Central Illinois Real Estate Lawyer

real estate agent giving keys to new buyer

Frequently Asked Real Estate Law Questions

Real estate law generally covers the sale, lease, use, enjoyment, and development  of real property. The most common real estate issues I encounter include:

  • Fights with contractors; 
  • Boundary disputes; 
  • Contract review; 
  • Negotiating a contract; 
  • Failure by a home seller to disclose an issue with a home; and
  • Landlord/tenant issues. 
In my practice, I help folks with a wide variety of real estate issues, although the bulk of my real estate practice is focused on real estate litigation (fights with contractors, boundary disputes, suing a seller for failure to disclose, etc.). The following FAQ’s are questions I encounter quite frequently from my clients. If you have a question not answered here, feel free to send me an email (zanderson@brelaw.com) or text message (217-247-4775).

Short answer: You’re not required to have a real estate lawyer when you purchase a home in Macon County (some counties require lawyer involvement), but hiring a lawyer is often a very smart and not very expensive decision. 

Long answer: In most down-state Illinois counties, you are not required to use a lawyer when entering into a real estate transaction. Your realtor may even tell you not to worry about obtaining a lawyer because a lawyer is either unnecessary, not worth the cost, or will only slow down the transaction. None of that is true. A lawyer is trained to review contracts and is allowed to provide legal advice. A real estate agent is not. In fact, real estate agents are ethically prohibited from providing legal advice about the contract you’re signing! Given that, advice from a lawyer is certainly necessary. Likewise, lawyer fees for a real estate transaction are typically pretty low. I suspect you’d have a difficult time spending more than $1,000 on lawyer fees for a simple real estate transaction. Given that buying a new home is probably the largest investment you’ve ever made, don’t you think investing in a lawyer to make sure you aren’t getting screwed is worth the extra expense? Finally, real estate lawyers rarely slow down the transaction process. If they do slow down the process, it’s typically for good reason, which means they are working to protect you. 

If your real estate agent has told you that you will get sued for backing out of a contract, you need to speak with a real estate lawyer immediately. Your agent might be completely correct, but at the same time, a real estate agent is not a real estate lawyer. Plus, your real estate agent’s fee is tied to a successful completion of the transaction, so of course they probably don’t want you to back out of the contract. Always, always, always, talk to a real estate lawyer if you are considering backing out of a real estate deal.

In Illinois, a law exists called the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act. The Act generally requires that a seller of real estate has to disclose known issues. If you purchase a home and believe the seller may have not disclosed something that they should have disclosed, you need to speak with a real estate lawyer. But you need to be sure to speak with a real estate lawyer quickly as the Act generally requires that a lawsuit be brought against the seller within one year of closing.

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If you purchase a home and need to sue the seller for failure to disclose a known issue (such as a leaky basement), it is best to try to sue the seller within one year from the date of purchase. If you are able to sue within one year from the date of purchase, you can bring a claim under the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act which may allow you to recover any fees you spend on an attorney. If you need to sue outside the one year period, that is generally acceptable too under a common law fraud or breach of contract theory, but you likely will not be able to recover any money you spend on an attorney.

Mechanics liens in Illinois are governed by the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act. The purpose of the Act is to ensure that general and subcontractors who provide labor, material, fixtures, or machinery to improve real estate receives payment for their services and materials. Mechanic lien disputes are generally complex: if a contractor has placed a mechanics lien on a property you own or if you are a contractor who needs to place a mechanics lien, do yourself a favor and begin working with a real estate lawyer immediately.

Many real estate cases originate because of alleged poor workmanship. The most common scenario I encounter occurs when someone hires a contractor to perform work at their house and then becomes unhappy with the contractor they hired.

The general rule is that a contractor is only obligated to substantially perform. This basically means that a contractor is not obligated to perform with surgical precision. Instead, contractors only need to perform the “honest and faithful performance of the material and substantial parts of the contract with no willful departure from or omission of the essential terms of the contract.” 

If that standard sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone. From a practical perspective, whether a contractor has performed “poorly” or met their standard of “substantial performance” is a factual question decided by a Judge. 

The attorney fees you will pay will depend entirely on the facts of the case and the underlying issue. If you’re hiring a real estate lawyer to review your contract because you’re buying a new home, you should spend less than $1,000. If you’re hiring a real estate lawyer to sue a general contractor because they did a terrible job on your $100,000 room addition, expect to pay quite a bit more. Fees are always fact-dependent.

Fortunately, it is sometimes possible to recover attorney fees from the opposing party. For example, if you purchase a home and successfully prove that the seller violated the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act by not disclosing an issue with your home, you may be entitled to damages because of the violation as well as reimbursement of attorney fees.

Construction sites are inherently dangerous, leading to thousands of injuries each year. Numerous complexities arise in cases concerning construction accidents. So, if you are injured on a construction site, you would be well-advised to discuss your potential case with an experienced construction injury lawyer. As a former construction worker, I take a ton of pride in helping individuals injured on construction sites.


About Me . . .

Zach Anderson

Zach Anderson

I'm a lawyer and partner at BRE Law. My practice is focused on representing individuals throughout Central Illinois who suffer physical, mental, and financial injuries.

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