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What Is Real Estate Law?

Real estate law is a broad category of legal practice that usually covers cases concerning property, land, rental units and accommodations, zoning laws and requirements and many other facets of the real estate industry.

Real estate law, or property law, generally refers to the laws surrounding the ownership or use of land in the United States. Real estate law is a branch of civil law that covers the right to possess, use and enjoy land and the attached permanent human-made additions. Real estate law impacts most of us on a daily basis, affecting everyone from homeowners to renters, landlords, home buyers and home sellers.

In the United States, every state has exclusive jurisdiction over the land within its borders. Each state has the power to determine the form and effect of a transfer of real property in its jurisdiction. As a result, state law requirements vary significantly from state to state.

What Are Types of Real Estate Cases?

There are several types of cases that might require a real estate lawyer.

  • Landlord/tenant disputes: Millions of people in the United States rent property, but rentals sometimes come with certain problems such as arguments between landlords and tenants. A real estate lawyer can help landlords in collecting overdue or otherwise legally owed rent or work with courts to help ensure that tenants are abiding by the terms of an established, co-signed rental agreement. Real estate lawyers may also be called upon to protect tenants who argue that they are being mistreated, abused or taken advantage of by their landlords. Real estate lawyers might also handle illegal rent increases, unsafe or unhealthy sanitary conditions in an apartment unit and other concerns.
  • Closing on property/buying property: While it is always an option to consult with a real estate attorney when closing on a property, several states (including Connecticut, Delaware, George, Massachusetts, North and South Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia) are commonly known as "attorney closing states" which require credentialed attorneys to supervise the sale of the home and to be present at closing. Meanwhile, other states (namely Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming) are known as "attorney title opinion states." In these listed jurisdictions, a real estate lawyer is required to sign off on a property title in order to certify it.
  • Foreclosure: Foreclosures can be a real legal challenge, with a great deal of jargon and written documentation or correspondence coming into play. Most often, individuals facing foreclosure hire real estate lawyers specializing in such matters in order to give them the best possible chance of retaining their home or other property.
  • Estate planning: Real estate lawyers can be helpful in not only establishing all of the legal framework such as documentation and wills relating to the creation of a solid estate, but also in terms of making sure that the disbursal of the estate goes smoothly when the time comes.

Other situations in which a real estate lawyer could prove useful might involving attempting a change of zoning for a property you hold, dealing with title or surveyor disputes as to the actual dimensions of a plot of land, or similar.

Do You Need a Lawyer in Pennsylvania?

There are a variety of reasons you might need to find a lawyer in Pennsylvania, from facing criminal charges to filing a lawsuit or even just buying a house.

If you are facing criminal charges, it is extremely important to be represented by skilled legal counsel. Not only can retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney increase your chances of a favorable outcome if your case does go to trial (improving your odds of attaining an acquittal), but also if you opt to negotiate a plea deal or to plead guilty, a lawyer can ensure you are treated fairly within the boundaries of the law.

On the other hand, if you are looking to file a legal claim of any sort, it is equally advisable to find a Pennsylvania lawyer familiar with your type of legal matter. Attorneys have spent years (if not decades) of their lives in pursuit of the knowledge and skills necessary to best represent their clients in court proceedings. Legal jargon, obscure precedent, existing and newly passed statutes and other elements of the legal process demand that a professional lawyer is always capable of seeking the best possible outcome.

Can I Represent Myself in Pennsylvania?

While representing yourself in court can sound like a good idea on the surface, particularly given the relative cost of retaining legal counsel, it is almost universally considered to be a poor idea. No amount of quick research can act as a substitute for the skills and experience that lawyers attain through working several years in the court system.

How do I choose a lawyer?

Consider the following:

Comfort Level
- Are you comfortable telling the lawyer personal information? Does the lawyer seem interested in solving your problem?

- How long has the lawyer been in practice? Has the lawyer worked on other cases similar to yours?

- How are the lawyer's fees structured - hourly or flat fee? Can the lawyer estimate the cost of your case?

- Is the lawyer's office conveniently located near you?

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