Real Estate Law
Long, Knight, Huff-Harris & Hagan, P.C. is able to assist you with all of your real estate property needs. We represent buyers and sellers in closing on their residential and commercial real estate transactions. Long, Knight, Huff-Harris & Hagan, P.C. is experienced with short sales, foreclosures, and REO (bank owned property) transactions. Our attorneys represent landlords and/or tenants with their leasing issues. We can also help you in land court if you have a boundary line dispute with your present home or a neighboring home (commonly known as adverse possession).
Residential Real Estate Transactions
Whether you are looking to purchase a property or sell your own home, we can help. The transaction usually begins with a sales contract for purchase and sale. Most often a standard contract is used, but it is important to retain a knowledgeable attorney who can modify the contract to best represent your rights in the transaction. Additional terms may also be added to the contract and are referred to as “riders”.
There are major aspects of a purchase and sale that a buyer and seller can negotiate. These include: time limits and requirements of home inspections (including septic tank inspections under certain circumstances), mortgage contingencies, specifications for surveys, access rights to the property, lead and radon gas disclosures, mold disclosures as well as many other terms. A knowledgeable real estate attorney can assist you with selecting the most beneficial terms so that your transaction goes as smoothly as possible, in your favor.
Once the contract is signed, the parties cannot cancel or change the transaction (including pricing) at the risk of losing any deposit(s) that were submitted in consideration of the terms of the real estate contract. However, in most circumstances, the seller and buyer may agree to waive any term in the contract so long as it is in a writing signed by both and the waiver is not unconscionable.
Most often, from start to finish, residential real estate transactions take approximately two to three months. Cash transactions may take even less time, while you may find that your financed transactions could take longer than expected. This is especially true if the lender is not cooperative or efficient in their process.
Commercial Real Estate Transactions
Like the residential real estate transaction, the commercial real estate transaction starts with a contract for purchase and sale. The major difference, however, is that these contracts are not standard and are customized by the seller and/or by their attorneys. Another difference between the two is the use of legal entities (such as the limited liability companies or corporations rather than individuals) in the ownership of the real estate. Therefore, you are not only dealing with individuals but rather with businesses along with their managerial authority to sign and bind the companies. More often, investors involve themselves in commercial transactions rather than residential real estate purchase and sales.
Other aspects of the commercial real estate transaction may be more complicated than the real estate transaction. For instance, a more formal escrow policy may be used due to the large amounts of funds involved in these transactions in contrast with real estate transactions. Title to commercial property is also more complex as the property may have multiple types of structures (physical structures, multiple lots, etc.), which may each be subject to separate easements, utilities and other rights of ways. The title commitment must therefore be prepared specifically so that title insurance can be issued despite these complexities. Further, due diligence is generally done in advance of closing, unlike residential real estate closings where the due diligence may occur right up to closing. Finally, borrowers do not afford the protections of federal laws such as The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (which was recently merged with the Truth in Lending Act) when they borrow money to purchase commercial real estate. The intricate nature of commercial real estate transactions compels the need to hire a commercial real estate attorney to assist in the transaction.
Leasing disputes happen in both residential and commercial settings. Similar to many other states, Massachusetts follows laws that are very tenant-friendly. This is because the state feels that a tenant is more vulnerable to abuse than sophisticated property owners. However, tenants are more protected in residential leases as compared to commercial leases. In commercial leases, the terms of the lease generally govern the rights and obligations of the parties and most state tenant protection laws do not apply.
Tenant Disputes (Residential and Commercial Leases)
As a tenant, you are protected in many ways in Massachusetts. For instance, landlords are required to make certain disclosures prior to you moving into the residence including, but not limited to: information about the condition of the property, insurance specifications on the property (upon tenant’s request) and information about where the security deposit is being held (as well as the account number). See Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 186, § 15B. Pursuant to the law, landlords covenant to allow their tenants the quiet enjoyment of their occupancy (or residential rentals) and must take all reasonable measures to stop any person or activity that disrupts tenant’s enjoyment of the property. Tenants may withhold rent or exercise the right of “repair and deduct” if a landlord fails to take care of essential repairs, such as a broken heater. State law further regulates how the late fees may be calculated as well as the circumstances and procedures governing a lease termination. You may also have one or more local ordinances on your side. Finally, there are certain housing discrimination laws landlords must follow.
If you are a tenant of a commercial lease, you may have remedies as well. The remedies are similar to that of residential leases, but may also include breach of contract actions and other similar claims. The commercial real estate contract will govern your rights and obligations; therefore if you believe your landlord is not acting property, you should allow an attorney to review your contract to determine your rights.
Don’t be hasty and take matters into your own hands as that may cause you to be in the wrong. If you feel that your landlord has wronged you, contact a tenant/landlord attorney to assess your options. Remember, the law emphasizes that your landlord cannot retaliate against you for seeking out remedies to a dispute they have created.
Landlord Disputes (Residential and Commercial Leases)
If you are a landlord and are having a hard time with a tenant, or would like to prepare an ironclad lease agreement for your commercial real estate property, contact Long, Knight, Huff-Harris & Hagan, P.C.! Our attorneys represent clients in the eviction process. Our attorneys can also act as the middle person to collect past due rent if you prefer not to evict the tenant or if your tenant is no longer living at the property. Long Knight helps enforce commercial real estate contracts and/or amend commercial real estate contracts if you and/or your tenant no longer see eye-to-eye on the terms. While you may not have all of the rights and protections that a tenant does, our attorneys can still maximize your rights to achieve intended objectives.
Boundary Disputes and Adverse Possession
In Massachusetts, adverse possession is a common law doctrine that may result in a homeowner losing title to their land through hostile possession. Adverse possession generally occurs if a person does not openly claim any part of their land for a certain amount of years. Specifically, to win on an adverse possession claim, a plaintiff must prove the following: there has been open use of another’s land, such use has been continuous for at least twenty (20) years, such use has been exclusive, such use has been adverse and such use has been notorious.
Oftentimes, old surveys or incorrectly taken surveys may be the root of boundary disputes and/or adverse possession claims. Adverse possession issues could also arise from a circumstance as minor as a fence or a wall over a boundary line to as large as a whole home being claimed by another individual. In some cases, adverse possession may be fixed easily but in other cases litigating such issues may be very costly and/or involve large loss of land. Complex cases usually require litigation procedures in land court or a lawsuit filed to “quiet title” the home.
Adverse possession claims may also cloud title when a person sells their property, which prompts individuals to litigate. Allow our land court attorneys to resolve your land dispute and/or advise you on your legal options.