Attorney Stephen P. Levesque is a fully insured real estate law firm specializing in residential and commercial real property title transaction. Stephen issues title insurance through two well established companies such as CATIC Title Insurance. Since Stephen is certified to practice law in both the State of Rhode Island and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he can proudly represent and guide people in both states who are buying and selling commercial and residential real estate. Attorney Stephen P. Levesque works closely with his partners who are real estate agents, mortgage brokers and lenders. And, he gets it. In today’s tough real estate market, Stephen understands the difficulties that must be overcome just to get to the closing table. Title exams and plot plans are promptly ordered when requested. We also work closely with the borrower and seller to clear any title defects. Our fast turn around time, resolution team and ‘ready to close’ policy means that your loan won’t go south because of your closing attorney. Each file is more than a number and presents an opportunity for our office to make you shine. Our mission is to facilitate a settlement process which is seamless without headaches. Your successful, stress free, real estate transaction is our number one goal. Having closed thousands of residential and commercial closings we are confident in the services we can offer. And, as always, feel free to simply call Attorney Stephen P. Levesque with any legal questions or concerns.
I am an approved attorney with lenders of all sizes and localities. I also work with numerous mortgage brokers around the state. I can provide numerous services to both Buyers and Sellers in residential and commercial real estate transactions. I review, prepare and negotiate offers to purchase and purchase and sales agreements for both parties. If any issues arise during the executory contract period relative to the title examination, the inspections, or the mortgage, I will work to resolve the disputes and dilemmas so the deal will close on time to the satisfaction of all parties involved. I conduct closings in our office and nearby real estate brokerage offices when we represent the Buyer. During my representation for the Seller, I prepare deeds and supplemental documentation, and travel to the closing location to attend the closing ceremony. I work closely with all of the major real estate agencies and mortgage originators. If you need any assistance or guidance selecting a person to help in these specific areas of the transaction, I will be happy to offer reliable referrals. In addition to residential transactions, I also practice in all matters relating to and arising from real estate. I maintain an active zoning and land use practice. I handle easements, condominiums, adverse possession cases, partition suits, condemnations, landlord-tenant evictions or disputes, zoning and planning and all other real estate legal matters including litigation.
What is title insurance?
Owner’s title insurance protects the Buyer of a property against undiscovered liens or defects in the title prior to the time of purchase. Title insurance insures the record title and protects an owner of property from losses arising from defects occurring prior to the date of the policy. Therefore, it differs from other types of insurance because it is retrospective in nature. It also differs from other types of insurance because there is only a single premium charge for title insurance, but the protection lasts for as long as you own the property. There are different title insurance policies which protect both owners and lenders. Lender’s title insurance performs the same purpose, but only for the lender in a transaction. The fee is typically about $2.50 per $1000 for lender’s coverage and $3.50 per $1000 for owner’s coverage. Lender’s insurance is required and you are strongly encouraged to purchase owner’s insurance for numerous reasons. If you have any questions in this regard or have been given advice that owner’s insurance is not necessary, please contact one of our attorneys to make an informed decision. Since one’s home is usually the single biggest financial investment, it is highly prudent and wise that a homeowner would want to protect that investment and enjoy the benefits of ownership. An owner’s title policy is that protection.
What type of claims are covered by Owner’s Title Insurance?
The owner’s title policy insures against loss or damages sustained by the owner by reason of historical discrepancies such as forgery, undisclosed but recorded prior mortgages, bankruptcies, liens or divorces, deeds not properly recorded, missing wills or heirs, and inadequate property descriptions.
Why do I need an attorney for a closing?
An attorney should always be present at a closing to answer legal questions and to resolve disputes. Most lenders require the presence of an attorney at all closings. At our firm, all closings are always conducted by an attorney. In Rhode Island, the buyer has the right to choose the attorney to handle the title search. You should always insist on an attorney instead of a title company, as we will help to resolve the problems which arise, and will not limit our scope to merely searching the title.
When do I get my proceeds as a Seller?
The Seller will be given the proceeds from the sale after the deed has been recorded. In our office, we always record the documents the same day if the closing occurs before noon, and within 24 hours of closing in any event, barring weekends and holidays.
What happens if the house is not ready for me to move in on the day of closing?
If the house is not in the proper condition to move in at the time of closing, you will need to consult with an attorney. At our firm, if we are handling the closing, we will always strive to help the buyer with the predicament. Options include postponing the time of closing, giving a buyer credit, or escrowing funds from the seller until the property is in the proper condition.
Where does the closing take place?
The closing will occur at the attorney’s office for the buyer. Occasionally, the closing may occur at the lender’s office or a real estate agency, but the vast majority close at the attorney’s office.
