Articles Posted in Real Estate

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If you follow enough civil RICO cases, you’ll notice that many plaintiffs’ RICO claims lack merit, sometimes obviously so. Of course, even when the RICO claim that a plaintiff has aimed at your business is one of those claims long on bluster and short on merit, they are still potentially harmful to you and your business. It is vital to take the case seriously and get that claim thrown out as soon as possible to minimize the damage it can do to you. To get that done, make sure you have an experienced Atlanta civil RICO attorney on your side.

A case that unfolded in Miami last year was the rare civil RICO case to make mainstream headlines. The defendant was a famous superstar baseball player-turned-TV-broadcaster. The plaintiff was the player’s former brother-in-law.

The player and the plaintiff’s sister married in 2002. Not long afterward, the two men formed a real estate business that owned apartments purchased for a total of $300 million, according to a TheRealDeal report.

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In any real estate dispute that winds up in litigation, there are several things that you have to weigh carefully. One of the biggest decisions you’ll make is whether to settle your case or continue litigating. If you are seriously considering a settlement, it is vitally important to understand exactly what the settlement agreement you sign will — and won’t — do. The wrong choice may substantially handicap your legal rights and options down the road. The right choice may provide you with essential forms of protection. A knowledgeable Atlanta real estate lawyer can help you determine what choices make the most sense for you and your business.

When it comes to the importance of a good release agreement, this recent case from Cobb County makes for a useful example.

The underlying dispute arose after the failure of a mixed-use real development project. The project involved many players, including the developer, the developer’s investors, the law firm hired to handle the closing, the title insurance company the law firm hired to draft a title commitment, another attorney retained to do a title abstract, and a title researcher.

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In any LLC, there are limits to what the managing member can do. There are also, however, limits to what an associate member can do to stop a managing member from acting in a way it opposes. Experienced Georgia business litigation counsel can help you determine what your options are when it comes to an LLC dispute.

A recent example was a case that pitted two LLCs against each other, each of whom was in the business of buying, selling, and managing commercial properties, including shopping centers, apartments, office buildings, and others. The two LLCs jointly formed a third LLC, with this one’s purpose being the purchase and ownership of an apartment complex in Columbus, Ga. The LLC that served as the managing member had a 25% ownership, while the other LLC, serving as the associate member, had a 75% stake.

After making the purchase, the managing member identified what it believed was a problem. GDOT had recently installed a median running down the center of the parkway that the complex faced. This meant that residents, as they sought to enter the parkway via the complex’s only exit, could only turn in one direction. This inconvenience allegedly had triggered a downturn in the complex’s occupancy rate.

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In any commercial agreement, one enters into the agreement confident in the belief that it will be productive and beneficial to both sides. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, business relationships break down, and litigation is the result. If you find yourself in a failed business relationship that has reached (or is headed toward) litigation, it is important to have skilled Georgia business litigation counsel representing you, both to help you pursue your claims and to defend against the claims of your opposition.

One recent example of a lawsuit that resulted from a business relationship disintegration was a real estate investment LLC that was created to own and operate certain commercial real estate properties in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. The two members of the LLC established an operating agreement in 1995. Eighteen years after its creation, the LLC sold its last asset and planned to distribute its proceeds and dissolve.

A dispute arose regarding the distribution of those proceeds, and that dispute led to litigation. In the first case, a former member of the LLC sued and won a $625,000 judgment. In the case recently before the Court of Appeals, the LLC and its member had sued the former member in pursuit of a declaratory judgment from the court regarding the proper distribution of the LLC’s proceeds. The defendant countersued for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. While the plaintiffs were able to persuade the trial judge to grant a summary judgment in their favor on the defendant’s counterclaims, the appeals court concluded that the former member should be allowed to go forward with his case.

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In most cases, a party initiates a civil lawsuit because it has been harmed and it seeks an award of money damages to compensate it for the harm it suffered. Sometimes, though, the type of harm that is caused by a breach of a contract cannot be corrected through an award of money damages, regardless of the amount. When that is the case, such as in disputes over parcels of real estate, the injured party may seek other remedies, like a court order demanding that the other party complete the performance promised in the contract. This is called specific performance, and it can be difficult to obtain unless your case meets a exact set of criteria. If you have been harmed by another party’s breach of a real estate contract, make sure you have skilled Atlanta real estate attorneys on your side to protect your interests.

One example of a specific performance case was a litigation action recently decided by the Court of Appeals. In the summer of 2016, a man named Rahmat entered into a contractual agreement to purchase a shopping mall plaza from a family limited partnership. The buyer paid earnest money and also paid for an environmental assessment. Furthermore, the buyer allegedly put up more than $450,000 of the property’s $525,000 sale price. After the two sides held a meeting to talk about “expenses related to the ownership and management of the property,” the seller abruptly canceled the contract.

