, let alone building, supporting, and persuasively arguing your case. A litigation attorney knowledgeable in real estate offers real benefits, which include.
- Determining the right legal action to take
- Interpreting any contracts, statutes or caselaw
- Obtaining additional and relevant documentation you may not possess yourself
- Drafting documents needed to move your case toward a resolution
- Corresponding effectively with other parties, particularly their attorneys, to negotiate a settlement or non-trial resolution
- Taking the proper steps to bring a case to court or counter a case brought against you
- Oversee your case from start to finish
- Defend your rights and protect your interests
A real estate dispute can be all-consuming. Retaining competent legal counsel may be the best way – both for you and your business – to resolve your real estate problem.
Contact a Real Estate Litigation Attorney in Seattle, Washington Today
At Meyler Legal, PLLC, we help our clients to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case, litigate when necessary, and help clients reach a resolution or settlement when it is in our clients’ best interests. Real estate disputes can become costly, and so our real estate litigation lawyer uses our resources wisely to procure the best possible outcome for you. Contact us today by filling out the online form or calling us at 206-876-7770 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.