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Get Help with Common Real Estate Disputes: an Interview with Thomas Keen of The law Offices of Thomas Keen, PLLC

By Thomas Keen

Tell us a little bit about your experience, your firm's history and the services you offer related to real estate.

I have over 30 years' of legal experience, most of it involving real estate; both in litigation and transactions. For clients involved in the purchase of residential property, I review contracts, title, inspection reports, and closing documents. Post-closing, I may be consulted regarding latent defects and nondisclosure issues.

What are the most common real estate disputes that you handle regarding the purchase and sale of homes in Collin County?

I would break these into pre-closing and post-closing. Pre-closing, the dispute is usually how to get out of a purchase agreement and get a refund of the earnest money (for the purchaser) or how to hold a purchaser accountable (for the seller). Post-closing issues are usually the discovery of defects or prior repairs that were not disclosed.

Can you briefly describe what a nondisclosure case is?

In the standard Texas residential real estate contract, there is an Addendum requiring that sellers disclose a whole litany of known defects, house additions and previous repairs. These disclosures are often hurriedly checked off with little detail. The disclosures might even be waived in the contract by an anxious purchaser. Once the sale is closed, the purchaser may discover defects like prior water leaks, termite damage, illegal home additions, or shoddy non-code compliant repairs. Frequently, the purchaser will seek to hold the Seller liable for necessary repairs, or may want out of the house altogether. Despite the hesitancy sellers may feel in disclosing damaging information about the house, the more disclosure they ,make, the better their defense of a subsequent lawsuit. Purchasers, on the other hand should seek every disclosure they can get, and should investigate the disclosed item thoroughly, with a professional.

How does an attorney help home buyers when the seller failed to disclose a defect in the house or property that was sold?

The attorney can review the disclosures to see if there is an actionable nondisclosure, help guide the gathering of evidence, and evaluate the worth of going forward to mediation and/or litigation.

Are there circumstances when a buyer can back out of the sale of residential property?

Yes, but this is why the purchase agreement and it's terms are essential. These rights are governed primarily by what the parties agreed as set forth in the contract. Many realtors waive option periods and inspections when they fill out the standard form contracts. Another word about "form contracts". People may legitimately ask how the terms can differ in form contracts. These forms are adaptable to a specific transaction, sometimes by checking (or not checking) boxes, and sometimes by filling in blanks with the intent of the parties. A missed check-mark, or the failure to fill in a time for an option period can be critical.

What would you recommend that a home buyer should do before hiring a lawyer to help settle a real estate dispute?

The standard Texas contract has a mediation provision which requires the parties to attempt to mediate disputes through a non - binding process presided over by a trained mediator. Also, the parties should always attempt to work through their realtors , especially on issues of less serious or less costly matters.

What's the best way for people to reach you and your firm?

I am available by phone (469?241-1467), email (tom@keenlawfirm.com) and appointments. It is always critical for me to have an opportunity to review the documents before I respond to questions. I can generally review a standard contract and respond to questions for $350.00, which is my hourly rate.

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