While the decision to purchase land should be a joyous occasion, many property sales are marred by expensive and time-consuming lawsuits. The best way to avoid a lots-for-sale lawsuit is to be thorough with inspecting the land and the sale contract prior to finalizing the purchase. However, in the event that you encounter an issue, whether it involves a defect on the land, a property line issue or a breach of contract dispute, you will need to retain a real estate attorney immediately.
In lieu of buying previously developed property, individuals sometimes choose to purchase undeveloped lots of land instead. The property owner is then able to do as they please with the land – leave it barren, use it for farming, or build a house on it. Undeveloped pieces of property are markedly cheaper than purchasing land with houses or other property already constructed upon it.
Lots are mapped out in advance, and the deeds for the lots are recorded with the state’s tax office. An appraiser from the tax office will inspect the land every few years in order to determine the fair market value of the lot. The tax office is in possession of the official property lines in order to determine where a lot starts and ends.
When you purchase a lot of land, you want to be able to enjoy full ownership benefits. However, sometimes, property owners discover lot defects that the seller did not make them aware of prior to signing the contract. One commonly occurring defect is potholes on the surface of the property. Potholes are dangerous and drastically alter the value of a lot. Buildings cannot be constructed on land afflicted with potholes because the ground is not stable enough to support a structure. Normally, previous owners are aware of these pre-existing defects but do not share them with potential buyers due to fear of scaring away a sale. If a seller misrepresents the condition of the lot prior to a sale in order to induce a buyer into signing a contract, the seller has committed fraud.
Lots of land frequently do not have clear demarcations between the start and end of the lot. If you do not own the adjacent lot, you may run into disputes with your neighbor regarding property lines or with the local government or others regarding your use of the property. These disputes include:
- Boundary Disputes: Two adjacent lot owners disagree on where the lines should be drawn. This will most likely need to be settled by a court.
- Zoning Disputes: Without a clear previous use for the land, it may be difficult to ascertain how the property is zoned, and the owner may want or need to challenge the applicable zoning laws to use the lot. Zoning controls whether the property may be used for commercial or residential purposes.
- Title Disputes: A dispute may arise over who owns what on the lot. If the prior owner granted an easement to a party and then sold the lot, the new owner may run into issues with the easement owner.
The most common type of lots-for-sale lawsuit is a breach of contract lawsuit. Contract breaches frequently occur in real estate sales. When a seller refuses to deliver title to the lot after the parties have executed a valid contract, the seller will be required to pay expectancy damages to the buyer. Expectancy damages place the buyer in the same position he would have been in had the contract been fulfilled. Thus the seller may be required to turn the lot over to the buyer or give the buyer monetary damages equal to the fair market value of the land. This can be a windfall for the buyer if the buyer had originally contracted to buy the land at a great price.
Real estate disputes involve an amalgamation of real estate, tax, and contract law and can be incredibly complex and cumbersome. A skilled real estate lawyer will know how to handle a lots-for-sale lawsuit, and will be able to explain your rights, review any contracts or documents, negotiate a settlement, and advocate for your best interests in court.