A property dispute refers to any legal dispute involving real property, also known as real estate. Real property is immoveable property attached directly to the land. Real property includes single-family homes, condominiums, apartments, ponds, canals, and roads.
Parties to Property Disputes
Property disputes may involve the following parties, including but not limited to:
- Landlords and tenants
- Homeowners Associations
- Government agencies
- Family members
- Property visitors
Because of the potential numerosity of parties and disputes involving real property, property disputes make up a large portion of legal claims filed each year. In many cases, legal remedies may include a damages award to cover the plaintiff’s losses, or an injunction ordering one party to remedy a property defect or preventing a party from doing something on his or her property (such as building a spite fence).
Common Types of Property Disputes
Property disputes can happen for any number of reasons. Some common property disputes are as follows:
- Disagreements regarding where the property line exists among neighbors
- Neighbors blocking the view of their neighbor via a spite fence, or a structure such as a fence, row of trees, bushes, or hedges, constructed specifically to annoy a neighbor
- Landlords and tenants disputing who is responsible for what damage and/or repairs in a rental property
- Mortgage lenders and creditors arguing over who can foreclose and receive the proceeds of a foreclosure sale
- Homeowner and real estate developer arguing over who is responsible for necessary home repairs on new construction
- Homeowners disputing whether they granted government agencies a utility easement
- Insurance companies against parties injured on a homeowner’s property regarding who is responsible for the resulting injury
- Ownership disputes regarding who is the lawful owner of a given property
- Whether a property is zoned for the way the property is used (commercial v. residential)
Cloud on Title
A property dispute can put a “cloud” or irregularity in the chain of title of a property. They can happen for any number of reasons, but they are commonly the result of the following:
- Recording error - Where a property transaction was not properly recorded on the property
- Fraud – When a property has been fraudulently recorded using a forged deed
- Liens – If there is an outstanding lien on a property, the lien must first be released to clear title.
Clouds of title are discovered during a title search and prevent a homeowner from refinancing or selling his or her home. They can be resolved by initiating an action to quiet title or quitclaim deed.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Property disputes may involve some very specific legal issues and matters, and real property laws vary from state to state. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need help resolving any property dispute. Regardless of who the parties are, or what types of legal issues are involved, the help of a lawyer is indispensable for these types of cases. Your local real estate attorney should be knowledgeable about the real estate laws in your state and can help you navigate through the process, from filing your claim to trial, if necessary.