The buyer sued for specific performance. Specific performance, if awarded by a court, means that a reluctant contractual party is ordered by the court to perform as it had promised within the underlying agreement. Specific performance is a rare outcome and requires the judge to determine that an award of money damages could not provide proper compensation to the party allegedly victimized by the breach of the contract. A plaintiff is more likely to obtain an order of specific performance in a real estate sale dispute than in many other types of litigation actions. That is because of the inherently unique nature of a parcel of real estate.

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When you are pursuing a commercial litigation action in Georgia, you might find yourself faced with many different types of arguments about why you should not be allowed to pursue your case. While some may relate directly to the facts of your case, others may have nothing at all to do with the underlying facts that led you into court. Whether the arguments against your case are factual, statutory, or procedural, it helps to have an experienced Georgia commercial litigation attorney on your side to make sure that your rights and interests are sufficiently represented and protected.

One case recently decided by the Georgia Court of Appeals involved a defense argument built on a specific statute:  Georgia’s Anti-SLAPP law. The seeds of the dispute dated back to 2015, when members formed a Cumming, Ga.-based LLC holding company to hold some 2,718 acres in Santa Rosa County, Fla. An additional entity was formed at the same time for the express purpose of serving as the managing member of the holding company. There were four entities that were members of that managing member LLC.

Less than a year later, allegations were made that several entities had breached the holding company’s operating agreement. Specifically, the allegation was that they hadn’t made required capital contributions, a claim they denied. Nevertheless, the manager LLC was voted out as the managing member of the holding company and replaced with a different LLC. The members of that new managing member then announced their intention not to develop the bulk of the Florida property but instead to donate it to the government of Santa Rosa County as a tax write-off.

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The zoning of a parcel can be a critical concern for a buyer when entering into a purchase and sale agreement. In a recent Georgia appellate decision, a buyer appealed from summary judgment in favor of the defendants regarding fraud in the sale of real property. The buyer argued that the question of fraud was one for the jury since the defendants had knowingly misrepresented the zoning and concealed the city’s intent to demolish the property and the buyer shouldn’t be charged with constructive knowledge of demolition orders that were brought outside the chain of title.

The appellate court affirmed the part of the lower court’s order granting the defendants summary judgment for their misrepresentations about zoning, but reversed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment to the defendants with regard to misrepresentations about the city’s planned demolition of the property.

In 2012, the bank (trustee for two loan trust entities) foreclosed on two real property parcels that were sold to the buyer. The city had zoned the property as Urban Rural – Historical Infill. The zoning prevented multi-family housing, and the parcels had been granted a legal non-conforming use status. The city planner believed that a property’s legal non-conforming use could be verified through completion of an Application for Zoning Verification that could be attained by the city.

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When you decide to pursue a breach of contract lawsuit, it is very important to make sure that all T’s are crossed and I’s dotted. Even seemingly small imperfections may do grave damage to your case. In one recent case, the lack of a contractor’s license proved to be a major problem for the plaintiff who sought damages for an alleged breach. Whether you are pursuing or defending a breach of contract action, you need to make sure you have an experienced Georgia commercial litigation attorney on your side.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit was a home building company that signed a contract for the construction of a residence in Cumming. After the builder had partially constructed the house, disputes arose between the owner and the builder. The owner terminated the contract before the job was completed. The sole owner of the building company, who had signed the contract on behalf of the building company, did not have a Georgia builder’s or contractor’s license when the builder did its work on the house.

After the owner terminated the agreement, the builder sued for breach of contract. The owner, in opposition, filed a motion with the court asking the judge to grant summary judgment, which would end the builder’s case before it even got to trial. The owner’s argument was that the owner of the building company was not properly licensed in Georgia, and Georgia law prohibits unlicensed contractors from enforcing a contract “or the performance of work for which a license is required.”

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There are many benefits to owning investment property in Georgia. But, like any investment, there are also risks. Tenants can be unpredictable at best and destructive at worst. So what can property investors do when they are stuck with a troublesome tenant?

In Georgia, a landlord may evict a tenant if: (1) the tenant fails to pay rent as agreed; (2) the tenant remains in possession of the property beyond the term of the lease; or (3) there is a tenancy at will or at sufferance. See O.C.G.A. § 44-7-50. A landlord may also evict a tenant if the lease agreement identifies a condition that, if breached, allows the landlord to terminate the lease.

However, in order to evict a tenant, landlords and property managers alike must follow Georgia’s strict statutory eviction process. This process requires the landlord to make a formal demand for the tenant to surrender possession of and vacate the property, and to file a dispossessory action. Dispossessory actions are typically filed in the magistrate court of the county in which the rental property is located.

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