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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.

Need An Attorney In California?

FindLaw's Lawyer Directory is the largest online directory of attorneys. Browse more than one million listings, covering everything from divorce to DUI to employment law. The directory covers lawyers all across the state, including Irvine, Long Beach, Beverly Hills, San Jose, Ventura, Fresno, Palm Springs, San Bernardino, and anywhere in Northern California or Southern California.

FindLaw's detailed California law firm profiles have information like the firm's areas of law, office locations, office hours, and payment options. Attorney profiles include the biography, law school education and training, and client recommendations of an attorney to help you decide who to hire.

Use the contact form on the profiles to find a lawyer in California for legal advice.

How To Hire a Good California Attorney

Finding the best lawyer for your unique situation can be a challenge, but the best way to hire a good California attorney is to talk with them, ask them questions, and make sure they meet all your needs. This usually starts with their practice area. Determine which lawyers can handle your type of case and then find a California attorney with experience in that area. So it will be important to ask about each lawyer’s years of experience, legal training, and strategy to your unique legal case.

The attorney-client relationship may also be important. If it is your first time dealing with a legal issue, you may be looking for a lawyer who can clearly and patiently explain the legal process, identify your options, and answer all your questions. You may also want an attorney who is available at any time to provide legal advice. Think about questions to ask, like if there are updates to your case, how will that be communicated? Are there specific California law deadlines that you are required to meet?

The location of your attorney's law office may also be an important factor. In larger cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco, you may want to find a lawyer with a convenient location to you so that you don't have to drive an hour just for signing legal papers. However, some legal services can be primarily conducted through phone calls, emails, written correspondence, and video calls, so you could, for example, have a lawyer in Sacramento handle your legal issues in Riverside.

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