What form of money should I bring to the closing?
Buyers should bring a bank check or certified funds to closing. If one of these options is not available, buyers should make arrangements to wire funds directly to the closing attorney at least one business day prior to the day of closing. If verifiable funds are not present at the time of closing, the recording of the documents will be delayed and the buyer may not be able to move into the new home. Personal checks or cash are acceptable in nominal amounts up to a maximum of $1000.
What other obligations are there as a Seller of property?
The seller is obligated to produce a Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector Certificate at the time of closing. To obtain a certificate, the seller or its agent must contact the fire department for the municipality in which the property lies to conduct the inspection.
Will I receive a survey of the property at the closing?
No. In Rhode Island, lenders do not require surveys. Unless the buyer requests a survey, no one will physically verify the boundaries of the property. In Massachusetts, a lender may require a plot plan of the property which does not formally locate all of the property boundaries, but it does locate the house in particular vicinity within the boundary lines.
Will I receive an appraisal of the property at the closing?
You are always entitled to a copy of the lender’s appraisal if there is a lender involved on your behalf as a buyer. The appraisal is often presented at the closing, or it can be requested in writing.
What if my property is in a flood zone?
If the property you are purchasing is in a flood zone as depicted on the government maps, the lender will require you to obtain flood insurance. You should be careful of this whenever the property is near the water as flood insurance is often quite costly.
Does a title search or title insurance cover zoning issues?
No. Zoning determinations are completely separate from the title to the property. If you want an attorney to verify the zoning for you, an additional fee would be required.
I typically assist homeowners and business owners with the difficult task of zoning. Whether it is a variance, special use permit, or, subdivision I have experience in all fields. In addition, I represent land owners who want to object to the grant of any type of zoning relief. This may be because the relief so granted will somehow impair their property value or other property rights. Below are frequently asked questions:
Do I need a building permit to construct a small addition to my house or a deck around my above ground swimming pool?
Yes. Almost all construction at your home requires a building permit. Even the placement of a shed in your backyard necessitates a building permit.
My house is in a residential zone. Are there any problems that I need to consider in planning an addition or an accessory structure?
Yes. All towns and cities in Rhode Island regulate construction through setback requirements and percent of coverage requirements. You need to determine if your proposed addition will violate any of these dimensional requirements. If it does, you will need to seek a dimensional variance from the Zoning Board of the town or city in which your land is located.
I have a single-family house located in a single-family zoning district. My mother-in-law wants to move in with me. Can I add a second kitchen to my house so that she will have the ability to be independent?
Most cities and towns consider that the addition of a second kitchen creates a two-family house which is not permitted in a single-family district. Some cities and towns allow in-law apartments but have very specific rules as to their size and location. It is important that you and your attorney examine the zoning ordinances of your city or town as to whether or not you can create an in-law apartment.
If I want to build a two-family in a single-family zone or build an office in a residential zone, what to do?
Each city and town has a procedure for obtaining a use variance from the zoning Board of Review. An application has to be filed with the Zoning Officer for this variance. Frequently the planning staff will advise the Zoning Board as to whether the proposed construction conforms to the Comprehensive Plan of the city or town and as to whether in their opinion it will create a nuisance in the neighborhood. Use variances can be difficult to obtain and often it is wise to have expert testimony from a realtor or land use planner at the hearing.
I have extra land that I am not using on the side of my house. Can I sell this land to a builder?
Almost all cities and towns require that you obtain a subdivision of your land to divide it into two parcels. One will be for your existing house and the other will be for a buildable lot. In order to obtain a subdivision, you must apply to the Planning Board of your city or town. To do this, you will need to have a survey done of your property. It is wise to have an attorney to represent you as there are a number of issues that surface in any attempted lot split.
Should I hire an expert to testify at the zoning board hearing?
When confronted with a zoning application or objecting to one, you should never go it alone. I make it my practice to have an expert attend the hearing and give testimony in favor of or against the pending application. The expert is a valuable tool and although may cost money upfront saves money and time in the long run. In the event you do not have an expert to testify and the decision is against you, you are faced with making a Superior Court appeal which can cost two to three times the cost of the expert.
