Jaime Lathrop, Esq • 182A 26th Street Brooklyn, NY 11232 • 718 857 3663

Real Estate Law

Buying or Selling Your Home
Commercial Real Estate Transactions
Landlord / Tenant
Mortgage Foreclosure Defense

Buying or Selling Your Home

The buying and selling of property, whether a primary residence, vacation home, or investment property, is one of the largest financial commitments most individuals will ever make and it can be one of the most stressful projects a buyer or seller can undertake.

Once an owner decides to sell a property, he or she generally lists the property with a real estate broker. After the property is listed, a "buyer" will make a formal offer, usually a specific dollar amount. Once the seller accepts the offer, the seller's attorney drafts and sends a proposed contract of sale in order for the purchaser's attorney to begin the process of negotiating changes to the contract terms. After the contract negotiations are finished, the buyer's attorney meets with his clients, explains the rights and responsibilities of both parties under the contract, collects the down payment check which is made out to the seller's attorney "as attorney," to be held in escrow until the closing.

After the contract is executed by both parties, the buyer receives an executed copy to obtain financing. The buyer's attorney orders a title examination to determine the liens on the property, real estate taxes, water charges and objections to title that could impair a buyer's title to the property. Once the title issues have been cleared and the bank gives a clearance to close, a closing is set where all parties, as well as a title closer and bank attorney, arrive to consummate the transaction. Loan documents are executed, deed and transfer documents are signed, the title company marks up the title report omitting all objections to title, adjustments for real estate taxes, water and any rent from tenants and finally, exchange of the keys.

The entire scope of representation from initial consultation to receipt of the closing statement (a summary of the transaction) includes, and is not limited to:

Hiring an attorney guarantees that you will receive an expert, unbiased explanation and evaluation of the contract. Your real estate attorney will work to negotiate fair and reasonable terms and will help you avoid pitfalls of which you may be unaware. You may think the contract is clear and easy to understand, but it may contain provisions that are unenforceable or that create more liability than you realize. Litigating your rights after the fact can take years and cost thousands in legal fees.

On the seller's side, some people choose to sell their properties on their own without the help of real estate agency. While this approach can save you thousands of dollars in commission, it also can expose you to liabilities and headaches of which you were unaware. If you decide to sell a property on your own, you should consult an attorney before you consider accepting an offer. Beyond the contract preparation and negotiation, a skillful attorney can maximize the value of your property through adjustments at the closing table. Finally, a closing statement summarizing the transaction, with copies of checks paid, transfer documents and HUD statement makes tax preparation and financial planning much easier when passed along to your tax or financial specialist.

For both purchasers and sellers of real estate, one low fee paid at closing covers the entire representation.

Commercial Real Estate Transactions

The purchase and sale of commercial properties provides a tremendous opportunity for buyers and sellers to profit from the income-generating potential of a material asset. Along with that return on that investment, there is a significant amount of risk in entering into transactions on the commercial real estate market. An experienced attorney can help you avoid some of the many potential pitfalls and allow you to make an informed decision as to the level of risk appropriate to your investment.

Purchases and sales of commercial real estate involve a myriad of Federal, State, and Local regulations. Some transactions may require an administrative agency approval. If a commercial property is secured by blanket mortgages held against other properties, a deeper title analysis is required to avoid potential complications. These issues and countless others face the parties entering into a sale, purchase, refinance, lease, sublease or assignment of commercial real estate.

Landlord / Tenant

New York City landlord-tenant disputes generally fall into three categories:

These disputes are generally heard in New York City Housing Court which is part of the New York City Civil Court system. Some cases are heard in the full Civil Court and still others are brought in Supreme Court (which is really the name of a County Court and not the highest court in New York State.) Many factors determine where a case is commenced (and beyond the scope of this brief description), but include issues of jurisdiction, the amount of money sought as relief or whether discovery is desired.

Some matters are considered Summary Proceedings (usually in Housing Court) and others are Actions. Each carries its own sets of rules. Supreme Court will also hear Article 78 Proceedings, a mechanism to challenge the decision of a city or state agency (such as DHCR).

If you are a tenant facing a housing court lawsuit, or if you are a landlord who has a problem tenant, you'll need an experienced and dedicated professional to defend your interests.

Mortgage Foreclosure Defense

Mortgage foreclosures are lawsuits brought by lenders to compel court to sell the property with a mortgage in default. The court appoints a referee to sell the property at auction, distribute the proceeds, and any surplus.

The decline in the housing market and proliferation of easy credit loans has caused an increase in mortgage foreclosure actions. Many courts are taking a harder stance against lenders who cut corners by putting borrowers in loans they could not afford.

Under New York State laws, mortgage foreclosure is a complex process where the Plaintiff bank must demonstrate certain requirements before the bank can proceed with the foreclosure action. If a plaintiff cannot demonstrate those requirements, a foreclosure proceeding may be delayed or even dismissed to give a homeowner time to refinance the loan or sell the property.

It's never easy facing a lawsuit from a bank, but keep in mind that the loan documents a homeowner signs not only protects the bank the return of their investment, they protect the borrower's right of ownership and time to cure a default as well. You have certain laws and time periods which work to protect your equity in your property.

A professional can help a homeowner negotiate with a loss mitigation specialist in the bank's workout department. These financial analysts are trained to work with homeowners to reinstate a defaulted mortgage. If a bank determines that a loan modification with the borrower would result in a better result than going through with a foreclosure, a bank will discontinue a foreclosure proceeding. While every situation is different and there is no guarantee that homeowner may prevail in their defense, its important if you or someone you know is facing a lawsuit from their mortgage bank that they consult with an attorney to explore all of their options.

If you have been the victim of equity theft or a fraudulent deed transfer, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately.

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