Real property law governs all issues concerning property use, control, and ownership, including taxation, development, and transfer. Real property law is also called real estate law in some jurisdictions, but the laws are often the same. It concerns property that is permanently affixed to, over, or under land, as opposed to personal property, which is portable and not related to land. Real property consists of not just buildings and land, but permanent fixtures attached to buildings and crops and minerals found on the land. It can also include real estate interests that are not tangible, such as easements or the right to use airspace and landlord and tenant issues.
There are various types of ownership interests that are defined and governed by the real property laws of the region where the property is located. The three main types of interests are freehold, non-freehold, and concurrent estates. A freehold estate, also called fee simple absolute, is ownership interest in real estate that lasts indefinitely and can often be transferred between generations. A non-freehold estate is definite, lasting only for a limited duration, such as when a tenant rents a house. A concurrent estate is descriptive of at least two individuals with ownership rights in the same real property.
Landlord and tenant relationships often fall under real property law in most jurisdictions. Those laws cover issues such as lawful evictions, the maximum amount that a landlord can collect for a security deposit, and tenant responsibilities for providing notice to landlords of the need for major repairs. For example, a landlord often has to provide habitable premises to his tenants according to local real property laws, even though it may not be addressed in the lease agreement. The landlord may also be subject to some real property law based on the number of units he rents.
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The duties of a real property lawyer are often transactional, although there are many attorneys who litigate real estate disputes in court. Some of the out-of-court duties include drafting real estate contracts, filing liens, and completing real estate closings. Lawyers who litigate file complaints if they represent plaintiffs or file answers if they represent defendants in cases that involve disputes over real property. Some of those matters can include foreclosures, landlord and tenant disputes, and bad property title claims. Lawyers can also appear before regulatory boards for zoning and other matters that affect their clients’ real estate interests.