Philadelphia Lawyers - Real Estate

Real Estate Lawyers in Philadelphia

The team at RS Law Group represents its diverse clientele in all aspects of real estate from purchase, to development to disposition. Whether a first-time buyer, an institutional investor or a real estate service company, our team provides a breadth of services that meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of clients across all asset classes. We not only provide a full suite of legal services but also intimately understand the business of real estate. Blending our knowledge of the industry and the intricacies of the legal landscape, we help our clients navigate nearly any circumstances. Our clients include: investors, developers, general contractors, commercial lenders, title companies, property managers, real estate brokerages, and individuals.

Transactional Real Estate

We are extensively experienced with all transactional documents and negotiate zealously on our clients’ behalves in the preparation of:

Acquisition / Disposition Documents

• Represent buyers and sellers in over $500M in transactions.
• Experience with complex commercial and “straight-forward” residential transactions.
• Representation at settlement
• Third party oversight (real estate agents, title company, and lenders)

Debt/equity loan/investments agreements, LOIs, MOUs

Our firm works with investors of all asset classes and experience, recognizing the hardships in changing capital environments.  As investors ourselves, the managing partners approach each situation not only from a legal perspective but also from a business perspective. For that reason, our repeat investor clients seek out our advice prior to entering into any transaction.

Joint Venture Agreement

Joint Venture (JV) agreements are contracts between two or more parties that join together for the purpose of advancing a single project. Generally, parties enter into a JV agreement when they want to work together on a specific transaction or project, but do not want to create a partnership involving their entire businesses. The JV agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of the parties, including profit/loss allocation, management, and other related terms.

Commercial Lease

Commercial lease agreements between a business and a landlord grant the business the right to occupy a property under very specific terms. Businesses should take their time to understand their rights and obligations before signing a commercial lease, including important terms on modifications/improvements, assignments/subleases, and methods for dispute resolution. Landlords too should ensure their lease agreements are both compliant with all local laws and protect their interest to the full extent of the law.

Condominium Declarations, Bylaws, and Regulations

When you buy a condominium, you are actually purchasing ownership in two separate entities. First, you are purchasing the condo unit itself. Second, you are purchasing an interest in the “common elements,” which represents the common areas of the project.  Developers of condominiums should take care in ensuring they have all required documents to form such communities and that those documents are drafted by an experienced attorney.

Condo Declaration

This document creates the condominium project and must be recorded with the city or township. It lists the rights and interests of each condo owner, and sets out general rules over common areas, maintenance, and other areas of the association.

Public Offering Statements, Bylaws, and Rules & Regulations

The condo bylaws and associated rules & regulations explain how the association will function on a daily basis. It details the voting rights of members, the role of the board, and more specific regulations for remedies when members breach the condo association’s rules. A public offering statement is required to be filed prior to selling any of the condo units.

Construction Agreement

Construction agreements set out the parameters of a project, each party’s rights and obligations, and other important terms like the schedule and payment timelines. Depending on the type of project involved, constructions agreements can become very detailed and complicated as the complexity of the project increases. The attorneys at RS Law group have experience drafting construction agreements and at trial litigating breaches of construction agreements.

Deed/title documents preparation and review
Whether you want to find out if transfer taxes are avoidable on intra-family transfers, need a consolidation/subdivision deeds, or need advice about your title policy, we are here to help.  Our managing partner Jason is a licensed Pennsylvania title agent and co-owner of a title company.

Land Use

RS Law Groups real estate practice also involves Land Use and Zoning, encompassing representation before Registered Community Organizations, Zoning Board of Adjustments and litigation.  We have extensive experience working with both large developers and individual homeowners to assist with all types of zoning and land use issues. The zoning code can be complex; our team is here to help.  RS Law Group approaches Land Use and Zoning not only as a legal issue, but as a political one.  Using our intimate understanding of the interests and motivations of communities and other parties involved RS Law Group attains outcomes beneficial to all.

Deed Consolidation/Subdivision

Consolidating land involves taking two or more parcels and combining them into one. Subdividing takes one plot and divides it into several. Typical reasons for changing property boundaries include consolidating parcels to build a family home, or subdividing plots for an investment. Whatever your reason for consolidating/subdividing, it is important to comply with a city’s regulations, as failure to comply could result in title issues, building code violations, fines and work stoppages.

Zoning Changes

Zoning laws regulate what owners can do with their property. For example, a building zoned as “residential” cannot be operated as a retail store. However, owners can seek to change the zoned status of their properties to other uses by filing applications with the Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA) and meeting with the local neighborhood’s zoning board, known in Philadelphia as Registered Community Organizations (RCO). Often, zoning changes can be complex and time-consuming efforts due to the various regulations and agencies involved in the process. When considering applying for a zoning change, it is important to choose experienced advocates to help you navigate this challenging process.

Variances

A variance allows property owners to change the legally allowed uses of a property from a use that was prohibited to one that is permitted, for example, and owner of a residential property may request a variance to use the property for a commercial purpose. Another type of variance often sought by property owners are “dimensional” variances, which if granted can allow property owners to construct something with dimensions that do not conform to the zoning code as it is written. This could include such requests as height of the property, size of rear yard, size of side yard, set back and many other dimensional variance requests.

