What Is Real Estate Law?

Real estate law is a broad field that governs the buying, selling and leasing of land. It also regulates how things like crops, minerals, oil and gas are used.


For example, a real estate lawyer can help a couple decide whether to own property as tenants by the entirety or joint tenants with rights of survivorship. They can also help them draft, understand and negotiate lease agreements.

Legal rights of property owners

Real estate law encompasses a broad range of legal issues involving the ownership, transfer, use and enjoyment of land and permanent manmade additions to it such as buildings. It includes zoning regulations, contracts between property owners and those who wish to occupy or use their property and foreclosures. It also governs land use laws such as environmental protection, historic preservation and construction safety.

Property owners are traditionally bestowed with a bundle of legal rights when they buy a home. These include the right of possession, control, exclusion and disposition. While these rights are generally unlimited, there are certain limitations imposed by government regulation and community covenants.

For instance, a homeowner cannot refuse to rent a home based on a person’s race, religion, age or sexual orientation. However, he or she may exclude someone from the property through the law of trespass or by imposing restrictions such as bylaws prohibiting loud parties in condos after 10 p.m. The law of quiet enjoyment protects a tenant’s right to enjoy his or her living space without interference from the owner.

Zoning and land use regulations

Whether you want to build a home or a business, real estate laws govern what you can do with your land. They determine how the property is zoned as residential, commercial, or industrial and set requirements for building height and other factors. Real estate law also covers foreclosures, financing, and property taxes.

Zoning laws are designed to prevent incompatible property uses from conflicting with each other and to promote the public welfare. Municipalities first began implementing zoning regulations in the early 1900s. They typically follow a process that ends with an official map and plan for their municipality. The plan will include zoning, subdivision development regulations, street plans, and plans for public facilities.

A homeowner who is unable to comply with zoning requirements can apply for a variance. This is granted on the basis of a perceived hardship and a need for the property to serve a beneficial purpose. The granting of a variance can be complicated and requires expert legal guidance. For this reason, you should consult with a Rockland County land use and zoning lawyer.


Buying and selling real estate is one of the largest financial commitments that a person or business can make. It is important that the contract documents are well written to prevent problems and avoid costly legal disputes in the future. Real estate law includes the legal principles that govern property ownership and the transfer of land rights, as well as zoning, eminent domain, and the development process.

The most common real estate contracts are purchase agreements and leases. These contracts should include all of the important details of a deal, including price and transaction timeline. They should also specify what will happen if either party defaults on the contract. This will help both parties avoid costly legal proceedings.

A contract is enforceable in a court of law if it meets certain requirements. For example, it must be in writing and signed by both parties. It must also include “consideration” and a description of the property. Consideration is usually money, but it can be anything of value that is exchanged for the property. For example, a buyer may provide a down-payment to the seller in order to buy a property.


A lease is a legal contract that guarantees one party, the tenant or lessee, use of property owned by another party. Both parties must sign the contract to agree on its terms and responsibilities. There are also consequences if either party doesn’t comply with the contract’s terms.

Commercial leasing is typically negotiated between the lessor and the lessee. The contract may include many details, such as the lease term and the rent amount. It also specifies responsibilities for maintenance and repair. It may also specify penalties for breaking the lease, such as a fine or even eviction.

A lease is accounted for using various journal entries over the lease’s life. To determine which accounting treatment is appropriate, the lessor must first classify the lease as either a sales-type lease, direct financing lease, or operating lease, based on five tests included in the accounting standards. Once the lease is classified, the lessor and lessee must make the necessary journal entries. The present value of lease payments is calculated using the lessor’s implicit interest rate or the lessee’s incremental borrowing rate.


In any business, disputes often arise. Real estate law is no exception to this rule, as there are a variety of issues that can lead to legal disputes between real estate agents and brokers, buyers and sellers, or landlords and tenants.

Some of these disputes involve property boundaries and encroachment. One common example of this is when a neighbor claims that another’s fence, deck, or landscaping extends onto their property. In this situation, a court may order the boundary lines to be redrawn or the encroaching structure to be removed.

Other real estate litigation involves contracts. Buyers and sellers nearly always memorialize their transaction in a written contract that specifies the terms of the sale, including price, contingencies for going through with the sale (such as a lender approving a mortgage), and the date on which the title is intended to be transferred.

Whether you are an investor who owns commercial properties, a developer planning a new project, or a home owner facing a dispute with your neighbors, you need an experienced New York City real estate lawyer to help you resolve your issue quickly and efficiently. Contact the boutique law firm of Albert Maimone & Associates for guidance and representation in all five New York City boroughs.