Articles Posted in Real Estate

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For most people, their home is their most valuable asset. However, when circumstances unexpectedly change, many people find that it is challenging to keep up with a mortgage, utilities, and the other expenses of maintaining a home. If a mortgage goes unpaid, the lending financial institution will eventually initiate Rhode Island foreclosure proceedings.

A foreclosure is when a lender forces the sale of a property to cover the remaining balance of the loan. Typically, a lender will foreclose on a property if there is a significant history of non-payment. While the length of time that a lender will wait to initiate foreclosure proceedings can vary, it is common for a foreclosure to begin within six months of the first missed payment. This is not to say that a single missed payment will result in a foreclosure; most lenders understand that a homeowner may be facing a short-term financial hardship that they will be able to recover from if given the opportunity.

While the foreclosure process can be frightening, there are certain actions homeowners can take to prevent a foreclosure. It is important for Rhode Island homeowners to understand that the foreclosure process must follow strict guidelines, and a lender cannot suddenly foreclose on a home.

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Few things are more exciting–and more stressful–than a first-time home purchase. For some, this process signifies the transition to adulthood and for others a fresh start. Any way you look at it, a Rhode Island first-time home purchase is an important decision, and one that will have lasting repercussions.

The home-buying process is not intuitive for many first-time home buyers. However, although the process is complex, it is governed by traditional principles of contract law. In fact, throughout the home-buying process, a buyer will typically sign several contracts, each playing an important role in the process. The peace of mind that an attorney can provide in the purchase of a Rhode Island home is invaluable.

A Rhode Island real estate transaction begins with an offer to purchase. Typically, an offer to purchase is drafted by a real estate broker, signed by the prospective buyers, and presented to the seller’s agent. Once the offer to purchase is in the hands of the seller, the seller has a certain amount of time to respond before the prospective buyer’s offer lapses. Often, the seller will return with a counteroffer.

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The term easement frequently comes up in Rhode Island property law cases. In the most general terms, an easement is a legal term referring to a non-owner’s right to use another’s property, usually for a specific purpose. For example, a property owner who owns land that is near the beach may have an easement over another property owner’s land to gain access to a beach. This is called a beach access easement.

There are many facets of Rhode Island easement law; however, it is beneficial to first understand the two types of easements: easements appurtenant and easements in gross. An easement appurtenant is tied to a particular parcel of land and remains with the land through changes in ownership. An easement in gross, on the other hand, is assigned to a particular person, business, or entity, and cannot be sold, transferred, or given away.

An easement can come into existence in several ways. Some easements are created based on an agreement between parties, whereas others are issued by courts as a result of a Rhode Island property dispute. A few common types of Rhode Island easement definitions will be discussed below.

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They say that “good fences make good neighbors.” In a case recently heard by the Rhode Island Superior Court, the fence was part of the problem. This case illustrates many of the concepts of real estate law, although of course only your experienced Rhode Island real estate attorney can tell you how the law will apply in your specific circumstances.

The Facts of the Case 

The parties are feuding over the use of an 18 foot right of way easement. An easement is the legal entitlement of one party to access the property of another. Generally, an easement is granted when it is impossible for a party to get to a road without traveling on the property of another.

Here, the plaintiff and the defendant both live in the same subdivision that was originally owned by a couple and then sold to a developer. All of the lots abut the road, but due to the conditions of the land, some of the residents had to access a road via an easement. This includes the “Lot 3” residents. They have a half circle driveway that connected to the disputed property. After the Lot 3 residents had lived there for about a year and a half, the “Lot 4” residents put up a fence and other barriers that blocked off access to the disputed area. This required people using Lot 3’s driveway to only have one way in and out and now busses, including the bus that picked up the resident’s disabled child, to turn around on a steep hill.

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Adverse possession is a real estate concept under which one party can take ownership of the land that another person owned by occupying it for a certain amount of time and meeting certain criteria. Adverse possession allows the person who is actually occupying the property to have official ownership after a period of time. It also gives landowners an incentive to keep an eye on their property and eject anyone who should not be there. If you are concerned about a piece of property that you own, you should contact a knowledgeable Rhode Island real estate attorney to help you understand your rights to the property.

Adverse Possession 

In order to prevail on an adverse possession claim, a plaintiff must prove all of the elements by clear and convincing evidence. The requirements for adverse possession are that the possession of the property is actual, open, notorious, hostile, under claim of right, continuous, and exclusive. What this means is that the party that is trying to assert a claim to the land through adverse possession must treat the property as their own, without the permission of the original owners of the property. They also need to be continually occupying the property for 10 years. Once the plaintiff has proven that they have fulfilled these requirements, the court can officially grant them the property.

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Earlier this year, the Rhode Island Superior Court upheld the denial of an application for a development in Tiverton, Rhode Island. The developer applied to the Town of Tiverton zoning board to ask permission to develop property. The proposed plan was to construct over 240,000 square feet of mixed use development, which potentially included retail spaces, restaurants, office space, and other kinds of spaces. The application, submitted in 2008, was rejected as incomplete due to the developer not completing the requirement to have a “pre-application meeting.” After the Tiverton Zoning Board denied the application, the plaintiff appealed to the Board of Appeals, who affirmed the decision of the zoning board. The case was then heard by the Rhode Island Superior Court, who affirmed the denial. If you are thinking about real estate development or other real estate matters, it’s crucial that you hire an experienced Rhode Island real estate attorney. A knowledgeable real estate attorney can save you money and headaches by making sure that you follow the correct protocols so that your application does not get rejected for being incomplete, as happened here.

Application Protocols

If you are looking to undertake a major development in Rhode Island, this case underscores the importance of crossing your “t”s and dotting your “i”s. When the developer in this case filed his application in 2008, it was just as the town of Tiverton was planning zoning changes in compliance with their community plan. The proposed changes would have changed the property at issue from commercial property to residential property with minimum lot sizes of 40,000 square feet. Since this change was anticipated, it was important that this 2008 application was approved for the development to take place rather than starting a new application.

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The Rhode Island Superior Court recently issued an opinion regarding a Rhode Island real estate construction contract. Following the jury-waived trial on February 2, 2018, each side submitted post-trial memoranda to the Rhode Island Superior Court for decision. The court issued partial judgment in favor of the  plaintiff on February 19, 2018.

In 2008, defendant was constructing a building in North Providence when disagreements with the contractor resulted in the contractor ceasing performance. Defendant contacted a principal of plaintiff-corporation to coordinate the completion. The principal referred the matter to a vice president, who handled ongoing negotiations with the defendant.

While there was some discussion of having the  plaintiff serve as a general contractor, the defendant had already enlisted certain subcontractors, and some work had already been performed. After negotiations between the parties, the vice president suggested that the principal serve only as the construction manager. He drafted a contract. Although the defendant signed the contract, the contracted party was listed as Branting, LLC, which the court inferred that the defendant controlled for his construction. The agreement was an American Institute of Architects form contract for Construction Management dated July 15, 2008 with various exhibits attached.

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