Real Estate Litigation

At RS Law Group, we believe in doing everything possible to avoid litigation, and counsel our clients with this strategy in mind, every step of the way.  Our experience has shown that the best way to avoid litigation is to prepare for every contingency and possibility throughout the course of any transaction involving real estate. Whether drafting contracts to purchase or sell real estate or negotiating access to neighboring properties during development, we strive to prepare agreements that make litigation unlikely, however even the best agreements and relationships can turn litigious.  RS Law Group is prepared for that possibility and has the experience and insight needed to provide our clients with favorable results. Our real estate litigation practice includes:

Title and Boundary Disputes

A title dispute occurs when there is a disagreement between two or more people over the ownership of a specific piece of property, or the particular boundaries of that property.

Quiet Title
To settle the ownership dispute, an individual may bring an action to “quiet title.” An action to quiet title is a proceeding where a party seeks a court order determining the ownership of a property. This can also occur if there is a prior lien against the property that should have been released or satisfied.
Eminent Domain
The power of the government, federal and state, to take private property for a public purpose (with fair compensation). Public use is a broad term that covers common infrastructure projects like roads and bridges but can also extend to commercial developments. The government is obligated to offer a price for the property, and property owners may challenge the government’s valuation or decision to expropriate their property, but the chances of success are often low.
Adverse Possession
Under specific circumstances, trespassers can gain legal ownership of your land. Generally, the requirements for a trespasser to gain ownership of your property are strict and difficult to meet. For example, and along with other requirements, Pennsylvania law might require that the trespasser openly (this could mean obviously, or otherwise noticeably) trespass on the land for a period of 20 years before one can bring a claim of ownership. Owners can often take simple steps to protect their property from being adversely possessed – for example, by building a fence around their entire property.
Ejectments

Ejectments are distinguished from evictions in Pennsylvania. Ejectment is the process by which an owner of a property removes occupants who no longerdo not have the legal right to reside occupy at that property. People living on your property without permission could be classified under the law as squatters, trespassers, or tenants. It is important to know which category the unwanted person fits into because it determines what legal procedure you will have to follow to remove them. In Philadelphia, legally removing a squatter requires filing an ejectment complaint with the Court of Common Pleas before you can involve the sheriff’s office to enforce the judgment. Exercising self-help, defined as trying to remove these types of residents without a court order can subject one to various liability; it is best to consult an experienced attorney when dealing with ejectment issues.Ejectments are distinguished from evictions in Pennsylvania. Ejectment is the process by which an owner of a property removes occupants who no longerdo not have the legal right to reside occupy at that property. People living on your property without permission could be classified under the law as squatters, trespassers, or tenants. It is important to know which category the unwanted person fits into because it determines what legal procedure you will have to follow to remove them. In Philadelphia, legally removing a squatter requires filing an ejectment complaint with the Court of Common Pleas before you can involve the sheriff’s office to enforce the judgment. Exercising self-help, defined as trying to remove these types of residents without a court order can subject one to various liability; it is best to consult an experienced attorney when dealing with ejectment issues.

Commercial Foreclosure

When a commercial property owner defaults on a loan, the lender will generally send a notice of default informing the borrower/owner that a default has occurred and offering a limited period to cure the default. At this point, the borrower has several options that do not necessarily involve giving up the property. The borrower can attempt to restructure the loan or to provide additional collateral, among other things. If the parties are unable to come to a new agreement, the lender may commence proceedings in court to foreclose on the property.When a commercial property owner defaults on a loan, the lender will generally send a notice of default informing the borrower/owner that a default has occurred and offering a limited period to cure the default. At this point, the borrower has several options that do not necessarily involve giving up the property. The borrower can attempt to restructure the loan or to provide additional collateral, among other things. If the parties are unable to come to a new agreement, the lender may commence proceedings in court to foreclose on the property.

Municipal Agency Appeal
Various city agencies have the power to issue fines, revoke licenses, and deny approvals for projects and businesses. For example, Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections may fine a property owner for failing to follow proper building safety standards. In these situations, the individual or business can generally appeal the fine or punishment, with the potential to get it reduced, changed, or eliminated. The appeals process can be complex to maneuver due to the many regulations and documents that need to be reviewed and presented for the appeal.Various city agencies have the power to issue fines, revoke licenses, and deny approvals for projects and businesses. For example, Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections may fine a property owner for failing to follow proper building safety standards. In these situations, the individual or business can generally appeal the fine or punishment, with the potential to get it reduced, changed, or eliminated. The appeals process can be complex to maneuver due to the many regulations and documents that need to be reviewed and presented for the appeal.
Real Estate Tax Appeals

Cities require anyone who owns taxable property to pay Real Estate Taxes. Taxes are generally based on your property’s assessed value. In Philadelphia, the tax on real estate is 1.3998% of the assessed value as determined by the city assessor’s office. Usually the assessor may value a property improperly and subject that property to higher tax obligation than it should have. The city provides for two levels of appeal to the Board of Revision of Taxes, where reassessment focuses on the conformity of the value with the neighborhood and with other comparable properties. Further appeals can be taken by property owners as well.

Landlord-Tenant Dispute

State and city law govern many areas of landlord-tenant disputes. For example, in Pennsylvania, tenants can withhold rent from the landlord if the landlord has failed to repair an important area of the home, such as heating or water however, must deposit such rent into an escrow account. Further local laws specify when a landlord can evict a tenant, what type of notice and licensure is required, and any tenant protections that exist. In Philadelphia, tenants may file complaints with the Fair Housing Commission if the landlord engages in illegal conduct.

Construction litigation
Construction litigation involves different experts and complex construction issues, so it is important to retain counsel that is well-versed in all aspect of this type of litigation.  We have representing both real estate developers and individual homeowners as plaintiff and as defendants, including extensive trial work.

Resources

Seller's Guide

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Buyer's Guide

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