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Articles by Peter T. Roach

Located in Syosset, NY, Peter T. Roach & Associates, P.C. has the most experienced professionals in real estate, litigation, foreclosure, and bankruptcy law. Our vast knowledge and experience allow us to effectively take on any case. We do everything we can to better serve our clients and exceed their expectations! To learn more about our practice, please read some interesting articles about New York debt collection and real estate law.


Adverse Possession - Ya gotta believe!

Adverse possession is a long-standing doctrine which can be used to acquire title or other property rights to a parcel of land regardless of record title to the premises. By virtue of “adversely possessing” a parcel or portion thereof, a person who does not, in fact, have title to a particular property may acquire title to it which is superior to, and extinguishes the rights of, the record title holder.

In order to do so, he or she must “adversely possess” the property for a period of 10 years without interruption. Adverse possession requires the party claiming to possess the property in one of the following ways:

  • in an adverse manner

  • under a claim of right

  • openly and notoriously

  • exclusively and be in actual possession

As a practical matter, the doctrine of Adverse Possession is usually applied to resolve boundary disputes, rather than ownership of entire parcels. For example, if a property owner constructed a fence five (5) feet beyond his own property line and onto his neighbor's property, and the fence remains unchallenged for ten (10) continuous years, that property owner acquires title to the five feet of land, and the neighbor’s rights to it are extinguished!

In 2006, Walling v. Przybylo, 7 N.Y.3d 228 (2006) held that a possessor could adversely possess property even if he clearly knew from the outset the property being possessed rightfully belonged to someone else. New York’s legislature felt this result was unjust, so it modified the existing law, and amended the language of Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law of New York (RPAPL) Section 543 to change the standards for adverse possession within the state. The new wording changed the definition of the “claim of right” requirement so that now a person may no longer maintain a claim of title by virtue of adverse possession if he does not reasonably believe he owns the property claimed.

This reflects a significant change in New York law, which now only allows title to be transferred as a result of adverse possession in instances where someone believed at the time they took possession, that they owned the property they were adversely possessing, and not to someone seeking an opportunity to surreptitiously acquire a neighbor's idle property.  

If you have concerns regarding your property lines, or whether a neighbor is “adversely possessing” any portion of your property, you should contact a real estate attorney well versed in adverse possession law and the 2008 modification to the New York statute.  


Peter Roach
Peter T. Roach & Associates, P.C.





Surveys: What they are and why they are needed

When you finance the purchase of a house, Lenders will usually insist that you provide their attorney with a survey of the property to be purchased.  A survey is simply a drawing to scale of the property's boundaries and the structures built on the land, including the house, garages, swimming pools, fences, etc. and will ensure, amongst other things, that your structure or fences do not encroach on a neighbor’s property, and that theirs do not encroach on yours.

Compliance with Local laws: Every municipality has its own laws regulating the use, construction and location of real property situated within the municipality. Surveys will identify fences that are not constructed on the actual property line, structures that were built closer to the property lines than allowed, and other matters that may become serious problems if not resolved prior to closing.

Easements:  In addition to displaying the correct property boundaries which will help to avoid disputes with the neighbors, the survey will provide all necessary information regarding any easements (the right of use and/or entry onto the real property of another without possessing it) that affect the property.

Certification: One should always make sure the survey is certified to you by a licensed surveyor to ensure that you will have recourse should you suffer damages as a result of an erroneous survey.

Survey Inspection: If you are purchasing a residential property and wish to avoid the cost of a new survey, your Lender may waive the survey requirement and rely upon your title company issuing a “Survey endorsement” based upon an inspector physically inspecting the property to determine if anything has changed since the last survey was conducted.

Cost: While the cost of a survey will depend on a variety of factors, including the terrain and the shape and the size of your property, residential surveys typically range between $500.00 and $1,000.00. Considering you are most likely making one of the largest investments of your life, it is money well spent as this is not the time to be “penny-wise and dollar-foolish.”

When buying any property a survey is required and necessary, so make sure you give it a thorough review and solve any discrepancies.

Peter Roach
Peter T. Roach & Associates, P.C.





Lawyers & Realtors: Can They Play Nicely Together?

Lawyers and realtors each have specific roles to play in the sale of any house, and each brings a particular set of skills and expertise to the table. When they work together as a team, their client gets the best of both worlds.  

The realtor traditionally initiates the process by bringing together the buyer and seller and assisting with the negotiations as to the price and, perhaps, some of the most important terms. The lawyer then takes over, negotiating all of the specific details that will be provided in the contract, reviewing title, resolving any impediments to the closing and drafting the deed and any other ancillary documents required.

Realtors are usually very familiar with current market conditions in the geographical area in which they operate and the prices that other homes have been sold for. They are therefore in the best position to advise their clients as to what a “fair price” for a particular house would be.

Attorneys, on the other hand, are typically brought in AFTER the price has been agreed upon and devote their time and expertise to ensuring title to the property is validly conveyed and to avoiding risks. Lawyers are more prone to be careful about not having something go wrong after the deal has closed, and making sure that the client is being protected from any unforeseen risks that could arise in the future, while realtors generally focus on ensuring that their clients don’t “lose the deal”.  

This difference of perspective, coupled with some lawyers being resentful of the fact that realtors make far more money than lawyers on any individual transaction, can sometimes cause some friction between the two. What lawyers must remember is that realtors may only close a handful of sales during the year and must spend most of their time showing people houses that they don't buy, while a lawyer gets paid for almost everything he/she does. The lawyers who understand this and are not resentful, but welcome the assistance of brokers (known in the industry as “Broker Friendly Lawyers”), realize that realtors often possess knowledge of certain aspects of the local market or have relationships with neighbors that they do not, and that their clients will benefit by mutual cooperation between the lawyer and realtor.

