Category: Real Estate Law

  • How to Review a Commercial Lease Agreement

    Commercial leases are complex and have many different clauses that could financially impact you. The most effective approach is to consult with an attorney who focuses on real estate contracts. We will use several extra steps to review your commercial lease agreement, including: Review the lease terms: We look at all the terms of the lease, including the rent amount, length, use of the space, and security deposit. Evaluate the leasehold improvements: The lease should state what progress the landlord agrees to make. It should define the scope of the work and its timeline and identify who is responsible for improvements. The maintenance and repair: Details for maintenance and repair should be listed in the lease for things such as electric

  • What is a Land Use Variance, and Do I Need a Lawyer to Obtain One?

    A variance is when you are permitted to go against zoning laws and do certain activities. It is an exemption that is authorized one time only and doesn’t apply to everyone. The current zoning laws are still in force and you cannot get around them because you received a variance. For example, suppose that you want to open a cafe in an industrial area. Cafes are zoned as commercial establishments. A variance authorizes you to build this kind of business in a place that is zoned differently. It applies to anything surrounding the property that goes against existing zoning laws and municipal codes. Variances will cover two different areas: Use: This allows you to use the land in ways that are restricted by zoning requirements. Some good examp

  • Zoning, Nuisance, and Barking Dogs

    Can You Sue for a Barking Dog? Dogs are known as man’s best friends. They can also be a nuisance and create major problems between neighbors. But can you sue for a barking dog? If there is one dog barking, it is considered to be private nuisance, but if there are many dogs involved, the problem becomes a public one. Fortunately, Washington counties and cities have remedies for problems with nuisance dogs. Complaints can be made to the Code Enforcement of the local government and to Animal Control. If there are questions on licensing of animals, you may be able to challenge the dog’s eligibility with the auditor of your county. Nearly all local governments have Internet forms you can use to make formal complaints. If filing these complain

  • Real Estate Trespassing Laws

    It is important for property owners to understand real estate trespassing laws in Washington and their legal rights. The act of trespass and subsequent remedies for property owners are governed by both common law (decisions made by the courts) and by Washington state statutes. Trespass is a tort, which means it is a wrongful act that causes injury to another party and may lead to a lawsuit. Specifically, a trespasser generally wrongfully enters another person’s property, interferes with possession of property, damages property, or wrongfully removes resources from property. Is it Illegal to Trespass on Private Property? Is it illegal to trespass on private property? Yes. Trespassing on private property is illegal and there are good reasons why. T

  • Surplus Funds from Deeds of Trust Foreclosures

    By Thomas L. Dickson, Esq. In a highly-charged real estate market, people losing their homes to deeds of trust foreclosure may be surprised to learn they are entitled to cash after the trustee’s sale. Despite the unpleasant fact a foreclosure is taking place, often the equity gained by the fated property substantially exceeds the amount owed to the foreclosing party. By law, these funds ultimately belong to the grantor, i.e., the debtor to the deed of trust. Debtors in these situations must check their elation, however, because the surplus funds must run a gauntlet of potential creditors before reaching the grantor. Foreclosure Procedure The Deed of Trust foreclosure procedure is governed by RCW 61.24 et. seq. Under RCW 61.24.080(3), if there i

  • Judicial Foreclosure and Nonjudicial Foreclosure: the Differences

    By Thomas L. Dickson, Esq. Used together, a promissory note and a deed of trust embody the most common type of mortgage. The deed of trust is recorded on the borrower’s title securing the note and prioritizing the loan’s position on title. There are only two ways to foreclose on this mortgage: judicially and nonjudicially. Judicial Foreclosure and Redemption A judicial foreclosure is processed through the courts by filing a complaint for a judgment on the note which accelerates the unpaid balance, and orders the sheriff to sell the property at auction. Because the lender obtains a judgment, the remedies can be any type of collection, foreclosure being one of them. When the sale occurs, interest from default until the date of the auction, costs,

  • Deciphering the “Lis Pendens”

    By Thomas L. Dickson, Esq. Seattle real estate attorneys, real estate brokers, and escrow companies deal with the "lis pendens" from time to time, and many people are not sure what it means. The Latin definition is simply: notice of a pending lawsuit. The Revised Code of Washington defines "lis pendens" as an "instrument having the effect of clouding the title to real property, however, named, including consensual commercial lien, common-law lien, commercial contractual lien, or demand for performance of a public office lien." RCW 4.28.328 (1)(a). Is recording a lis pendens, thus, a violation of the owner’s procedural due process, i.e., the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard? Not according to Cranwell v. Mesec, 77 Wn. App. 90, 8

  • Real Property and “Grandfather Rights” aka Nonconforming Use

    By Thomas L. Dickson, Esq. We often hear the expression, “grandfather rights,” when someone’s property is not affected by a land use change while nearly everyone else’s is. In legal parlance, land use attorneys know the term is “Nonconforming Use,” defined as a use “existing lawfully before the rezone of the surrounding area and continues or is ‘grandfathered’ after the rezone, provided the use is not thereafter interrupted for longer than a prescribed period, generally a year.” Land Use and Environmental Law, Ch. 24, Part Two, Washington Lawyer’s Practice Manual. Nonconforming use is not limited solely to zoning issues, but to changes in a large spectrum of administrative regulations. “The right to continue a noncon

  • How Contractor’s Registration affects Construction Liens on Real Property Development

    By Thomas L. Dickson, Esq. Construction liens are an important part of Seattle real estate law and other high-growth areas of Western Washington. The lien, also called a “mechanic's lien,” represents a pre-judicial claim against title, and the owner of the land on whom the lien is recorded cannot sell the property or obtain a loan thereon until the lien is satisfied, removed, or otherwise accommodated. The Effect of a Construction Lien. Under RCW 60.04.021, “any person furnishing labor, professional services, materials, or equipment for the improvement of real property shall have a lien upon the improvement for the contract price of labor, professional services, materials, or equipment furnished at the instance of the owner, or the agent or

  • The Home Affordable Modification Program Can Often Stop Foreclosure

    In response to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of the latter part of the last decade, the United States government instituted several programs to help homeowners and tightened regulatory controls on the mortgage industry. One the programs created was the Home Affordable Modification Program,1 often referred to as “HAMP.” The program encourages lenders to lower homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments in order to allow them to stay in their homes. In addition, it has the added benefit of being able to stop an impending foreclosure by simply applying for the program, even if only temporarily in some cases. Under the terms of the law, if homeowner applies for a HAMP modification and there is not foreclosure sale scheduled within a week, the lender must st