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Sinking building shows complexity of property disputes

The Bay Area is notorious for its large and luxurious properties. While many people are attracted to the area because of its seaside beauty, the lay of the land has created unique issues for property owners and their related parties. Groups of people caught up recently in this dilemma include developers, residents and management groups of the Millennium Tower in the South of Market District in downtown San Francisco.

The Millennium Tower is sinking, but, more than 10 years after the issue was raised, no one has taken responsibility for it, which experts say could cost tens of millions of dollars to fix. The tower's structural problems have become part of a recent lawsuit involving real estate firms, a transportation center and even Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. Who is sunk on this issue?

Don't sink a legal outcome

The case is complicated because, although it falls under the broad category of "real estate dispute," it is hard to define. Is it a construction defect, a neighbor dispute, a land use issue or something else entirely? The future of the property and similar high-profile cases will likely be defined by the outcome of the case, which appears to be part of a nascent trend in real estate.

Disputes are an unfortunate reality in the often prosperous pursuit of real estate, so understanding how to handle a legal case is an important area of expertise for brokers, developers and agents. Numerous parties can take issue when there's lots of money involved. How can a party best protect its interest in a case?

Real estate professionals often have success because of their DIY attitude. Although this philosophy works well in the business world, it doesn't translate well in the courtroom. Legal disputes are best settled by an attorney. Like purchasing a property for development, hiring an attorney to handle a real estate dispute is an investment.

Keeping legal options afloat

The only thing more numerous than the number of people interested in a case is the laws surrounding real estate. Therefore, compliance with the law is necessary. Cases like San Francisco's sinking Millennium Tower can drag on for years, but getting bogged down in a property dispute is probably the last thing developers and brokers want for business.

When disputes arise, a real estate attorney can be a lifeline to keeping options afloat even when investment on a property looks sunk.

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