REAL ESTATE LAW Homebuyer Duties and Rights When buying a home, a buyer must perform the same due diligence in investigating title as would a commercial investor. Both before and after escrow, it is important that a potential buyer obtain an attorney to review the chain of title for the property and ensure that no defects exist before closing. Our firm offers an affordable and effective option for buyers seeking to perform a thorough title search for a prospective home, allowing buyers to identify any latent title or property defects as early as possible. Although most homeowners will provide for a proper building inspection, a physical inspection will not reveal many potentially fatal defects of property. These defects can include encumbrances, mechanics liens for improvements to the property, state and federal tax liens, homeowner’s association regulation violations and liens, mortgage assignment issues, legal description errors on the deed, and the possibility of issues related to deed fraud. Property-Line and Land-Use Disputes Sometimes, property-line and boundary issues can arise regarding fences and existing structures, restrictive covenants, easements, or zoning and land-use restrictions. Property lines usually are delineated in the deed to each property, yet neighbors often disagree on where that line rests between their properties. In the case of fences and existing structures, improvements to the land may cross boundary lines and encroach on a neighbor’s property, potentially causing disputes regarding responsibility and control over repairs and improvements. Structures may also violate local laws because of improper construction or the builder’s failure to obtain proper permits before installation. Our attorneys have experience dealing with both property-line disputes and improper-permitting issues, and have successfully assisted clients in resolving such disputes in a timely and efficient manner. Seller Duties Under Florida Law Sellers also have duties under Florida laws that require the disclosure of any facts that would materially affect the value of the property being sold. This involves disclosure of any latent issues that a physical inspection would not uncover and any actual or potential threats of litigation involving the property. Sellers also must disclose issues such as disputes over property boundary lines; termite infestations; problems with roofing; concerns with plumbing or electrical wiring; the presence of asbestos or Chinese drywall; and any history with, or susceptibility to, the development of sinkholes. These duties are strictly enforced, and the failure to disclose any latent issues may result in serious legal consequences. Our attorneys provide invaluable advice regarding mandatory seller disclosures, and ensure that our clients are adequately protected against any future claims. By consulting an attorney, sellers can ensure that all property defects subject to disclosure have been made while still preserving the ability to sell their home for fair market value. Restrictive covenants are limitations on land use that are contained in the deed to a property; these covenants control issues such as land maintenance and appearance, building restrictions, tree and landscaping rules, architectural and physical appearance, pet ownership and parking rules, and requirements for notification before repairs. Restrictive covenants are enforced by either a homeowner’s association or individual owners subject to the same deed restrictions. Easements, on the other hand, provide an explicit or permissive right for individuals to access the land of another for their own use; these may include paths, roads, installed improvements, or other encroachments. Finally, zoning and land-use restrictions are enforced through local ordinances and statutes, and violations of these restrictions can arise with pre-existing structures on the property. Our firm advises and assists clients dealing with various land-use restrictions and violations, and ensures that disputes are resolved reasonably and equitably. “Our firm offers an affordable and effective option for buyers seeking to perform a thorough title search for a prospective property, allowing buyers to identify any latent title or property defects as early as possible.” COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE Cooke Law Group has considerable experience dealing with various aspects of commercial investments, loan workouts, due diligence review, title work, and closings. Our attorneys have represented parties ranging from joint venture entities to hedge funds in commercial property deals and disputes. Our firm advises clients regarding a wide array of commercial real estate, including condominium developments, retail outlets, office complexes, undeveloped land, industrial sites, residential developments, general commercial buildings, and mixed-use developments. Commercial Financing and Closings Our attorneys have counseled clients on various practical and legal issues related to commercial real estate transactions. In the area of finance, we have assisted in compiling documentation for commercial loan applications, and have successfully aided clients seeking commercial loan workouts. Before our clients apply for financing, our attorneys perform due diligence inspections regarding the property to effectively estimate and plan for any potential fees or special terms that may be associated with a loan. For buyers that may be assuming an existing lease on a property, our attorneys advise as to potential issues relating to lease terms or agreements and complications regarding existing tenants. Finally, our firm drafts and reviews closing documents, including Contracts of Sale and Purchase/Sale Agreements. Due Diligence Procedures We also perform due diligence before closing, starting with an initial chain-of-title review to discover any existing encumbrances or flaws concerning title to the property. Following title review, a buyer must ensure that a proper survey is performed on the land to document the existence and location of any licenses, permits, or easements on the property. Survey of the land is often accompanied by an inquiry into the current zoning and land-use laws that affect the property, as well as a confirmation of potential business use with the appropriate authorities to ensure future compliance with those regulations. A potential investor must also schedule and review the results of building to make certain that all structural and regulatory building requirements are satisfied. Additional inspections should also be performed to confirm that all potential environmental regulation and compliance issues are identified and addressed in a timely fashion. By seeking the assistance of an attorney regarding the process of due diligence, a buyer can ensure that all procedures are performed properly and that potential issues with a property are identified and resolved in a timely and efficient manner.