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Citron & Citron

What Can I Do About A Boundary Dispute With A Neighbor?

If there is a boundary dispute between neighbors, the first thing I will recommend is that they have a conversation and try to reach an agreement. All too often, people take these cases to trial without ever trying to have a conversation. When these cases go to trial, the jury will often ask why both sides didn’t just sit down and try to figure it out rather than pursue a lawsuit.

Where Can Subsidence And Contamination Of Property Issues Arise In California?

Subsidence and contamination can happen in many different areas, such as underground storage tanks for gas stations and illegal dumping sites.

Will I Receive Fair Compensation For Contamination Or Subsidence On My Property?

If someone’s property has been contaminated and we have been hired to represent that person, we will make it our goal to ensure that fair compensation is received. Part of what will dictate whether that’s possible is whether the at-fault party has adequate reserves or insurance to provide compensation.

Will My Property Be Restored To Suitable And Safe Conditions As Part Of The Settlement Agreement?

Whether property will be restored to suitable and safe conditions as part of the settlement agreement will depend on whether the party responsible for the subsidence or contamination has insurance, or whether government coverage will be available. For instance, in an underground storage tank, the local government might provide funding to allow for the cleanup.

In Your Experience, What Are Some Of The Most Common Reasons Real Estate Disputes Between Buyers And Sellers Arise?

Most of my experience has been in multi-family sales and purchases, where habitability or discrimination lawsuits are common. Usually, a buyer will find a distressed asset and think that they can immediately clean it up. However, what many buyers don’t know is that when they buy a distressed asset, they buy all of the problems that come with it. I always counsel my clients to factor in that a lawsuit against property could affect their insurance, reserves, and financial future with respect to that distressed asset.

How Can Real Estate Disputes Between Buyers And Sellers Be Avoided In The First Place?

Candid conversations at the outset of a transaction can help prevent disputes between buyers and sellers. It is important to at least attempt to work through the issues before starting with litigation; this makes people appear more reasonable when they eventually have to go before a jury.

What Are Some Potential Alternative Resolution Methods To Real Estate Disputes Between Buyers And Sellers?

Alternative resolution methods include having a conversation, going to mediation or arbitration. Litigation should be a last resort if the parties can’t reach an agreement.

What Exactly Is An Easement, And What Are The Different Types Of Easements In California?

There are a number of different easements that apply to different situations. For instance, if someone is landlocked and needs to access a street, then they could create an easement through someone else’s property to get to that street.

How Do I Go About Getting An Easement?

If someone wants to get an easement, the first step would be to talk to the other party involved, such as the neighbor whose property the easement would apply to. If that party won’t grant the right to use their property, then it may be necessary to go to court and claim that the easement is a necessity. There are several ways to go about getting an easement.

How Is COVID-19 Impacting Your Practice Areas?

Business is definitely not “as usual” right now. About 70 percent of our staff are in the office and everyone else is staying home because of the stay-at-home orders in California. I have been handling a lot of landlord/tenant disputes regarding payment of rent and habitability conditions.

What Does The Specialization of Habitability Entail?

Over the last 10 to 15 years, I have specialized in habitability work, representing Fortune 500 companies as well as mom-and-pop landlords facing claims on a multi-family scale project of either discrimination or habitability problems. I’ve probably tried more of these lawsuits than just about anyone in the state of California.

Habitability is a niche practice area that deals with the essentials in a living space, such as an apartment complex. Essentials include water, power, protection from vermin, roaches, bedbugs, and mold.

Many of my clients are landlords and property owners, but over the past couple of years I accepted two cases in Northern California, wherein I represented tenants who were suing their landlords for very significant habitability problems. Those cases not only resulted in really good awards for the plaintiffs, but also fundamental changes with regard to the business practice of landlords who claim to help low-income tenants, but really just neglect them. My experience representing landlords was very valuable to me in those cases, because it gave me the advantage of knowing how they are supposed to operate.

How Can A Tenant Prove That A Dwelling Is Uninhabitable? What Kind Of Evidence Is Helpful In These Cases?

In proving that a dwelling is uninhabitable, it is important to have a governmental notice of the uninhabitable condition. If the landlord doesn’t correct it within 35 days, then the tenant will be compensated for the problem and for attorney fees if the case is going to be prosecuted. This becomes a driver not only for the insurance carrier that’s evaluating it on the other side, but also for the client. In some cases, there is the potential of the landlord being personally exposed for the uninhabitable conditions.

How Can A Landlord Prove That The Tenant Is Wrong, And That The Dwelling Is Habitable And Safe?

For a landlord, one of the most important things to do is be proactive and responsive when receiving a complaint from a tenant. Such complaints should be responded to in writing and documented in the tenant’s file or in the property management software. This will ensure that there is a specific timeline showing that the landlord was proactive and responsive in addressing the issue.

Who Could Be Held Liable In These Cases?

The defendants in habitability cases are usually property owners/the insurance companies of property owners, since an indemnity clause usually applies to property managers. It is becoming increasingly common for insurance companies to not cover attorney fees, which means the property owners are responsible for paying them. As insurance companies continue to remove coverage for attorney fees, landlords are going to have more choices as to who they can hire, and I would love to highlight my expertise in that realm.

Can A Property Owner Defend Themselves Against A Habitability Claim By Saying That The Property Manager Did Not Inform Them Of The Condition?

A lot of tenant rights attorneys will tell their clients to not notify management but to call the government agency instead, and then not allow management to fix the condition so that they can get that 35-day mark and claim attorney fees for it. In fact, I’m handling a case right now where an attorney basically instructed his client to shut out management for a period of months while she claimed she had mold in her unit in order to build her case. The attorney published this in the media and at the same time refused to allow the landlord access to remediate the condition.

At What Point Should A Tenant Or Landlord Hire An Attorney?

It is incredibly important to speak to an attorney prior to litigation. My firm won’t charge people who call with a simple question. If there is the potential for litigation, then it would be in a tenant and a landlord’s best interest to speak to an attorney who can try to help the parties reach a resolution and avoid the expense and risk associated with litigation. I’ve won just about every case I’ve tried, but there is no guarantee of success when the decision rests in the hands of 12 jurors.

For more information on Real Estate, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (310) 504-3347 today.

Thomas Citron

Call Us Now To Get Started
(310) 450-6695

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