Land Sale Contract or Contract for Deed
A Land Sale Contract, also known as a Contract for Deed, is a seller-financed sale of real property where the Seller retains title until the purchase price is paid in full. These contracts were some of the most abused legal instruments in real estate. As a result, the State of Texas has very specific laws governing the use of Contracts for Deed that are intended primarily to protect the Buyer. As a Seller or a Buyer, you should understand the laws before entering a Land Sale Contract. If you are already a party to a Land Sale Contract, or considering entering one, then hire an attorney to advise you on your rights and obligations. Call Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email him at Andrew@BernickLegal.com
Quitclaim Deed: Drafting and Recording -$300
A Quitclaim Deed transfers any ownership interest or claims on real estate property, but it does not provide any guarantees or warranty from the person surrendering the Deed that the title to the property is otherwise valid. The Quitclaim Deed is often used to cure a defect (a “cloud on the title”) or to pass ownership to another person when no money is exchanged. Quitclaim Deeds are also commonly used when a person is passing their rights in a piece of property to a spouse or ex-spouse, gifting a property to another person or family member, transferring ownership in a property to a trust, and correcting the spelling of a name in a previous deed. For assistance with Quitclaim Deeds contact Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email him at Andrew@BernickLegal.com.
Drafting and Recording - $300
Real Estate Closings: Document Review -$150, Document Review and Attend Closing -$300
When you purchase or sell a house or other real property you will be required to sign numerous documents including the deed, the title insurance policy, promissory note, deed of trust, disclosures and more. These documents define your legal rights – what you own (or don’t), what your liabilities are to others, what obligations other parties have to you, what protections you have from claims of others. Understand what your title insurance covers and, in most cases, what it doesn’t cover. Protect your rights and understand the purpose of each document you sign. Have an attorney either review the documents before closing or attend the closing with you. Contact Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or by email at Andrew@BernickLegal.com
Document Review - $150, Document Review and Attend Closing - $300
Right to Repairs: Half-hour consultation – $150
If a landlord refuses to make necessary repairs there are specific steps detailed in the Texas Property Code that a tenant must take to seek a remedy. By following these steps a tenant can either make the repair and deduct the cost from rent, or terminate the lease. However, unless specified in a written lease, a landlord is not required to make repairs unless it is a condition that creates a danger to the tenant’s health or safety. If your landlord has failed or refuses to make specific repairs, you may have a right to force the issue. For more information about what right to repairs you may have, and the steps required to enforce them, contact Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com to schedule a consultation.
Half-hour consultation - $150
Security Deposit Dispute – Landlord’s Right to Deduct Expenses
What can be deducted from a security deposit?
Settling a security deposit with a tenant can be a landlord’s nightmare. When a landlord deducts charges from the tenant’s security deposit a dispute often arises. These disputes often end in litigation.
A landlord is required to follow very specific rules before deducting expenses from the tenant’s deposit. The Texas Property Code details the rules landlords must follow. There are specific rules on what can and cannot be deducted. Also, the landlord must document and itemize any deductions from a security deposit. As well, the security deposit, less any deductions, must be returned to the tenant within a 30 day deadline.
What is “normal wear and tear”?
A landlord can deduct for damage that is not “normal wear and tear” on the property. Are the needed repairs and maintenance a result of “normal wear and tear” by the tenant? Or are the needed repairs a result of tenant abuse and neglect? There is often no easy answer. The key is to be reasonable. The determination is often specific to the situation.
Document property condition and itemize deductions!
A landlord should document the property condition before the tenant moves in and after the tenant vacates. Also, the landlord should itemize each expense and justify why it was a legitimate deduction from the security deposit. Furthermore, the landlord may inadvertendly waive the right to reimbursement for legitimate expenses if the landlord fails to itemize the deductions.
Let Bernick Legal Services handle the settlement and resolution of any dispute you have over a tenant’s security deposit. Attorney Andrew Bernick is also a real estate broker with a dozen years of property management experience. The most challenging and costly part of being a landlord is handling disputes over security deposits. Don’t risk losing your right to compensation for damage to your property. Often security deposit disputes can be handled with our flat fee arrangement. For more information call Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370, or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com
Tenant Screening – $150
Leasing your rental property comes with inherent risks. The risk can be minimized with proper screening of prospective tenants. As a landlord, screening your lease applicant is the single most important task you should undertake. Allowing the wrong persons to occupy your lease property can result in thousands of dollars in lost rental income and/or property damage. Often problem tenants will deceive and hide their past in an effort to obtain a lease. Bernick Legal Services can provide you complete criminal background checks, rental history, and credit reports for your applicants. Protect yourself and your property from unqualified and even malicious tenants. Contact Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or Andrew@ BernickLegal.com for assistance.
