Because purchasing real estate, housing, and/or property is such a large and complex undertaking, real estate laws are in place to govern the process. It is important to know exactly what is being purchased in terms of land boundaries, property title, and the condition of the premises.

Real Estate law provides protections for:

  • Buyers;
  • Sellers:
  • Land owners;
  • Contractors;
  • Real estate agents; and
  • Builders.

Over the course of the transaction, it is important that the sales and purchase documents are well written, in order to avoid problems and delays later on in the process. The need for litigation could occur concerning:

Real estate and property law governs a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Buying;
  • Selling;
  • Using; and
  • Leasing residential or commercial property.

Real estate and property law also governs the financial aspects associated with real property, such as mortgages, liens, and foreclosures. Additionally, wills and trust law can sometimes be included; however, they may also be separated as their own subtopic of estate law.

What Are Mortgages, and How Do They Affect Me?

A mortgage is a type of security interest. It is attached to a piece property that is being paid for with borrowed money. This security interest acts as a sort of collateral for the repayment of a loan, when a person borrows from a bank or other financial institution in order to pay for the property.

An example of this would be when a person wishes to buy a house, but they do not have the funds to purchase it outright. A bank or other lending institution will provide the money, and a mortgage is then placed on the property. This is to ensure that if the borrower defaults on their loan, the lender will have the legal right to take possession of that property.

A mortgage transaction is composed of two important documents, which are the promissory note and the mortgage or “deed of trust.” A promissory note is a type of legal contract which generally states that one party promises to repay a specific amount of money to the lending party, and within a set time frame. This note is what holds the borrower responsible for repaying the loan, which remains true even if the borrower sells the property at a later date.

A mortgage or deed of trust document is what acts as a lien on the property. What this means is that if the borrower does not repay their loan, the lender can force them to repay it by selling the property in question. The mortgage document itself is what guarantees that a financial institution will get their money back, even if it is not the actual borrower making the repayments.

Once a borrower has failed to repay their mortgage, the lender may begin the foreclosure process. This refers to the process in which a lender takes possession of a home or property because the borrower has defaulted on their mortgage payments. Once the foreclosure process is complete, the lender generally sells the property at a public auction so they may use the proceeds to recover their losses.

If the sale of the property or home does not equal the amount that the lender is owed, the borrower may be required to make up the difference. This is referred to as a deficiency judgment, due to the fact that the money recovered from the auction or sale of the property was deficient in terms of covering the amount of the loan.

What Are Some Common Real Estate Law Disputes and How Are They Resolved?

Real estate disputes involve real property as defined by the law; property that is affixed to the land or a piece of land itself, as opposed to personal property. These specific types of disputes generally involve properties that are worth considerable amounts of money, and can take months to years to resolve. They may also involve several financial and/or court resources. Because of this, it is common for people involved in a real estate dispute to seek alternative forms of dispute resolution.

Real estate lawsuits involve disputes over real property, such as a residential home. These lawsuits are often filed over the issues that were previously mentioned, such as land title and boundary disputes. These lawsuits can involve a number of different parties, including:

  • The homeowner, who is generally the borrower in a mortgage agreement;
  • The mortgage company, who is generally the lender;
  • Other lending institutions, such as banks or private lenders;
  • Secondary or tertiary mortgage companies;
  • Appraisers, who estimate the value of the property; and
  • Government agencies, specifically for land use or zoning disputes.

To reiterate, real property refers to immovable property that is attached directly to the land. Under this definition, the following are included:

  • Single family homes;
  • Condominiums;
  • Apartments;
  • Bodies of water such as ponds and canals; and
  • Roads.

Generally speaking, real estate disputes are resolved with a damages award which serves to compensate the non-liable party for losses. Other forms of resolving real estate disputes include:

  • Injunctions, such as an order to cease additional construction efforts;
  • Mediation or arbitration which involves a neutral party to help facilitate discussions between the disputing parties;
  • Various fines or fees, as are common for city or state zoning/land use violations;
  • Specific performance, such as requiring one party to perform their contract duties; and
  • Various other remedies, such as a judicial lien on the property in question.

Differing state laws could influence which types of remedies are available based on the specific dispute. In several real estate lawsuits, a monetary damages award may not always be practical. Courts frequently recommend alternative legal remedies, such as the forced sale of the home as previously mentioned.

What Are Some Consequences of Real Estate Violations in North Dakota?

If you are experiencing real estate violations in North Dakota, you will need to file a complaint with their Real Estate Commission. However, it is important to note that the Commission cannot recover damages. This would need to be done through a civil lawsuit. Civil suit consequences generally consist of a damages award and/or an injunction, as previously discussed.

Does North Dakota Have Any Unique Property Laws?

In terms of property laws, some examples specific to North Dakota include the following:

  • Each state offers a homestead exemption, as well as homestead protection laws. North Dakota allows $100,000 maximum in property value that may be designated as a homestead;
  • Adverse possession laws allow a person to gain legal title to someone else’s property, if they openly inhabit the property for a set amount of time. In North Dakota, this time period varies between ten and twenty years; and
  • The statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit in North Dakota range from two to ten years. In terms of real estate disputes, the statute of limitations generally lasts for six years.

Do I Need to Hire a North Dakota Real Estate Law Attorney for Help?

If you are located in North Dakota and are experiencing any issues related to real estate law, you should consult with an experienced local North Dakota real estate attorney. It is important that you work with someone local to your state, as state laws regarding the subject can vary widely.

An experienced real estate attorney in your area will be best suited to helping you understand North Dakota-specific real estate laws, and the consequences for violating any of those laws. An attorney will also be able to represent you in court as needed. Finally, an attorney can also file a civil lawsuit on your behalf, if necessary.