Landlords and Tenants have specific rights conferred by the RI General Laws. These rights detail when a Tenant can refuse to pay rent and when a Landlord can evict a Tenant for non payment. If the statutes are not followed, there could be dire consequences. Typically this means that the Landlord’s eviction will be dismissed and they will have to begin anew. I have experience and am capable of representing either landlords or tenants in all eviction and landlord-tenant matters. I can help you with
1. evictions for non-payment of rent
2. evictions for holdover tenant
3. evictions of problem tenant
4. 30-day notice to terminate tenancy
5. 5 day demand letters for non-payment of rent
6. restraining orders related to the landlord-tenant relationship
7. commercial eviction
8. evictions after foreclosure
9. tenants at will and tenants at sufferance
Adverse possession is the process by which a non-record land owner can gain title to another record owner’s real property without compensation by holding the property in a manner that is hostile to the record owner’s rights for a period of ten years or more. The transfer of ownership occurs after the adverse possessor has met all of the statutory requirements of adverse possession for a period of at least ten years. A court action is often necessary to establish record ownership on behalf of the adverse possessor.
In accordance with Rhode Island General Law Adverse Possession is defined as follows: “§ 34-7-1 Conclusive title by peaceful possession under claim of title. Where any person or persons, or others from whom he, she, or they derive their title, either by themselves, tenants or lessees, shall have been for the space of ten (10) years in the uninterrupted, quiet, peaceful and actual seisin and possession of any lands, tenements or hereditaments for and during that time, claiming the same as his, her or their proper, sole and rightful estate in fee simple, the actual seisin and possession shall be allowed to give and make a good and rightful title to the person or persons, their heirs and assigns forever; and any plaintiff suing for the recovery of any such lands may rely upon the possession as conclusive title thereto, and this chapter being pleaded in bar to any action that shall be brought for the lands, tenements or hereditaments, and the actual seisin and possession being duly proved, shall be allowed to be good, valid and effectual in law for barring the action.”
The following example illustrates how adverse possession works in the state of Rhode Island:
The Levesque’s purchased their property in 1990. At the time of the Levesque’s purchase there was a fence that ran the entire depth of their land. From the time of the purchase through 2012 the Levesque’s maintained the fence and the land under and around the fence. The fence was in place and a barn along the boundary line had existed prior to the purchase. The Levesque’s made repairs to the barn including new shingles, windows, and a new roof. The Levesque’s have therefore made effective use of the property in question for the last 22 years. Where any person was in the uninterrupted, quiet, peaceful and actual seisin and possession of any lands claiming the land as his for the space of ten years may establish conclusive title. R.I. G.L. 34-7-1. The Supreme Court has long held that the elements to establish adverse possession are that it must be actual, open, notorious, hostile, under claim of right, continuous, and exclusive for at least ten years. Sherman v. Goloskie, 188 A.2d 79, 83 (R.I. 1963).
In order to meet the open and notorious requirement, the Levesque’s must show that their use of the land would “put a reasonable property owner on notice of their hostile claim.” Gammons v. Caswell, 447 A.2d 361, 367 (R.I. 1982). The court found that it is sufficient for the claimant to go upon the disputed land and use it adversely to the true owner and the owner then becomes chargeable with knowledge of whatever occurs on the land in an open manner. Lee v. Raymond, 456 A.2d 1179, 1183 (R.I. 1983). The court held that the owner was still chargeable with knowing whatever was done openly on the land he owned even though it could not be observed from the road or from the boundary of the property. Tavares v. Beck, 814 A.2d 346, 352 (R.I. 2003). The Levesque’s kept goats they purchased in 1990 in the barn and maintained the property in dispute. As set forth in Gammons, as a reasonable property owner, the abutting land owner, the Bonillas were put on notice by the placement of the fence and the Levesque’s’ open and notorious use of the land. Many neighbors believed that the Levesque’s owned the property as well.
The Levesque’s’ use of the land was hostile and under a claim of right because permission was not given and the Levesque’s treated it as their property. To establish hostile use, the claimant must only establish a use “inconsistent with the right of the owner, without permission asked or given” such as would entitle the owner to a cause of action against the intruder for trespass. Tavares, 814 A.2d at 351 (citing 16 Powell on Real Property, § 91.05 at 91-23 (2000). The court held that where the claimant mistook his boundary, but continuously asserted dominion over the property for the statutory period, he was a hostile occupant of the land. Taffinder v. Thomas, 381 A.2d 519, 523 (R.I. 1977). A claim of right is established “through evidence of open, visible acts or declarations, accompanied by use of the property in an objectively observable manner that is inconsistent with the rights of the record owner.” Tavares, 814 A.2d at 351.
The Levesque’s’ use was continuous and exclusive as well since they maintained the property and kept their goats in the barn from the time they purchased the property through the present. They have owned the property for 22 years and thus meet the statutory period of ten years.
Partition is the Forced Sale Of Real Estate In RI With Family Member, Business Partner, Significant Others. A partition case in Rhode Island (RI) is an equitable, legal action in which a person corporation or legal entity can force the sale of real estate against another co-owner or life tenant. Partition cases can be a result of many different types of real property disputes between owners or life tenants or other people with interests in the property as set forth in the Rhode Island statute. A partition case can involve either residential or commercial real estate.
