Real Estate Law Terms to Know

The legal definition of real estate or real property is land and the buildings on it. Real estate law governs who may own and use the land.

  • Title: A legal term describing who officially owns the land.
  • Mortgage: A loan that covers the price of a house. The new homeowner must give the lender partial ownership of the house as collateral.
  • Foreclosure: The process by which the lender takes control of a house if the owner fails to pay back the mortgage.
  • Closing: The meeting in which ownership of real estate is officially transferred.
  • Escrow: Money or property held by a third, disinterested party for safekeeping.
  • Real Estate Agent: A professional licensed to negotiate and conduct real estate transactions.

Probate is the judicial process whereby a will is "proved" in a court and accepted as a valid public document.

Guardianship is appointing someone to make legal decisions for another person who is unable to make those decisions on their own.

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Civil Law vs Criminal Law 

Civil law deals with behavior that constitutes an injury to an individual or other private party, such as a corporation.Examples are defamation (including libel and slander), breach of contract, negligence resulting in injury or death, and property damage.

Criminal law deals with behavior that is or can be construed as an offense against the public, society, or the state—even if the immediate victim is an individual. Examples are murder

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Landlord/Tenant Terms to Know

  • Abandonment: A tenant's conduct that demonstrates his or her intent to give up the right to reside in the rental property, without the landlord's authorization or agreement
  • Constructive Eviction: A process through which a landlord's actions (or failure to act) interfere with a tenant's possession of rental property to such an extent that the property is made unfit for reasonable occupation by the tenant.  
  • Eviction: A court-based process through which a landlord may remove a tenant from rental property, with good cause and after following a number of procedural requirements.  The eviction process is also called "unlawful detainer" in some states.
  • Lease: A written agreement entered into between a landlord and tenant, through which the tenant is granted the right to exclusive use and occupation of the landlord's residential property for a specified amount of time, and in exchange for an agreed-upon sum of money. Also called a "rental agreement."
  • Rent:  The payment of a specified amount of money for the right to exclusive enjoyment of residential property, usually via periodic (i.e. monthly) payments. A residential lease or rental agreement should state the amount of rent, and when and how the rent is to be paid.

Landlord Tenant Dictionary

Business Law Terms to Know