FACULTY MEMORANDUM ON REAL ESTATE LAW
Updated September 2012
Faculty: Robert M. Washburn, Chancellor Wendell Pritchett, Craig N. Oren, Kathryn Kovacs, William McLaughlin
Most general practitioners handle a significant real estate caseload. Knowledge of real estate law is also necessary to practice in other areas, particularly business law, debtor/creditor relations, decedents' estates, and domestic relations law. Lawyers assist individual clients with purchase and sale of their homes, arid with landlord-tenant problems, business clients with purchase and sale of business property, and developer clients with acquisition, financing, approvals, and development of large tracts of land. The basic real estate law area involves transactional matters, including buying and selling of real estate creating security interest in real estate, and the creation of interests such as easements and restrictions on property through covenants running with the land. In addition, lawyers assist clients in obtaining governmental land use approvals for changes and additions to property and for development of large tracts of real estate. More sophisticated transactions involve multi-jurisdictional development applications, structuring and document drafting for complex transactions, environmental clearances, participation in governmental programs that provide housing and redevelop urban neighborhoods, and the effect of civil rights legislation on real estate. The real estate area also incorporates real estate taxation and federal income tax aspects of real estate.
All law students should be exposed to at least the basics of real estate law, since it touches on so many other areas of practice. The basic course, which builds on the first year courses in property and contracts, is Real Estate Transactions and Conveyancing, and is recommended for most students. This course covers areas such as brokerage, real estate contracts, recording and title searching, deeds, legal descriptions, mortgages, and the real estate settlement process. Real Estate Transactions and Conveyancing is a 4-credit course which is offered every year, usually in the evenings in alternate years.
In the land use area, courses offered are Regulation of Land Use. This 3-credit course is a basic survey reviewing zoning, planning, subdivision and site plan control, variances, and conditional uses, all of the basic tools involved in client representation before municipal boards. Significant time is spent in the course on constitutional issues, particularly regulatory takings and inverse condemnation. Land Use Law & Policy is also a 3-credit course. This course examines how the development and preservation of land is shaped and controlled through government regulation.
Students interested in real estate should seriously consider the courses in environmental law. Students should take the basic course in Environmental Law. Although this course is much broader, property development proposals often involve multiple environmental permits and clearances. Students should also consider taking the courses in Environmental Litigation and Hazardous Waste Cleanup, and Natural Resources Law.
A specialized area of real estate law is taught in the course on Housing and Urban Development. This 3-credit course reviews federal and state programs to assist production of affordable housing and to physically and economically revitalize urban areas, such as through grant and loan programs and federal income tax credits. J his course also examines in depth rights and remedies under the federal civil rights acts for discrimination in government programs and in the private housing market.
The real estate transaction curriculum is rounded out by the course in Landlord-Tenant Law. This course is offered as a 2-credit or 3-credit course and focuses on a wide range of issues involving the nature and requirements for the creation of a lease, the rights and duties of landlord and tenants, and relates both to residential and commercial leasehold arrangements.