Is there any defense to a partition case in Rhode Island?
If a partition lawsuit is filed and there is no defense to the actual partition then the Court will appoint a commissioner to sell the real estate. Please note that there are usually no defenses to the actual partition. A potential defense which is rarely successful is that the property could be divided by meets and bounds. Another possible defense could be that the entity has no legal right to do the partition because they do not qualify under the Rhode Island statute or don’t have proper legal title to the property etc. In the vast majority of partition cases, there is no way to stop the partition of the property unless there is a settlement. If there is no settlement, the Rhode Island Superior Court will appoint a commissioner to sell the property. In some limited circumstances a partition case can be filed in the Rhode Island Family Court. A Partition Action in the RI Family Court would usually be in the context of a post divorce action involving third party owners or even a divorce involving third parties
If a Commissioner is hired What are his responsibilities?
When a commissioner is appointed to sell the real estate, the parties lose a lot of control over the sale of the property. A commissioner is an independent Rhode Island Lawyer appointed by the Superior Court Judge. A commissioner will be very expensive to the parties because the commissioner legal fees will be taken from the proceeds of the sale before the distribution to the parties.
The commissioner may also hire other real estate experts such as areal estate appraiser to do a appraisal of the property. The commissioner may also search title to the property or hire a title examiner to determine if any other parties have an interest in the real estate. The title examiner or commissioner would need to search title at the registry of deeds. If there are title issues concerning the property the commissioner may incur legal fees to resolve the title issues. Other parties with an interest in the real estate may need to be joined as parties. The commissioner will also hire a realtor to list the real estate for sale on the open market. The commissioner will usually agree to pay the realtor the prevailing commission rate. The Realtor will be paid his or her commission at the real estate closing.
Do Partition case often settle prior to appointment of a commissioner?
Either party to the partition lawsuit, the plaintiffs or the defendants may be given an opportunity to purchase the property so long as they are willing to pay the fair market value of the real estate. In a vast majority of the partition cases a settlement of the case is reached before a commissioner is appointed. This allows the parties to avoid the expense of the commissioner and avoid other legal fees for the parties attorneys. If the case is not settled then the commissioner will sell the property and put the proceeds of the sale into the registry of Court and the parties can then argue as to who is entitled to those proceeds. The commissioner may need to deal with eviction issues or landlord tenant issues related to nonpayment of rent.
What Happens after the Commissioner sells the property?
After the property is sold by the commissioner the parties have a right to argue as to what interest they have to the proceeds that are being held by the Court. The parties have a right to a hearing / trial on the merits concerning their respective rights to the proceeds.
The parties can dispute and argue about issues concerning payment of taxes, assessments, condominium issues, insurance, condominium fees, mortgage payments, payments of the home equity line, payment of lines of credit secured by the real estate, utilities, payment of heat, electric, water, maintenance of the property, upkeep, additions, rent of tenants, remodeling issues, contracts between the parties, payment of condo fees, common maintenance fees, legal fees etc. The Superior Court Judge or potentially a Jury (if applicable) will determine these issues.
In what context are Partition cases filed?
Partition cases are often filed in the context of family disputes between family members who are feuding or cannot agree whether or not to sell the property. In some instances the family dispute concerns who is responsible to pay for taxes, insurance, additions, maintenance or upkeep of the property. Sometimes, the parties cannot agree to the reasonable fair market value of the property.
In other instances the family members just hate each other and their animosity leads to vindictiveness and eventually to a partition lawsuit in Court. Many of these feuds are long standing family disputes and issues between brothers and sisters, parents and children, uncles, cousins, or other distant relatives. These cases are particular sad when they involve fathers or mothers feuding with their children (son or daughter)-In some cases, the property is viewed as a valuable family homestead passed down through the generations to one member of the family while the other member of the family wants to sell the property (home) and cash out the equity in the property.
Partition cases also are filed in the context of boyfriends and girlfriends breakups or significant others who are involved in nasty breakups or even amicable breakups and cannot agree on what share of the proceeds each of the parties will receive upon the sale of the real estate. Rhode Island Family Court does not have jurisdiction over these types of disputes.
Partition actions can also be filed in the context of other types of disputes. A Life tenant with a life estate can seek to force the sale of the property against the owner of the property. A life tenant is a person with a deeded life estate with the right to live on the property for the remainder of his or her life. When the life tenant dies the life estate is extinguished. The life tenant can seek a sale of the property and can seek to partition the property.