About Ruzicka, Wallace & Coughlin

Real Estate Law


Ruzicka, Wallace & Coughlin, LLP, is a full-service real estate law firm that represents property owners, management companies, developers, financial institutions and investors in all manner of real estate transactions and litigation. We continue to evolve with the changing real estate market by responding to market forces, legislation, and rulings of law through an intuitive and no-nonsense approach.

Purchase and Sale Agreements

In California, most residential transactions are handled by realtors on pre-printed forms developed by the California Association of Realtors. These forms generally require mediation and/or arbitration of any disputes. To facilitate the closing, the parties normally retain an escrow company. The vast majority of transactions are completed without the need of an attorney. When a dispute arises, we are there to represent buyers or sellers of real property in obtaining the benefit of their bargain. In many cases, a well-drafted letter from an attorney can encourage the other side to comply with the term and conditions of the agreement. For example, where a seller refuses to convey title in accordance with a purchase and sale agreement, a letter informing the seller that the buyer has a right to specific performance of the contract (e.g. to force the sale of the property), to record a notice of pendency of the action against the property (also known as a Lis Pendens), and to recover attorney fees and costs, is often is enough to encourage the seller to perform. Where a seller breaches, most purchase and sale agreements entitle the seller to recover liquidated damages, which is a set dollar figure specified in the agreement (often 3% of the purchase price). If the buyer refuses to sign escrow cancellation instructions relating the funds, an attorney letter setting forth the legal rights and remedies of the seller may suffice to resolve the dispute. When informal methods of resolving disputes are not sufficient, we are able to protect our clients’ legal interests through mediation, arbitration and, if necessary, court proceedings. We also assist clients in reviewing and drafting purchase and sale documents to place our clients in the best legal position before a dispute arises.

Escrow Disputes

In California, escrows are generally the vehicle through which parties transfer title of real property and provide payment of the purchase price. Since the transfer of title by the seller and the payment of the purchase price by the buyer are concurrent conditions, it is useful to have a neutral escrow agent process the transaction. When a transaction fails to close and the parties are unable to agree on disposition of money deposited with escrow, the escrow company may need to interplead the funds with the superior court. In an interpleader action, the escrow company files a lawsuit against the parties claiming an interest in the escrow funds, deposits the escrow funds with the Superior Court and allows the court to determine the rights of the parties to the funds. Unless the parties agree otherwise, the escrow company is usually entitled to deduct its reasonable attorney fees and costs from the funds deposited in escrow. We are able to represent escrow companies, buyers or sellers in such actions.

Title Disputes and Quiet Title Actions

From time to time, various disputes arise regarding the ownership of, or title to, real property. The most common remedy in these situations is for the aggrieved party to file a quiet title action in the Superior Court where the property is located. The purpose of a quiet title action is to establish title against adverse claims to real property or any interest in the property. In order to prevent the sale or encumbrance of real property during the pendency of the action, the party filing the lawsuit may record a Lis Pendens (lien) against the property. The owner may ask the court to expunge (remove) the Lis Pendens. When necessary, we file quiet title actions on behalf of clients or defend clients in these actions.

Cotenancy and Partition Actions

Where real property is owned by more than one person, each owner (or cotenant) has the right to possess and occupy the property and to maintain an action to oust all persons other than other cotenants. Any cotenant excluded from the property may seek damages for ouster from the other cotenant. This ordinarily amounts to his or her share of the value of the use and occupation of the property from the time of the ouster. When the relationship among cotenants breaks down, each cotenant has the right to have the property partitioned. Real property may be partitioned in three ways: (1) physical division of the property; (2) sale of the property and division of the proceeds; or (3) court approved and supervised partition by appraisal. In most cases where a partition action is filed, the court orders the property sold, the liens and encumbrances paid off, and the proceeds divided among the owners. Many disputes among co-owners of real property can be resolved by simply pointing out the right of each party to file a partition action and that the cost of litigation will reduce each co-owner’s share of the sale proceeds.

Secured Transactions

In California, the most common method of securing a loan on real property is for the lender to record a deed of trust against the property. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender may then foreclose on the real property. Various disputes may arise regarding the origination or foreclosure of a loan secured by a deed of trust. We assist clients in resolving these disputes. Adjoining Landowners

There are a number of types of disputes that can arise between adjoining landowners and involve specialized legal issues in litigation including, among others, boundaries, fences, obstruction of light, air or view, subjacent and lateral support, trespass, and nuisance. When neighbors are unable to resolve disputes by themselves, court action may become necessary.

Landlord-Tenant

We represent owners and property management companies in all aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship, from inception of the tenancy through termination of the tenancy and recovering possession of the premises. For further information regarding our landlord-tenant services, please visit the landlord-tenant practice area on this website.

Our Real Estate services include:

  • Real Property Litigation
  • Real Estate Contract Disputes
  • Actions Involving Real Estate Brokers and Agents
  • Escrow Disputes
  • Title Disputes
  • Disputes Regarding Secured Transactions and Deed of Trust
  • Disputes Involving Condominiums and Common Interest Developments
  • Construction Disputes
  • Actions Involving Mechanics' Liens and Stop Notices
  • Disputes Between Adjoining Landowners
  • Disputes Involving Easements and Restrictions
  • Disputes Involving Adverse Possession
  • Actions Involving Eminent Domain and Inverse Condemnation
  • Premises Liability
  • Landlord-Tenant Matters


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