If you own or share real estate with another person, there is a decent chance you will have a property dispute with that person at some point. Virginia law provides for specific types of lawsuits that deal with real estate disputes. Common types of disputes include; one person wanting to sell the property but the other wanting to hold it, relatives requesting compensation for improving the value of the property, and disputes as to who actually owns the property.
So how are these disputes brought to the court, and what are some things the court will consider in dealing with these disputes?
Quiet Title Lawsuit
The first type of lawsuit dealing with real estate is known as a “quiet title” action. The reason this type of lawsuit is called quiet title is because you are “quieting” disputes over who holds the title to the land. For example; there may be a dispute over whether someone had the authority to sell a piece of land, or whether they intended to sell the land to one person instead of another.
A quiet title lawsuit is brought in the circuit court where the property is located. In a quiet title lawsuit, the parties are attempting to convince the judge that they have a better right to own the property than the other person. A judge in a quiet title action is trying to determine who actually owns the property. Judges will often consider the chain of title, who sold the property to whom, and compensation.
The second type of lawsuit dealing with real estate is known as a “partition lawsuit.” This type of lawsuit happens when two people own a piece of real estate. One of the parties may want to sell the property, but the other person wants to continue living there. If the two are unable to divide the property to settle the dispute, a court can step in.
In a partition lawsuit, the court is trying to determine what will happen to a piece of real estate given the nature of the dispute. Common outcomes include, but are not limited to, forcing on party to buy the other out, forcing the sale of the real estate, or forcing the parties to simply subdivide the real estate.
Declaratory Relief Action
The third type of lawsuit dealing with real estate is known as a “ declaratory relief action.” The purpose of this kind of lawsuit is to determine whether an easement, covenant, or restriction is valid. For example; if the person who owned the property prior to you put a restriction that “no shed can be built in the backyard,” then a declaratory relief action may be appropriate. Alternatively, if a neighbor had been granted access to a trail through your property, and they are now using it to run a full-time tourism business, you can challenge the use of the easement through a declaratory relief action.
In this type of lawsuit, the court needs to look at the type of easement in dispute, how the easement was created, and what has changed since the easement was created.
Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer
Real estate law can be very complex. If you are having a dispute with another person over the use or ownership of real estate, it is important that you contact a lawyer. The lawyer will need to locate expert witnesses to support your case and track down old documentation to show how the land had previously been used. Failure to hire a lawyer in these kinds of cases may result in losing your valid claim.