Real Estate

Real Estate Law

TUCSON REAL ESTATE LAWYER

Real Estate

Freeman & St. Clair is one of the top legal firms for real estate in Tucson.  We have over 30 years’ experience in drafting and editing leases for landlords, providing services during eviction processes, and every other aspect of property management for both residential and commercial properties.  We also protect the rights of both buyers and sellers during real estate transactions by making sure their contracts are perfect before our clients sign them.

The only tenants we represent are businesses that are renting buildings or other commercial spaces in Arizona.  We do not represent tenants who are renting apartments or houses as their residences.

We draft, review and negotiate contracts for all kinds of real estate transactions, whether you are a buyer, seller, developer or leaser of a property.  We represent both building contractors and homeowners who find themselves in various kinds of disputes over construction issues. We also represent both homeowners or home owner associations in legal conflicts with one another. We have handled cases involving property owners with legal issues with their neighbors.

Although it is legal in Arizona to allow real estate brokers to draft contracts for people buying and selling homes, land, or commercial buildings, it is always best practice to have  your own attorney look over your contract. The lawyers at Freeman & St. Clair will guide you through the process and protect your interests. You can ask questions like, “Should I put the title in joint tenancy or tenancy in common?” or “What are points, and why do I have to pay them?” or “What does it mean to buy a property ‘as is?’”  

Your attorney at Freeman & St. Clair will answer your every real estate question in simple, not legalese language.  Our attorneys can also help you if you have signed a contract to buy property, and later find out that your new home or commercial building has major problems.

Check out the articles below, and then be sure and fill out the form on this website to request a consultation with an attorney who will help you with your every real estate matter.

EVICTIONS, FORCIBLE DETAINERS, WRITS OF RESOLUTION

REAL ESTATE CONTRACTS FOR BUYING AND SELLING COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

REAL ESTATE LEASES FOR LANDLORDS AND COMMERCIAL TENANTS

REAL ESTATE CONTRACTS FOR HOME BUYERS AND SELLERS

WHAT IF I BOUGHT A PROPERTY ‘AS IS’?

HOME OWNERS ASSOCIATIONS

DISPUTES WITH NEIGHBORS

REAL ESTATE FRAUDS AND MISREPRESENTATIONS

TENANT EVICTION IN ARIZONA

Freeman & St. Clair charges a flat fee of $150 (plus costs) to carry out evictions, which are also called “forcible retainers.”  While it is possible for a landlord to do evictions themselves, most find the process difficult, exhausting, and time-consuming.  It is also easy for the do-it-yourself landlord to make errors, such as not serving legal notices properly or missing deadlines, which can cost them many times $150.

 

Why would a landlord evict a tenant?

The most common reason is non-payment of rent.  However, landlords can and do evict tenants for other reasons, such as violating conditions of their leases on multiple occasions, severely damaging the rental property, or conducting illegal activities in the rental property.

 

How do tenants defend themselves against being evicted?

Tenants defend themselves by going to court and showing that they have fixed whatever they did wrong. They try to prove that they are legally entitled to stay in their units. They can remain in their units if they pay all past-due rent and any fees or penalties within a certain time frame. If they can prove that their landlords did not follow proper eviction procedures, they can also remain in their units.  

Compared to other states, Arizona’s laws tend to favor tenants.Tenants can pay for repairs under $300 or a half-month’s rent, whichever is greater, and deduct that amount from rent payments. Tenants can defend themselves against eviction by proving the premises are unfit or non-inhabitable, not in compliance with health and safety codes,  do not have air conditioning, electricity, or water, or if appliances are not working.

 

What are the steps of the eviction process?

A landlord does not have the right to put a renter’s furniture and other property on a street corner without going through a careful legal process of eviction within an Arizona court.  Likewise, a landlord cannot cut off the tenant’s electricity and other utilities to force a tenant to move out.

The eviction process can be complicated and expensive for a landlord. It involves filing court documents, paying court fees, serving the tenant with a formal eviction notice and later serving notice of a court summons, appearing in courtrooms, and even hiring experts to testify in your behalf. All of these actions must meet certain time frames or else they are invalid.

