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As Austin booms, so do legal disputes over property and real estate

The legal system in Travis County has seen an increase in legal disputes and lawsuits. Attorneys and a district judge say the rise comes from the influx of people.

AUSTIN, Texas — For months, the Austin real estate market has bounced back against the COVID-19 pandemic, but inventory just cannot keep up with demand.

"There's not a whole lot of inventory," Boone Almanza, a partner at ABDM Lawfirm who deals with real estate cases, said. "You had that problem going on for a while and that was part of the backdrop of a really strong residential environment, really strong commercial environment."

Almanza added that he's seen a lot more legal disputes lately over property and real estate, mainly transactional issues. It comes as a result of market uncertainty.

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"We have a lot of legal issues about entering into contracts, a lot of legal issues about closing, because when you've got prices going up between contract and closing, you know, 30 days, 45 days, that creates problems," Almanza said. "There are a lot of what I would call more transactional disputes that occur that may be down the road turn out into litigation or lawsuits."

Many of the disputes may enter litigation, but very few actually make it to trial. Even those few can cause other cases to stack up.

"If you think about it, real estate touches everything: it touches family law, it touches commercial entities, tenant landlord problems, it touches partnership disputes," Almanza said.

Jason Snell, a founding partner at The Snell Law Firm, added he sees a pretty particular lawsuit that coincides with the booming real estate market of Austin.

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"You have a seller that terminates a contract, whether intentionally or not, or whether or not it was an actual termination, is up for the court to decide," Snell said. "Then you have the original buyer and the backup buyer and now the seller all in a dispute as to who has the contract to purchase the property. I'm handling two of those right now. Those both came into my office in the last four to six weeks. I can say in the last five years, I probably handled one of those kinds of cases."

Snell believes these kinds of cases are growing exponentially. Both Snell and Almanza agree property cases won't slow down anytime soon; especially as the eviction moratorium is expected to expire Aug. 1.

"We're anticipating a pretty large wave of foreclosures and evictions, and it's not clear when it's going to happen, but you can already feel it occurring," Almanza said. "There are more foreclosure cases going on. Central Texas may be a little more immune to it than others because of the general economy, but they're still going to be a lot of those there."

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