Expertise & Experience
- Acquisition and Sale transactions
- Leasing of Commercial, Office, Retail and Industrial properties
- Brokerage Industry and Consumer Disclosures
- Foreclosure, Loan Modifications and Short Sales
- Construction, including Water Intrusion and Mold, and Landslide and Subsidence
- Development and Land Use
- Quiet Title, Boundaries, Encroachments and Easements
- Homeowner Association matters
- Environmental Hazards
Real estate is a cornerstone of Mark’s practice. For 20 years, Mark was General Counsel to California’s largest independently-owned brokerage firm and its affiliated businesses in the real estate industry, including mortgage lending, development, title insurance and escrow services. Mark’s background makes him ideally suited to mediate cases involving all aspects of property sales, leasing, financing, construction and development, as well as brokerage claims arising from property transactions.
$4M Short Sale Fraud
Claim: A fraud ring, including real estate professionals and others, fabricated documents creating the impression that the mortgage lender had approved the short sale of residential properties. To complete the scheme, the fraudsters would immediately re-sell at inflated prices to unsuspecting purchasers, who were surprised when the lender demanded payment and initiated foreclosure proceedings.
Result: The lender agreed to reconvey its first trust deeds in consideration of payments from title insurers and others. Recovery also included funds seized by federal law enforcement agencies.
Industrial Property; Environmental Hazards
Claim: Action arising out of a long-term lease of a 4-acre property operated as a school bus depot. When the lease expired, Landlord claimed that Tenant was obligated to make repairs and ameliorate environmental hazards. Tenant acknowledged that it could have done a better job of maintaining the property, but disputed the alleged repair costs, other economic losses, and argued that Landlord had failed to mitigate its damages.
Result: Tenant agreed to pay for certain repairs and other economic damages.
Sale of Commercial Property
Claim: The purchaser of a $4.5 million commercial property threatened to sue for breach of contract when the seller rejected its request to extend the time period for the escrow.
Result: After signing an agreement regarding environmental indemnities and removal of certain contingencies, the escrow was completed to the satisfaction of both parties. The parties recognized that by working together, they could satisfy the other side’s concerns without jeopardizing their own vital interests.
Residential Property Non-Disclosure
Claim: Shortly after the closing, a major landslide damaged a single family home. The purchaser filed a lawsuit to recover damages from the seller, realty agents and inspector based on a failure to disclose geologic and drainage problems.
Result: A monetary settlement enabled the purchaser to do much of the repair work, and at the same time, released the defendants from any future liabilities concerning the property.
Forgery and Foreclosure Fraud
Claim: Bank commenced foreclosure on its mortgage loan, alleging that the borrower and co-conspirators had recorded a forged reconveyance of its deed of trust. Having cleared title of the bank’s loan, the borrower was alleged to have procured and pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars of new financing before transferring the property to a third party.
Result: The bank agreed to reconvey its trust deed upon receipt of payment from the title insurer and others.
Claim: One of the country’s largest Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) tried to collect over $200,000 in damages from a media company it claimed was the assignee of an office building lease. The original tenant had defaulted on its lease obligations and was no longer operating.
Result: A mutually satisfactory lump sum payment from the media company to the landlord was negotiated, allowing the parties to manage the litigation risks and also to save a great deal of money.
Mechanics’ Liens; Shopping Center Lease
Claim: Action to foreclose on mechanic’s liens totaling $350,000 relating to construction of a restaurant. Tenant defaulted on the lease for this particular location without paying the balance due for its improvements. The mall operator bonded around the liens, allowing it to go ahead with leasing the space to another business that completely renovated the site, and to pursue its damage claims on the breached lease and a personal guaranty against the original tenant.
Result: The general contractor negotiated an agreement with the mall operator which allowed it to pay off all subcontractors with recorded liens.
Quiet Title of Joint Tenancy Property
Claim: Partition and quiet title action involving two couples, who were also family members, regarding ownership of a residential property held by them in joint tenancy. One couple claimed that since they frequently traveled overseas, the other’s name was put on the deed solely to facilitate management of the property while away and to protect their minor-aged children.
Result: One couple acquired the other’s interest in the property, avoiding a trial and the risk of even more harm to family relations.
Specific Performance; Broker’s Breach of Duty
Claim: The purchaser of an apartment complex sued the seller for refusing to convey the property. The seller, in defense, claimed that his broker listed the property below market value and that the purchase contract was unconscionable and should not be enforced because the consideration was inadequate.
Result: The transaction was consummated to everyone’s satisfaction. The purchaser and seller agreed to modify the terms of the contract, and the broker contributed a portion of its commission to increase the seller’s proceeds.
Claim: Broker sued to recover a $150,000 commission against the purchaser of a Michigan retail property.
Result: Hoping to do business together in the future, the parties reached a compromise on the amount of the commission due.
Easements and Encroachments
Claim: The institutional owner of architecturally renowned property and its neighbors each claimed easements across the other’s properties.
Result: Encroaching improvements were removed and easements granted that protected each owner’s privacy and security, and provided for maintenance and repair.
Claim: Owner of commercial property in downtown Los Angeles sued to recover more than $750,000 for loss of business equipment and inventory caused by severe flooding of its premises. Plaintiff alleged that, in the process of developing a project on a neighboring uphill property, negligent grading work improperly diverted a large volume of rain water onto plaintiff’s property.
Result: Defendants’ payment compensated much of the plaintiff’s loss.
Injunctive Relief for Nuisance; Use of Easement
Claim: Malibu estate owners sued neighbor alleging that extensive commercial activities on adjoining property and shared roadway were a nuisance, violated local codes, and unreasonably interfered with the enjoyment of plaintiffs’ property.
Result: The parties agreed to limit commercial use of the adjoining property and shared roadway, and to establish an ocean view by trimming trees in a manner that respected everyone’s privacy.
