Real Estate Lawyers in Pittsburgh, PA

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 What is Real Estate Law and What Does it Cover?

Real estate and property laws cover the purchase and/or sale of a piece of land, home, and/or piece of commercial property. This is often one of the most important personal and largest financial decisions an individual or a business may make. Because of this, it is crucial to know exactly what is being purchased in terms of boundaries, title, and the condition of the property. 

Real estate laws provide protections for many parties, including:

  • Buyers;
  • Sellers;
  • Land owners;
  • Contractors;
  • Real estate agents, and/or 
  • Builders.

During a real estate transaction it is essential that the purchase and sales documents are correctly and clearly written to avoid any disputes and/or delays. If the parties to a transaction have a dispute, litigation may be necessary. Real Estate litigation may include: 

There are some key topics an individual may find useful to be familiar with prior to purchasing and/or selling property. This includes:

  • Brokers;
  • Disclosures; and
  • Buyer’s duties.

Buying and/or selling property is typically done through an agent known as a real estate broker. A broker is an individual who assists with finding a property to purchase and/or assists an owner with selling their property and/or residence.

Disclosures are defects in a property that an individual must disclose when they are selling the property. These may include structural and/or electrical problems, among other issues. The seller has a duty to disclose material defects, which is referred to as the disclosure of material defects, or the disclosure.

A buyer also has certain duties when purchasing a home and/or property. A potential buyer has the right to inspect the property prior to closing for any potential defects and/or zoning issues. 

Additionally, a potential buyer should also check to see if there are any mortgages or liens on the property. A potential buyer should also ensure they are getting a clean title. A potential buyer can review this information at their local county recorder’s office. However, a title search service company typically handles this search prior to a closing when attorneys and real estate agents are involved.

Most states, counties, and even cities have planning and/or zoning laws that regulate land use. If an area has a zoning ordinance, all properties to which the ordinance applies must follow the ordinance unless the owner applies for a variance or the property has a non-conforming use.

A variance permits a property to be used in such a way that may violate the zoning ordinance. A variance may be requested by a property owner. A variance may be required to do certain things, such as add a second story to a structure in a one-story zone.

A non-conforming use is similar to a variance but is obtained in a different manner. If a new zoning ordinance is passed that prohibits the use of property in a certain manner, an owner who has already been using their property in the prohibited manner will most likely be permitted to continue to do so despite the new ordinance.

State vs. Federal Real Estate Law

Real estate laws include both federal and state laws. Federal laws provide protections against discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. It also provides protections from environmental violations.

State real estate laws regulate commercial and residential real property transactions. They also regulate landlord-tenant relationships.

How Will a Mortgage Affect Me?

Typically, when an individual purchases a home, they will obtain financing through a mortgage. A mortgage may also be used to afford improvements on property an individual already owns. 

As with any other type of debt, it is necessary for an individual interested in a mortgage to be aware of the nature and offers of a lending institution. A mortgage loan is often secured by the residence or commercial property. If an individual fails to make payments, they may face foreclosure.

What are Some Common Real Estate Disputes that Occur in the Pittsburgh Area?

The real estate disputes that are common in Pittsburgh are the same as those common in other areas of the United States. Property and real estate disputes may lead to real estate lawsuits, if the issue cannot be settled outside of court. 

A real estate dispute is a legal conflict that involves property affixed to land or the land itself. A real estate dispute does not include a dispute over personal property.

Most real estate disputes involve a breach of contract, often related to the sale of the property. Some common examples of real estate disputes include:

  • A disagreement between neighbors regarding where the property line is located;
  • A neighbor intentionally blocking the view of another neighbor by installing spite fencing and/or other structures such as a row of trees, bushes, and/or hedges in order to irritate their neighbors;
  • A dispute between a landlord and a tenant, such as an issue over who is responsible for what damages and/or repairs to a rental property; and/or 
  • A dispute between a mortgage lender and a creditor regarding who may foreclose on a specific property and receive the proceeds of the foreclosure sale.

Some common causes of action in a real estate lawsuit includes:

  • A homeowner failing to pay monthly mortgage payments;
  • A breach of the mortgage contract;
  • An unauthorized transfers of a real estate title;
  • The illegal usage of land and/or property;
  • A dispute with a mortgage lender, which may include: 
    • foreclosure; 
    • mortgage fraud;
    • predatory lending practices; and/or 
    • discrimination; and/or 
  • A dispute regarding the title and/or the property records.

In some cases, a real estate lawsuit may be complex and involve multiple of the aforementioned causes of action. In addition, states have different laws regarding real estate and property. For these reasons, it is extremely important to consult a real estate attorney for any real estate issues and/or disputes.

Are There any Specific Real Estate Laws to Consider in Pittsburgh? 

Yes, there are specific real estate laws to consider in Pittsburgh. In Pennsylvania, formalities must be met in order for a real estate transaction to be enforceable. Pursuant to the Statute of Frauds, the sales agreement must be in writing and signed by the parties. Additionally, all deeds must contain certain information and be recorded in the Office of the Recorded of Deeds for the county in which the property is located.

In addition to these requirements, Pennsylvania imposes additional requirements. In a residential transaction, pursuant to the Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law, a seller must complete a disclosure form that includes all material defects of which the seller is aware.

All properties in Pennsylvania are subject to a real estate tax unless the property is exempt. Property taxes are imposed by the county, the municipality, and the school district in which the property is located. The tax amount is determined by the County Assessor’s Office. It is based on the property’s estimated market value. 

Do I Need a Pennsylvania Attorney’s Help?

Yes, it is essential to have the help of an experienced Pennsylvania real estate lawyer for any real estate issues you may face. Purchasing a home can be one of the most exciting times of your life, so it is important to protect that purchase and your money. 

Real estate laws cover a wide range of topics and can be very complex. Complicated transactions are best handled by a lawyer that specializes in real estate law. A lawyer can review any issues you may have, including the condition and/or boundaries of your land, the title, and/or the mortgage. A lawyer will gladly review any of these issues prior to your home or land purchase.

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