Real Estate Litigation
The Firm represents national and local clients in every variety of dispute arising out of residential and commercial real estate transactions, including broker defense, claims of non‑disclosure, lender defense, partner disputes, construction defects, homeowner associations, breach of purchase and sale agreements, partnership dissolution, due diligence, and fraud.
We also represent both commercial and residential brokerage firms, including brokers and real estate salespersons in connection with all types of real estate transactions. We prosecute and defend mechanics liens and all manner of title disputes, including partition, encroachment, quiet title and easement claims. And we are well‑versed in leasing law, regularly representing landlords and tenants in commercial leasing disputes.
CONSTRUCTION DEFECT LITIGATION
The Firm defends subcontractors in the generally complicated, frustrating, and time‑consuming world of construction defect litigation. Often, the claimant sues every person/firm that was even remotely connected to the construction project. This generally means that the subcontractor who had a small part to play in the project finds himself/herself in the middle of protracted and contested litigation. Our goal in such a case is to craft a defense strategy that minimizes our client's exposure while also making our client's defense an economic possibility.
COVENANTS AND EQUITABLE SERVITUDES
The Firm litigates the little‑known area of the law concerning covenants and their cousin, the equitable servitude. A covenant is a recorded agreement that, if certain strict statutory requirements are satisfied, binds a landowner to do ‑ or refrain from doing ‑ some act or acts. An equitable servitude is an agreement that for one reason or another fails as a covenant but nevertheless is enforced as if it were a covenant. Covenants and equitable servitudes can affect either residential or commercial properties. If necessary, and where appropriate, we will help our clients make a claim against their title insurer.
The Firm is regularly called upon to litigate all manner of issues related to recorded easements, express unrecorded easement agreements, implied easements, and prescriptive easements that affect both residential and commercial property. We regularly interface with appraisers and property surveyors, so if your situation requires such an analysis, we can quickly and efficiently get it accomplished before making the decision to litigate. Neighbor disputes over the scope of an easement are common, and we have extensive experience with negotiating and if necessary, litigating, such disputes. We have also litigated claims to invalidate easements, including easements which cloud title for one reason or another. If necessary, and where appropriate, we will help our clients make a claim against their title insurer.
Where non‑judicial foreclosure of trust deeds is not available ‑ or desirable ‑ the Firm files suit to obtain a decree of judicial foreclosure. This situation arises generally where the trust deed is esoteric in nature and does not permit a non‑judicial foreclosure, or when the lien claimant is the holder of a judgment lien that was not paid when the attached property transferred from the judgment debtor to a new owner. Either way, judicial foreclosures can be traps for the unwary, and the Firm's litigators pride themselves on being thorough and knowledgeable in this area of the law.
The Firm defends commercial landlords and property owners being sued by tenants. We also represent commercial landlords in their efforts to evict tenants when the unlawful detainer proceeding presents unique problems. On occasion, we accept representation of commercial tenants resisting unlawful detainer proceedings. While the Firm does not generally represent parties to a residential unlawful detainer, we have from time to time made exceptions. In any context, the law of landlord/tenant is extremely technical and requires a litigator with knowledge of the law and the ability to conduct fast and efficient research to confirm that the law is on our client's side.
The Firm maintains a thriving practice of filing suits to foreclose on mechanics liens recorded by contractors against property to which they have provided services, labor, materials and/or equipment. A highly technical area of the law, mechanics' lien foreclosure amounts to a significant area of the Firm's practice. For contractors, we offer a tiered contingency fee structure, thus permitting a contractor to economically foreclose on his/her lien and obtain satisfaction with minimal expense. The Firm also is regularly called upon to defend against bogus lien claims, and we have been successful in expunging liens both with and without the direct filing of suit. We have extensive experience representing banks, bonding agents, subcontractors, general contractors, homeowners, commercial property owners, and developers.
The Firm represents homeowners in disputes with their neighbors, generally concerning issues related to boundaries, land use, easements, or trees. These types of disputes can be highly emotional, and the Firm prides itself on taking the proverbial step back and counseling its clients on the most practical approach to resolution, be it through litigation or some other means.
The Firm represents sellers, buyers, real estate agents and brokers in disputes concerning sellers' (and their agents') failure to disclose material facts in the purchase/sale transaction which should have been disclosed. We are routinely called upon to defend agents when claims have been made against them alleging both intentional and negligent breach of fiduciary duty. Within the residential context, we routinely participate in mandatory mediation and binding arbitration that is generally required per the California Association of Realtors' version of the purchase/sale agreement. Where arbitration has been declined by one or all parties, we pursue or defend litigation in the Superior Court. Within the commercial context, we have experience in both arbitration and litigation before the Superior Court.
Partition actions seek to sell and divide proceeds of real property owned by two or more co‑tenants. While in general, each co‑tenant has the absolute right to seek partition, there are almost always significant disputes concerning both whether that right is available and also, if available, then to what extent the proceeds to each co‑tenant are subject to adjustment. A partition lawsuit requires interface with title insurance representatives as well as the appointment of a referee to sell the property. A partition lawsuit action can be a lengthy process and generally proceeds in four stages: obtaining an order of partition and sale, the appointment of a referee, the order of sale, and the distribution of proceeds. At each stage, extensive litigation may be necessary or desired. Our litigators are qualified to litigate the issues relevant at each stage of a partition action.
The Firm's litigators represent both plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving claims to quiet title. These are generally complicated cases, typically requiring the use of experts. Whether our client needs to remove an easement that was recorded eighty years ago and suffers from statutory non‑use, or needs to defend a lien position, the Firm's litigators can assemble a team to do it. We regularly interface with property surveyors, so if your situation requires a survey, we can quickly and efficiently get it accomplished before making the decision to litigate. If necessary, and where appropriate, we will help our clients make a claim against their title insurer.
When necessary, the Firm seeks the appointment of a receiver. This requires extraordinary action by counsel and the court, and in general, the court will only appoint a receiver over property in extreme circumstances. In practice, this typically occurs in one of three situations: (1) When a borrower (with a loan secured by real property) is in default, and the property is generating significant income flow that could fund the installment payments required by the loan; (2) when the property itself is in danger of being devalued or has in fact been devalued beyond the face amount of the loan, or (3) in the post judgment context, when a judgment debtor who refuses to pay a judgment, has the right to a stream of income generated by a particular property, either his own or in the control of a third party.
SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE OF PURCHASE AGREEMENTS
The Firm is called upon to obtain a decree from the Superior Court requiring a reluctant buyer to follow through with a purchase/sale contract. Generally available only to non‑defaulting sellers, specific performance of a contract can be a difficult-to-obtain equitable remedy. Typically, it is sought on an emergency basis in conjunction with the filing of a new lawsuit. However, we have also sought such decrees in connection with post‑judgment orders requiring the sale of a specific asset.