The real estate litigation practice of our firm encompasses a wide range of issues for both commercial and residential properties.
Real estate litigation can be complicated for many reasons, including:
- The involvement of a wide variety of professionals including architects, engineers, contractors, sub-contractors, etc.
- Soils, water and environmental factors
- Chain of title matters
- The complexity of the documents/deeds that transfer ownership
- The very challenging subject of valuation and appraisal
Valuation of real estate is problematic because it is based on subjective opinion, rather than objective fact. Since no two properties are exactly alike, comparable transactions must be factored based on subjectively assigned values for any differences. Highest and best use, a common appraisal standard, means that property will be valued at the most valuable potential use, regardless of its current use. Highest and best use is also subject to interpretation. The factors taken into consideration in appraising a property include: location, condition, size, age, frontage, income potential, rent stabilized vs. rent controlled, redevelopment opportunities, expansion possibilities and limitations, building code issues, neighborhood characteristics, the vagaries of the real estate market, and engineering and architectural issues. These subjective factors almost always require expert consultation.
Deed and title issues are another area in which complexities abound; these matters often require intensive investigations that can involve tracing ownership, paper and money trails far distances and often into foreign countries.
To properly represent a client in real estate litigation, attorneys must have a thorough understanding of all the elements of real estate, and be broadly experienced in a variety of real estate matters.
A few examples of real estate cases we have handled include:
- The appraisal of a valuable piece of property on First Avenue in New York City. The property became the subject of a dispute between the two principal shareholders of the corporation that owned the property as its principal corporate asset. The trial, which lasted weeks, included complicated, technical testimony from appraisers, architects, and city officials. After the trial we were able to secure a settlement that was fair and in excess of what had been offered.
- In two disputes between a commercial tenant who had an exclusive option to purchase the premise and its landlord, we were able to obtain an order that the landlord breached its contract with the tenant by giving another defendant an option to renew its lease. We also obtained an order, affirmed on appeal, granting our client a “Yellowstone Injunction” barring the landlord form evicting our client and allowing him to cure a default under the lease, if any.
- A family owning multiple pieces of real estate throughout the world fought relentlessly in the courts regarding complicated ownership issues and disputes. We represented a branch of the family all the way to the appellate courts, and were able to obtain resolution in the form of a property exchange and transfer.
- In another family matter, two brothers brought claims against each other relating to a forged deed, which one brother created to transfer real estate to himself. We proved the forgery during a successful jury trial and restored the property to our client.
- In a matter brought by real estate brokers who had been cheated out of their fees, we represented our client through their appeal and were able to recover our client’s entire claim.
- A commercial business was able to win a claim for adverse possession and obtain title to property it had been using for many years despite the fact that the deed showed that the property belonged to its neighbor.
- In a family dispute, our clients were sued by their widowed brother-in-law who claimed that he was entitled to a 62.5% share in a house lived in by two of our clients based upon a deed from our clients’ mother. The deed had been issued many years before and had placed the property in the name of her only child then an adult, with the expectation that all of her children when they came of age would become owners of the property. We obtained a settlement which ensured that our clients had full ownership of the house.
- Please go to our construction and geo-technical page for other real estate related successes.
Real estate transactions and ownership issues can be complicated matters requiring in-depth knowledge about real estate law, values, and legal instruments. For experience and expertise in real estate litigation matters, please feel free to contact our New York or New Jersey real estate litigation attorneys for an evaluation of your case.