Partition of Joint Tenancy Property
Claim: Unmarried couple acquired residential properties together, and then separated, leading to a dispute about an equitable division of these real estate assets and causing emotional trauma to their children.
Result: The parties, accompanied by a CPA and therapist, agreed to a settle the property issues in a way that also attempted to reduce the impact on the children.
Claim: Developer of a custom luxury home and its realty agent were sued for defective construction and poor workmanship.
Result: Developer agreed to make certain repairs at its own expense and to pay a cash sum to the purchaser. The confidential settlement and timely resolution helped assure that the developer’s reputation for quality work wouldn’t be harmed.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty and Indemnification
Claim: Seller of $2 million home pursued an indemnity action against its listing agent for non-disclosure. After the close of escrow, the purchaser discovered that plans to expand a neighboring residence would interfere with views from the property.
Result: The broker agreed to a monetary settlement in exchange for a release.
Office Building Lease
Claim: Beverly Hills law firm sued its Landlord, claiming that a failure to timely complete promised renovations disrupted its business.
Result: The Tenant obtained favorable rent concessions from the Landlord.
View Preservation; Fire Damage; Easements and Access
Claim: Purchaser of a Topanga Canyon hillside residence sued the seller and brokers, claiming they failed to disclose that structural beams were compromised by fire damage, that a local developer planned to build new homes obstructing panoramic canyon views, that the seller and others were embroiled in a dispute over a private road leading to the property, and that a driveway was shared with an adjoining landowner.
Result: The parties agreed to a six-figure settlement, averting costly and protracted litigation.
Short Sale and Foreclosure
Claim: Broker was a dual agent in a transaction involving a foreclosure property. The prospective buyer argued the short sale process was “mishandled” by the broker, who allegedly failed to protect his interests and bungled the negotiations with the lender. Ultimately, another bid was accepted at a higher price and the property was transferred to a third party.
Result: While not admitting liability, the broker recognized that the documentation it prepared was incomplete and that a monetary settlement was preferable to a lawsuit.
Water Intrusion and Mold
Claim: The purchaser of a $4.6 million home sued the seller and listing agent for failing to disclose water intrusion and mold affecting a lower level wine cellar, dining room and walk-in safe. Repair costs and attorney’s fees in excess of $150,000 were demanded. The seller denied knowledge of the problem and maintained that its disclosure statement was adequate.
Result: A monetary settlement was negotiated that allowed the parties to avoid a scheduled arbitration.
Quiet Title and Elder Abuse
Claim: Plaintiff, a disabled and elderly individual, filed an action for quiet title and elder abuse against his sister/caregiver, a contractor, and real estate professionals, claiming the defendants conspired to dupe him out of the equity in his home by making shoddy improvements, and then arranging for and selling the property to a third party.
Result: Defendants obtained releases in exchange for a cash payment.
Broker Commission; Withdrawal-From-Sale
Claim: Broker sought a $200,000 commission based on the seller’s alleged breach of an agreement for the sale of business assets. The seller pointed to technical deficiencies in the agreement as a defense to the broker’s withdrawal-from-sale theory.
Result: The parties reached a mutually satisfactory settlement.
Lease Interpretation; Shopping Center Operating Expenses
Claim: Tenant, a supermarket chain, disputed Landlord’s interpretation of the Operating Expenses provision of its lease and Landlord’s demand for over $500,000.
Result: A settlement was reached without litigation being filed. The tenant agreed to pay a negotiated amount and the parties modified the lease language to eliminate ambiguities.
Breach of Office Building Lease
Claim: Landlord sought damages when the tenant, a defunct Beverly Hills hedge fund, ceased operations and vacated the premises.
Result: Tenant agreed to a make installments payments in exhange for a release.
Fannie Mae sale of REO Property
Claim: Dispute involving the sale of a rural property acquired by Fannie Mae through foreclosure. Though the sale documentation contained an “as-is” clause, purchasers alleged that there were misrepresentations respecting the size and boundaries of the property, the existence of a barn and corrals, and the condition of a water well.
Result: The parties entered into a written agreement which fully resolved the issues.
Lease for Retail Space; Delivery of Possession
Claim: Landlord, whose retail property was undergoing government-mandated redevelopment and asbestos remediation, was unable to deliver possession as required by the lease. Tenant sued for breach of contract and fraud, including damages for lost profits and expenses incurred to open at a different location.
Result: Shortly before trial commenced, the parties negotiated a settlement and release of claims.
Property Under-Listed; Broker’s Breach of Duty
Claim: Seller’s estate alleged that broker, acting as a dual agent, breached her fiduciary duty and exercised undue influence by persuading the seller, who was elderly and hospitalized during the transaction, to convey apartment building at a below market price and with higher than customary commission rate.
Result: After the closing, the broker agreed to make a payment to the seller’s estate contingent on a good faith settlement determination.
Transfer Disclosure; Concealment of Material Facts
Claim: Purchasers of a residential property allege that sellers concealed the critical fact that rubbish of all kinds was used to fill in and then cover up an old swimming pool location, instead of using appropriate organic materials, such as clean dirt. All that sellers disclosed on the transfer disclosure statement was “fill in old pool location, all permits obtained and signed off.” Following winter rains, the back yard, experienced ponding and soil subsidence.
Result: The parties negotiated a monetary settlement based on the legal measure of damages.
Luxury Home Lease; Mistake of Fact
Claim: The owner of a Northern California luxury home claimed that the tenant, a Fortune 500 company, breached a written lease agreement, and refused to return any portion of the 10-weeks rent that had been paid in advance. Tenant argued there was a mistake of fact which allowed it to rescind the lease.
Result: The parties decided to allocate the advance rent between them and to exchange releases.