If the tenant does not move out on his or her own after a court has found in favor of the landlord, the landlord then has to file a Writ of Resolution and notify the sheriff or constable, who then removes the tenant’s possessions. The landlord cannot just get rid of these possessions. He must provide storage for 21 days before selling it.

The law firm of Freeman & St. Clair can handle the entire process for you for a flat fee of $150 that nearly always saves you money in the long run.

 

REAL ESTATE CONTRACTS FOR COMMERCIAL BUYERS & SELLERS

It is especially risky to buy or sell commercial property without a lawyer’s expertise, even though this is allowable under Arizona law. Your lawyer at Freeman & St. Clair can advise you on tax issues, environmental and water laws, zoning questions, adverse possession, and other legal matters associated with buying and selling commercial properties and buildings.  Your real estate broker cannot.

We have seen clients buy vacant lots with the intention of putting a business on them that is not allowed under the zoning code.  We have had clients buy restaurants and other businesses, assuming that all the expensive equipment in their buildings, was included in the deal, only to find out that the sellers took everything out. Other clients have brought properties that they did not know were to be condemned by the city to make way for a new road or university building.

Having a lawyer from Freeman & St. Clair read over your contract is inexpensive, especially when you consider how much a bad deal can cost you later.

 

REAL ESTATE LEASES FOR COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES

Many landlords try to save money by using leases they buy from online technology companies like Legal Zoom.  These standard, one-size-fits-all documents can cause trouble once the tenant occupies the space, which is when problems arise that were not covered by a simple lease.  Having an experienced attorney from Freeman & St. Clair draft, review and negotiate your lease will protect you from such costly legal issues in the future.

As a landlord, you face issues concerning environmental laws and Fair Housing Discrimination. You have to have proper insurance.  You may need to allow inspections to comply with health and safety codes in your city, and you have to comply with your tenants’ rights to privacy, disposal of abandoned property, and many other complexities. This is why you need your own attorney to draft your lease so that you are addressing all these contingencies in advance.

Likewise, tenants need protection too, especially those leasing commercial spaces. The wrong lease can mean you are responsible for losses, such as the time an oil truck owned by a tenant’s client leaked oil into the Suffolk County sewage system in New York, costing the tenant tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

Since commercial tenants usually pay for space by square foot, they can end up overpaying for common areas like lobbies and elevators unless the terms of the lease spell everything out and define the exact areas of the rented space.

A well-written lease spells out the terms of whether the tenant or landlord pays for maintenance, taxes, utilities, landscaping, and building repairs within exact time frames.  

If you as a tenant don’t understand the terms of your lease, you may be signing an “escalation clause,” which means you are agreeing to periodic, automatic increases in your rent.

Before you sign any contract involving commercial real estate,  phone the lawyers at Freeman & St. Clair. They will be happy to make sure you get the best result.

 

REAL ESTATE CONTRACTS FOR HOME BUYERS & SELLERS

Under Arizona law, a real estate broker can legally handle all aspects of buying and selling property, including finding a title company, going through the escrow process, handling home appraisals and inspections, helping with loan processes, and the transfer and recording of the deed.  However, a broker cannot give out legal advice during any aspect of the process.

Sometimes buyers and sellers, especially first-timers, have no idea what escrow means, how a deed should be recorded, how they should set up title provisions, and other aspects of the deal.   They often have to assume that the broker has their best interests in mind and does not just want to close a sale as soon as possible, even though the broker’s payment comes only once the deal is closed.

Under these circumstances, it is easy for two laypeople –you and your broker– with no expertise in the law, to overlook certain aspects of the contract that cause trouble later down the road.  That is why it is always best practice to have your own attorney read your pending real estate transaction with only your best interests in mind. Your attorney at Freeman & St. Clair can check every detail for you to make sure the deal is fair to you and goes smoothly.

You would be surprised to know how much can go wrong if you do not have your own attorney’s expertise.  We have seen clients who brought homes where the former owners took all the lighting fixtures, and even big-ticket items like garage doors, when they moved out. We have seen clients who bought homes with “unclean” titles that cost thousands to fix. People have also bought properties which had been condemned as uninhabitable –not up to safety and health codes.