Tenant Screening Service (criminal, rental and credit) - $150
Transfer on Death Deed: Drafting and Recording – $300
The Transfer on Death deed allows you to designate who inherits your home or other real estate without having to probate your estate when you die. It functions the same as when you designate a beneficiary on your life insurance policy. You can designate numerous beneficiaries who will inherit your real estate in equal shares. Your designated beneficiary will take ownership without having to probate your estate through the court. The Transfer on Death Deed is an excellent tool for individuals with modest estates and whose main asset is their home. For more information about Transfer on Death Deeds call Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email him at Andrew@BernickLegal.com.
Drafting and Recording - $300
Demand Letter via Certified Mail – $360
If you are locked in a disagreement with another person or a company, you might be considering filing a lawsuit. However, civil litigation can be expensive and often may take months or even years to be concluded. Before filing a lawsuit you should first make a formal written demand of that party to attempt to resolve the issue without litigation A well crafted Demand Letter from an attorney will clearly establish
- what legal issue you want resolved,
- what rights you are asserting,
- how the offending party has violated those rights, and
- the legal remedies and damages you will seek if not resolved.
The Demand Letter is often the first and last step to resolving a dispute. If you are in a dispute and believe your rights have been violated, contact Attorney Andrew Bernick to issue a Demand Letter on your behalf. Call 512-763-5370 or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com.
Lease Drafting and Review: Drafting or Review – $150
If you are a landlord renting residential or commercial property do not enter into a lease without a comprehensive written lease contract. The laws that govern landlord/tenant relationships vary from state to state. Leases for property located in Texas should be specific to the Texas Property Code. As a landlord or tenant it is most important that there is a clear understanding of each parties’ obligations concerning rent payments and fees, security deposits, repair obligations, the right to terminate early, etc. A well-written and comprehensive lease is essential to avoiding common landlord/tenant conflicts and staying out of court. For assistance with your lease, call Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email him at Andrew@BernickLegal.com
Drafting or Review - $150
Mechanics Lien: Pre-lien Notices and Filing -$350, Half-hour Consultation – $150
Mechanic Liens or Materialsman Liens can be placed on real estate property to secure payment of a debt. If you are a general contractor, sub-contractor, or supplier of materials or labor, and you have not been paid for your services or product by the property owner, you may have a right to place a lien on the property. With a Mechanics or Materialsman Lien on the property, the owner will be unable to sell or refinance the property without paying the unpaid amounts due. Texas has specific notice requirements and filing deadlines before a lien can be placed. To file a Mechanics Lien, or to have lien removed from your property, contact Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com.
Pre-lien Notices and Filing - $350, Half-hour Consultation - $150
Security Deposit – The Tenant’s Rights
Security Deposit Refund
The most common dispute between a landlord and a tenant involves the security deposit refund. A landlord has 30 days from the end of the lease to account for the tenant’s security deposit. The most common deductions from security deposits are for cleaning and repairs that are not considered “normal wear and tear”.
What is “normal wear and tear”?
“Normal wear and tear” results from the tenant’s day to day use and occupancy. What exactly is considered “normal” depends on the facts and circumstance. The determination is often specific to the situation. Are the needed repairs a result of tenant abuse and neglect? There is often no easy answer.
Document property condition!
A landlord can deduct for damage that is not “normal wear and tear” on the property. The key is to for the landlord to be reasonable. A tenant should document the property condition before moving in and again before returning the property to the landlord. The tenant should take pictures and make detail notes of any existing damage, needed repairs or cleaning issues. Also, the tenant should provide the landlord a copy of their notes. Finally, the tenants could insist that the landlord conduct walk-thru inspections together at move-in and again at move-out.
The Texas Property Code requires the landlord to itemize each deduction from the security deposit refund. However, the landlord may have a right to retain the security deposit as damages if there was a material and substantial breach of the lease by the tenant.
If a landlord in bad faith refuses to refund or account for a deposit, the tenant can sue for damages of up to three times the amount of the security deposit. If you are in a dispute with your landlord over a security deposit then contact Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or by email at Andrew@BernickLegal.com.
