Need advice on suing a real estate attorney?

by admin on October 6, 2010

To make a long (LONG) story very short: We entered into a rent to own program through a real estate attorney. We put down a considerable down payment (10k) to keep our monthly rental payments low, were promised in the contract that that money would go toward the down payment when we purchased the house. We were also given ,000 off the price of the house for repairs we made before we moved in.
Through the course of living here, we found out the attorney did not own the house, there was an actual owner.. and they were refusing to sell (even though they entered into a contract). They took their situation to a lawyer and got out of their end.. leaving us up in the air. The contract we signed had a time stipulation and that ran out.. meaning we were out our down payment, they refused to return it. Right before the contract ran out, the house went to foreclosure. It is now owned by the bank and there’s a strong possibility we’ll be forced out.
From what I understand, since the lawyer/company never owned the house, they never had the right to claim they could sell it to us. We even secured financing for the house and the actual seller refused to sell through him.

We went to a very good real estate/contract attorney and told him the situation, showed him the contracts, and asked what we could do.
After a few days of research he said there is a "reasonable chance" we can win, but his fees in total will cost ,500-,500. He wants to take this guy to the cleaners. Wants to sue for not only our down payment, but damages as well. He knows our financial situation, and even stated that considering that, he understands that choosing him may not be a good option for us at the moment.

Does ,500-,500 sound too expensive, or too cheap? I’ve considered shopping for a lesser priced attorney, but the situation is so complicated i’m concerned that finding someone cheaper would lessen our chances of winning. I would dive in if I knew we had a 100% chance of winning, but you never know. I’ve also looked for a contingency lawyer but all the ones in our area seem to only take on personal injury cases.
Honestly, what would you do? What does "reasonable chance of winning" really mean in lamens terms? I understand he can’t give us a "I know you’ll win!" answer because that would be irresponsible.. but I feel like I need a little more assurance before diving in and possibly losing ,500 on top of what we’ve already lost.
I am confident we will win the case, I just don’t want to end up paying 30k in lawyer fees, after being nickled and dimes, and the chance that IF we win, the defendant will just appeal again and again, for a 10k(ish) lawsuit. Would that even happen?
Edited to add: Yes I realize we were stupid by entering into this contract in the first place. We were desperate.. and got screwed because of it. That’s not what I want to hear. I know we were stupid. I just want to know if we can get our money back, and how much it will cost us to do so.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Glenn S October 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm

The lawyer fee sounds very reasonable to me. Lawyers around here get around $500 an hour. I’m sure that he is going to put more than 5-7 hours of time into your case.

If you win you should be able to get some of your legal fees awarded back to you from the defendant.

This type of case doesn’t sound like one that an attorney would take on contingency. Most lawyers wouldn’t take on contingency case unless it is worth at least $50,000.

always b natural October 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Can you find an attorney that would work on a contingency basis?
This means that if you don’t win, he gets nothing.

I don’t think the lawyer you consulted is taking you to the cleaners.
But get a few more consults.

BTW, have you checked to see if you can press criminal charges?
Have you complained to the bar in your area?
To me, it sounds like he broke the law, and should be
subject to the full extent of the law.

Steven October 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm

$3,500 retainer is on the low end for any potential litigation. If you end up having to actually file suit and appear in court with an attorney, it will get expensive. Finding the absolute cheapest attorney isnt good either as you are generally paying for experience.

Generally in a law suit, the party you should be most suspicious of is your own attorney. Having said that, if you have grounds for a lawsuit where some recovery is assured, you should to try to negotiate with the original attorney and avoid attorney fees. If you do sue, due to the size of what you be able to recover you may consider filing it your self in small claims court. The link below will tell you the limit in your state.

http://law.freeadvice.com/resources/smallclaimscourts.htm

fishysticks October 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm

We’ve looked for an attorney based on contingency, and though we’ve contacted a few, most seem to only be in the "personal injury" game when it comes to that.

I’ve asked the lawyer we consulted with MANY times how much, in total, he estimated our suit would cost, and he still insists it would be 2,500-3,500 total (but I don’t think that includes appeals if we were to win). I don’t know if he’s cutting us a deal, because he knows and sympathizes with our financial situation and also comes HIGHLY recommended and is one of the best in the area. Those are all questions we still need to ask before retaining him as our counsel, which we can’t do until Tuesday.
We do plan on consulting other lawyers to get a price estimate, but I just don’t know with how complicated the situation is, that getting a cheaper lawyer would be a wise decision. They may take longer to do the things that need to be done and charge us more in the long term because of time spent, etc.

steven j October 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Basically either way your in a pickle. You diffidently have a case against the attorney, but the chances or recovery are very slim even if you win. Secondly your suing and attorney, whom knows the laws, with an attorney thats paid on time allocated to the situation.

His fees are very reasonable, but your right it will not include appeals and hold ups. And for the amount that your suing for is considered a small claims dispute which will have to go to small claims court; for which you will not need an attorney.

If I were you I would go straight to the BAR association and file though them. They will go after and reprimanded the attorney or even disbar him. This will hurt him way greater then the going though the formal courts and having to pay all that money for a possibility that you will recover any money at all.And frankly the attorney that your trying to hire knows this and should advise you accordingly, but he wont make money compared to taking you though the court system.

Call the BAR!

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