Real property (land) and improved real property (with something built upon it) and the ability to use it as the owner pleases is one of the reasons (along with sought-out religious freedom) America exists. People pushed west for their own land or homestead (also known as a home place). However, with industrialization, more limits were necessary on the unfettered use of real estate. Nevertheless, where a legal dispute arises, it still often creates deep emotional responses overshadowing the case as real estate is in the psyche of Americans.
Common types of legal cases involve: (1) condemnation, where a branch of government tries to use its eminent domain powers to condemn land and purchase it for public benefit; (2) property line/boundary disputes; (3) zoning matters (where the land is subject to government regulation because it is within its legal boundaries); (4) restrictive covenant disputes between a homeowner’s use of a house and property in a division subject to these covenants (Crawley v. Oak Bend, 2001); (5) a lien on land by a contractor as a precursor to foreclose on the land for payment (Mullis v. Brennan, 1999); and (6) claims for use of land of another by adverse possession, which frequently arises with shared driveways (Whitman v. Denzik, 2008).
When such real estate disputes or commercial property disputes arise it often leads to litigation, including filing an equitable injunction with a court to stop the use pending the trial on the merits. As the old saying goes, good fences make good neighbors. As an individual, what can you do if you find yourself involved in a real estate dispute? The legal and stakes can sometimes become very high almost overnight when property is newly improved and there is perhaps a boundary dispute or the land/structures upon it are found to be contaminated, such as with underground tanks or lead-based paint.
If these, or a similar circumstances, are what you face, the first place to start is to consider contacting a real property attorney. However, not all potential or current landowners engage an Indianapolis real estate attorney due to a real estate dispute. Perhaps you and/or your company are thinking of building commercial property, and the adjacent property owner is not supportive of the idea or a variance this would require. With a knowledgeable attorney, a lot of preliminary work can be done to make this probable or possible.
Or maybe the matter is one that necessitates a cease and desist letter to an adjacent property owner who is conducting life or business that causes a nuisance, like loud noises throughout the night. This may be prudent before filing a suit. Maybe there is a dispute with the neighbors over where your property ends and theirs begins when the sale of a house is at issue (if there is a staked survey versus a boundary survey).
All of these topics may be addressed by a real property lawyer who can help you craft a legal plan for your commercial or personal real property matter/dispute to reach or attempt to reach your legal objective. Moreover, if real estate disputes involve a question of boundaries – which is very common because old survey methods were not precise like today’s laser survey tools–and who owns what property, often a search of the titles of both properties, an inspection of tax mapping, and recorded legal surveys can be a helpful starting point in determining the land division and boundaries for the parties. However, there can be other potential issues if, for example, the land involved has a government easement or has been used by the non-owner for several years without objection from the true owner.
If a real estate dispute involves zoning or land use, there are often codes that can be reviewed to determine the proper use of the real property. For example, without the proper zoning and permits contingent upon it, it may not be possible to build a commercial business in what is considered a residential area. Understanding the zoning board/commission and how best to work with same can help alleviate potential issues before they arise or help problems already in existence.
Ultimately, consulting with a real property lawyer can help you navigate these waters and determine the best course of action for you and your personal or business property. And this may be a net financial savings if done before a lawsuit or governmental action is taken. A real property attorney will assist you in a variety of ways, from helping you to avoid a problem between neighbors to helping you with your commercial property matters. This is the essence of practice for a real property attorney.
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