We recently represented a seller in a transaction where a fence was not situated within the designated property line. When the title company raised it as an exception, we knew to solve the problem by drafting a Boundary Agreement, but we also knew that the neighbor might be intimidated and refuse to sign it. Since the realtor was familiar with the neighborhood and the people who live there, we asked if she knew the neighbor and she did! She was therefore able to establish a level of comfort that we would not have been able to do (Can you believe that some people don’t trust lawyers?), got the agreement signed and the transaction was closed without delay; an example of how lawyers and realtors can work together!

Peter Roach
Peter T. Roach & Associates, P.C.





Closing In: The Real Estate Closing Date

One of the most important terms of a real estate contract is the “closing date.” This is the date that the purchaser remits the balance of funds due and the seller delivers the deed and gives possession of the property to the purchaser.

Since lawyers rarely, if ever, will agree to a “Time is of the Essence” contract, either party is entitled to a “reasonable adjournment” of thirty (30) days from the date of the closing date.  All too often, however, closings are delayed and adjourned well beyond that, sometimes with impunity.

These delays create an inconvenience for purchasers who may have already vacated their current residence in anticipation of closing on or around the date provided in the contract, and must find alternative living quarters and, perhaps, incur storage costs for their furniture and personal property. It can also burden sellers, who may have already vacated the property being sold, with carrying the cost of maintaining both their former and current residence and paying both mortgages.

Once thirty (30) days from the closing date have elapsed, the seller may declare a “Law Date” and give the purchaser “reasonable notice” that on a specified date and time at a specified place (usually his/her lawyer’s office) the deed will be executed and ready for delivery.

Should the purchaser fail to appear on the “Law Date” at the scheduled time and place, the contract will be cancelled, the contract deposit forfeited and the litigation will begin!

Should the seller be the one causing delay, the purchaser may commence an action for specific performance where he/she seeks a court order directing the seller to close, and the litigation has begun!

Either way, litigation is usually far too expensive for most parties to a residential real estate contract, so as a practical matter, where one party delays, the other party …. waits … and waits… and waits.    

An alternative to the dreaded “Time is of the Essence” clause is to include a “Penalty Clause” in the contract which states that if the closing is delayed beyond a certain date, the party causing the delay will incur a specified penalty for each day delayed. While enforcement of such a penalty clause will be difficult, the cost of litigation generally precludes it as a practical matter, its mere existence will act as a deterrent and cause both parties to close before incurring the penalty.

As with any other term in the contract, a penalty clause must be agreed to by both sides.  As it is not “standard,” you may encounter some resistance to your request to insert such a clause into the contract and will have to decide whether to insist upon it and risk the transaction or withdraw your request and risk a delay.

To avoid any “unintentional delays,” it’s important for the real estate attorneys to do their homework and make sure that all issues have been addressed and resolved prior to the closing, but even with the parties’ best intentions, and thorough competent real estate attorneys, one must always be prepared for delays regardless of the anticipated closing date.

Peter Roach
Peter T. Roach & Associates, P.C.





A rose...is a rose...is a rose, but lawyers are not roses!

Hiring the right lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you will ever make.  If you have not dealt with different attorneys regarding different matters, you may be under the impression that all lawyers are the same, but nothing could be further from the truth.

While all lawyers must pass a bar exam and maintain required standards, thinking they are all the same is like thinking there is no difference between Derek Jeter and the newest rookie. While they are both professional baseball players, there is clearly a big difference between the two! Similarly different lawyers will have different levels of experience in each area of practice.

There are many ways to research a lawyer’s qualifications and experience.  For example, all attorneys are now required to take continuing legal education courses to maintain an up-to-date knowledge of what is current in the law.  Some lawyers will listen to a lecture during their daily commute, while other lawyers will attend seminars in person where the experts in the field teach the current state of the law.

Q: Which one of these lawyers do you want to hire?

 A: Neither! You want to hire the lawyer giving the lecture!

In today’s world of Google, LinkedIn and other social media, a simple search should enable you to identify the experts.

Additionally, there are several well-respected organizations that can provide you with reviews and rankings of lawyers, as well as specific background information to help you decide which lawyer to hire.

Super Lawyers

Visit the website here.

Super Lawyers is an independent rating service for outstanding lawyers, those who are considered the top 5% of their area of practice. The Super Lawyer selection process is as follows:

1.       Peers select the best lawyers in their fields

2.       Third-party validation

3.       Review by experts

4.      Top 5% are selected  

AVVO Rating

Visit the website here.

AVVO matches the attorney's background via an unbiased mathematical model to determine each lawyer’s numerical rating. Factors taken into consideration include:

  • Experience level

  • Reputation

  • Professional awards and achievements

  • Lectures and Publications

  • Attorney’s disciplinary history


Visit the website here.

Martindale-Hubell is another peer review rating service for lawyers. Their methodology recently changed to examine two factors in their determination:

1. Legal Ability: Legal knowledge, analytical capabilities, judgment, communication ability and legal experience.

2. General Ethical Standards: Adherence to professional standards of conduct and ethics.

Lawyers that meet both of those standards, are awarded an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubell.

When selecting attorneys, it is important to consider their experience level, reputation and the attention they will devote to your particular matter in addition to the fee they charge.  Failure to do so may be far more costly in the long run, so don’t skimp on the research you do!

Peter Roach
Peter T. Roach & Associates, P.C.