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What is Real Estate Law and How Does it Apply to Me?

by Maddy Rametta

When it comes to buying, selling, or even owning property, there are rules and laws that govern how things are done. Real estate law focuses on property such as homes, commercial buildings and land. This encompasses the process of buying or selling real estate, as well rights of landlords, tenants, and buyers, homeowners, homeowners’/condominium associations, and their limitations, and different situational exceptions.


A real estate attorney is excellent to have not just to clarify the law, but also to assist with drafting, amending and finalizing contracts. They can conduct and attend closings, conduct title searches, and serve as a knowledgeable representative for a buyer or seller. A real estate attorney can also help one structure the ownership of their properties to protect them from creditors and reduce tax liability when properties are inherited. When dealing with property, it is important to find a qualified real estate attorney to help protect you and your assets.


Possession and Sale of Real Estate


Real estate law, or real property law, applies to nearly every situation concerning real property as opposed to dealing with personal property, otherwise known as objects. When buying or selling a property, it dictates required terms that must be in a purchase contract, disclosures that a seller must make about the property to a buyer and consequences for failing to adhere to legal requirements for those transactions. It determines who can occupy a property, how long they can occupy that property, and their rights related to their possession of that property. “Possession” can relate to the owner of a property but also those who rent the right to live or use that property.


Landlord Tenant Relationships


Real estate law covers the rights of landlords and tenants, such as what a landlord must provide  when renting to a tenant to pay to live there. It defines what landlords can do in terms of their property and what they are prohibited from doing that may violate their tenant’s use and enjoyment of the property they are renting. The laws also define what rights Tenants have to be protected from bad actors, as well as expectations they must meet to avoid eviction. Many individuals believe that the landlord tenant laws in Florida are very favorable to landlords, and tenants have to follow very specific rules to make sure their rights are protected by the court.


Other Real Estate Matters


Real estate law also encompasses specific exceptions to the usual laws, such as those surrounding historic buildings, what can or cannot be done on certain land, instances where the government can use or even take privately owned land, and other matters. Environmental protection, historical preservation, construction safety, disability accessibility, and how aesthetics affects a community all fall under real estate law. Some of these laws are state-wide, some of them are specific to a city, and others are even specific to a neighborhood.

Real estate law surrounding disability accessibility would come into play when new businesses or multi-unit housing are being constructed. Because of the laws in place, businesses and apartment/condominium complexes may be required to build ramps or elevators to accommodate those who may not be able to climb flights of stairs or use stairs at all. Homeowners’ associations are also required to follow laws that determine what rules they can enforce and what they control in their communities, as well as homeowners rights to protect them from associations that overstep their authority.


Closing of Real Estate


“Closing” of real estate means when the sale of a property is getting ready to legally change hands. In some cases, your state or lender may require a real estate attorney to conduct the transaction. However, in Florida it is not required by law to hire a real estate attorney for the closing of a real estate sale. Despite this, it is highly recommended to have an attorney to guide you through the process and help with any documents or contracts surrounding your property ownership. Aside from the ability to clarify legal jargon and make the law clearer to you, real estate attorneys have in-depth knowledge on nearly every aspect of real estate law. They are useful in the process of buying or selling real estate to represent either the buyer or the seller and make sure they are getting treated fairly and paying a reasonable price.


Real Estate Contracts


When it comes to contracts regarding real estate, a real estate attorney can help draft new contracts, amend existing contracts, and eventually finalize these contracts fairly and lawfully. Title searches are examinations of public records to determine who legally owns property, which are also conducted by real estate attorneys. Getting title work done is very important, because a piece of real estate may have a lien (a legal representation of an existing unpaid debt on a property or the owner of the property) that could cause a buyer significant problems down the road if not dealt with prior to the legal transfer of the property. In fact, a lender may not allow the transfer to take place if these issues are not resolved.

If there are any contractual issues with your sale or purchase, or any specific situations like purchasing through auctions or selling a home that is part of a divorce settlement, a real estate attorney can save you time, energy, and money.


Finding the Right Real Estate Attorney For You


When searching for your own real estate attorney, it is important to ask the right questions, and make sure that the attorney is for you. Some questions that would help determine that you’ve found the right person are: What type of cases do you handle? How many cases have you represented that are like mine? Who will be involved in my case? What is the likely outcome in my case? What challenges might appear with my case? Asking the questions that apply to your specific situation can help better prepare both yourself and an attorney.


If there are any other legal situations you are involved with, such as you are actively seeking a visa or are awaiting trial for a crime, it is important to share this information with your attorney to protect your rights and make sure your real estate concerns won’t have unwanted legal ramifications. If English isn’t your first language, try to find an attorney who can speak your native language to make sure you fully understand what the attorney is trying to tell you and that they understand what you are trying to tell them. Should you have any questions or need a real estate attorney, do not hesitate to contact the Law Firm of Gian-Franco Melendez, LLC to speak with an experienced Real Estate Attorney about your options.