Many new home buyers do not understand the terms of the contracts they are signing, especially with provisions like balloon payments, amortizations, and other contingencies.  They may not realize that their new neighbors have the right to close off a road to their house, or that their Home Owners Association does not allow dogs or certain roofs.

 

WHAT IF I BOUGHT PROPERTY ‘AS IS’?

Buyers often find major defects in their properties once they take possession of them. This can happen even if the property passed an inspection process.

For example, you may discover that your building’s heating and air conditioning does not operate, or you experience flash flooding the first time it rains.

Because these buyers signed contracts to buy a building or grounds “as is,” or because the former owners may have left town, they usually think they have no regress under Arizona law. Yet if the buyer failed to tell you about the defects before you bought the property, you may have a legal remedy. You can phone the lawyers at Freeman & St. Clair and explain your difficulties to find out if there is a legal solution to your problem, even if you purchased “as is.”

 

HOME OWNERS ASSOCIATIONS CONFLICTS

Homeowners frequently get into disputes with their HOAs for any number of reasons.  HOAs can have complex rules that regulate whether you can own a pet or put in a pool, the nature of your landscaping, the colors you can paint your house, and even the height of your fencing. They can regulate even small things like whether you can put up certain lawn ornaments, political signs, or even the American flag.  HOAs can raise their monthly fees when they encounter financial problems, even if it was the HOA that mismanaged the funds.

Likewise, Homeowners Associations can sue homeowners for non-compliance. For example, they can ask that a home-based business be shut down or sue a homeowner for non-payment of fees.

The lawyers at Freeman & St. Clair have represented both HOAs as well as homeowners in such disputes.  Many times your lawyer can solve minor problems with a phone call or letter before they escalate into a costlier lawsuit.  Give us a call and/or fill out the form on this website to find your best representation in Tucson.

 

LEGAL DISPUTES WITH NEIGHBORS

Sometimes it can be impossible for people in neighboring homes to settle disputes without the help of a lawyer.  The lawyers at Freeman & St. Clair have over 30 years’ experience in helping parties settle such problems without a lawsuit, if possible.

Encroachment of property occurs when a neighbor tries to build or otherwise take possession of land that belongs to you.  Our firm has seen cases when someone built a garage, access road, shed and so forth on the adjoining property without first consulting the deed and property lines.  

While boundary disputes are the most common issues between neighbors, they can also be in conflict over the cause of flooding, noise nuisances, blocking scenic views, and the keeping of dangerous or farm animals.  Our lawyers have even seen cases in which a homeowner builds in such a way that blocks his neighbor’s collection of solar energy. Sometimes our lawyers can end these disputes amicably without filing lawsuits. Sometimes these matters turn out to be criminal concerns, such as you realize that your neighbors are operating a methamphetamine laboratory. Freeman & St. Clair’s lawyers can handle most neighbor disputes, and can refer you to a criminal attorney, if necessary.

 

REAL ESTATE FRAUDS AND MISREPRESENTATIONS

Both of these situations can be deal-breakers in real estate, but one of them can become a criminal matter.

In a real estate misrepresentation, a seller or broker makes an innocent mistake when describing a property. For example, the buyer may have been told that the building has insulation when it does not.

In real estate fraud, a seller or broker knowingly represents the property in a way he or she knows is untrue. For example, the seller does not disclose there are liens on the property, or that the property is in a flood zone.

In such cases, buyers can file lawsuits, seeking monetary damages if they relied on false information when they purchased the property, and then lost money as a result.  In cases of fraud, the buyer may be able to sue for “punitive damages” as well, which means those who committed fraud have to pay extra as a punishment for lying.

Sellers and real estate brokers can also get into trouble by failing to disclose certain defects about a property, even when selling a property “as is.” Disclosing a defect is not the same as being the one to fix it. Sometimes a seller is willing to fix a defect as part of the deal. The point is that the seller has to know about it when he or she buys the property.

If you run into problems like fraud, misrepresentations or failures to disclose defects when you are buying a property, your lawyer at Freeman & St. Clair can help you through this legal process.