Easements and Deed Covenants: Drafting and Recording – $350
If you have granted or are being granted an easement across the property of another, or would like to record promises (covenants) with neighbors about land use, it is important that the easement or covenant be properly documented and recorded with the county clerk’s office. Failure to record with the County Clerk will result in the easement or covenant to not “run with the land” when the property changes ownership. This means that is as an easement holder you may lose the right to use the easement if the other party sells their property. As well, if you are benefiting from a covenant or promise with a neighbor about use of land, and the neighbor sells their property, the new neighbor may have no obligation to you if the easement or covenant is not recorded. To protect your ownership and land use rights, have us ensure that properly drafted easements and covenants are recorded in the county records. For assistance, call Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com
Drafting and Recording - $350
Eviction (for Tenants): Half-hour consultation -$150
A landlord can terminate a lease for any material and substantial breach of the lease contract. Failure to pay rent is the most common reason and a landlord can seek an eviction even if you are only ONE day late with rent. In Texas, a landlord attempting to evict a residential tenant must obtain a court order and Writ of Possession from the local Justice Court. There are multiple steps to this process. Providing a three day Notice to Vacate is the first step. If you are a tenant and have been given a Notice to Vacate but believe your rights under the lease have been violated, then contact Andrew Bernick for a consultation. Andrew will evaluate your rights under the lease, and the circumstances, and help you prepare a strategy to fight the eviction. Call 512-763-5370 or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com.
Half hour consultation - $150
Evictions (for Landlords): Turnkey service – $500
Eviction of a tenant can be a difficult process. Removing a tenant from your property can be a troubling personal decision. In Texas, all residential evictions must be through the courts. The procedural process can be time consuming and difficult to navigate. If you are a landlord faced with a need to reclaim your property because of a tenant’s inability to pay rent or other breach of the lease, we can ease the process for you with turnkey eviction services. For one flat fee, our eviction service includes filing the petition in the local Justice Court, representing you at the hearing, obtaining the eviction order, obtaining the writ of possession and securing the property. For more information, contact us at info@BernickLegal.com or call 512-921-5370.
Turnkey service - $500
Home Owners Association Dispute -Free Consultation
The HOA rules for you community are typically detailed in the community’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (the CCRs). Most likely you agreed, knowingly or not, to abide by these rules when you purchased the property in the community. However, HOAs have been known to overextend their authority or apply their enforcement in non-uniform manner, such as targeting some property owners while favoring others, or arbitrarily enforcing neglected rules at great expense to property owners. If you have a major dispute and believe your HOA is violating your rights as a property owner you can take legal action. For a consultation to evaluate your rights with regards to an HOA, call Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com.
Foreclosure – Free consultation
In Texas, mortgage loans must typically be 120 days delinquent before a lender can start the foreclosure process. However there are exceptions, such as for some small lenders, which allow the process to begin even if you are only one day late with payment. The process can be completed in as little as 45 days. Mortgage lenders typically may foreclose using a non-judicial foreclosure process (i.e. no court order required). However, the government must obtain a court order to foreclose for unpaid taxes. The are very specific steps and notice requirements the lender must follow to successfully foreclose on your property. If you are facing foreclosure, there are many opportunities to stop or force a delay of the process. It is highly recommended you obtain legal counsel. Contact Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or by email at Andrew@BernickLegal.com to schedule a free consultation.
Lease Property, Code Compliance check -$200
The Texas Property code has specific code requirements for any lease property. In addition, local municipalities often have additional code requirements. Failure to comply can result in significant fines. Disgruntled tenants may report code violations to local authorities resulting in significant fines. We will inspect your lease property to ensure that you are in compliance with all state and local code, including locks, smoke detectors, door viewers, slide doors, etc. For more information, contact us at 512-763-5370 or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com.
On-site Compliance check - $200
Home Construction Contracts: Drafting-$350, Document Review-$150
Don’t let your dream home become a nightmare! If you considering hiring a contractor to build your your new dream house then it is essential that you have an attorney experienced in the building process to draft or review the legal documents. There are many potential issues and areas of potential conflict that can arise during the construction process. What is the scope of the work? What grade of materials will be used? What are the construction timelines? Payment schedule? Warranties? These and many other issues should be clearly spelled out in a comprehensive, well-written contract. Managing expectations is the key to successfully avoiding unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings which too often turn into litigation. For assistance with your home construction contract, call Attorney Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com.