Unfortunately, the fact of life is that things do go wrong, despite your best efforts.
The best cure is always prevention, and in a real estate transaction, that is where a good real estate agent comes in to play. A good agent will advise you every step of the way. There is risk in every real estate contract.
A seller could contract for a new home, move from their home, relocate cross country, relying on the contract promises of a buyer who is going to buy… and if that buyer doesn’t settle, and do it on time, there is a domino effect of what consequences will result. A buyer could contract for a home, move cross country, relying on the seller to sell, and if the seller backs out, there are consequences for the buyer… not the least of which is being homeless. Tenants don’t pay rent sometimes. Landlords don’t always maintain their property, and sometimes try to illegally evict tenants just because they want their house back, or have decided to sell it.
All of these things can and do happen. And, when they do, WHAT do you do? Again, here, your best initial resource is your real estate agent. Your real estate agent can give you limited advice based on their training (and for me, attorneys conduct much of my training), and they can refer you to attorneys for further legal advice.
The first step I always recommend is speaking with the attorney of the settlement company you’re using. Often they are willing to give you some cursory advice, and or refer you to an attorney they trust. The challenge here is that the settlement company is operating as a neutral party in the transaction and they can not represent either party. Additionally, most of these attorneys are NOT litigation attorneys – they read about the court cases so they can provide information about how courts are interpreting things, but they won’t represent you if things have to go to court. On the other hand, they may be able to help mediate an agreement when parties are unable to agree or offer the most practical advice. But, when that doesn’t work, you need a litigation attorney. If you’re in the Dulles area, here are some attorneys that I recommend:
Tom Plofchan, Westlake Legal Group (Sterling) 703-406-7616
For several years, Tom did a lot of training for my company. What I know is he is one of the most detailed people out there… if there is a defense, Tom is likely to find it.
Joe Ritenour, RPM&W (Leesburg) 703-771-6161
Although I don’t personally know Joe, I keep him on my list because he is well known and well respected in the real estate world here in Loudoun. He is my father’s attorney and represents other people I know in town, and his clients are very loyal.
Joe Cooleen, King and Nordlinger (Fairfax) 703-522-8084
In my property management days, we used Joe all the time for tenant landlord issues in Virginia, and another of their attorneys in Maryland. Tenant issues are routine for this practice, and they deal with them systematically, swiftly and for a reasonable fee. The law firm is large, and has attorneys with many specialties – everything from larger real estate/contract issues to employment issues to personal injury. Everyone I know who has used this practice for any legal issues have been very satisfied.