Agreements Related to Real Estate

Many have heard of the Statute of Frauds; the main focus of this statute is that agreements related to land need to be in writing to be enforceable.  Here are some common scenarios that are not often reduced to writing and can lead to problems.

Encroachment Issues: Neighbors often know and acknowledge that the neighbor’s driveway, garden or outbuilding is partly on your land.  If might not seem Minnesota nice to require a written agreement but the failure to do so leads to problems. Over time, the neighbor or a future owner can argue adverse possession and take your land.  If, on the other hand, you have the neighbor sign a lease (you can be nice and charge $1 per year), now its clear to the neighbor, future owner and most importantly a judge that they cannot claim adverse possession.

Family deals: families often have arrangements about inheritance rights, use of jointly owned property, loans secured by land…  By advice regarding family deals is to always treat them as if they are not family deals. Get your deal in writing! So many times family deals get ugly and all the terms of the deal are verbal; that’s great for lawyers as it takes a lot of time and money to prove your deal without a written agreement or a poorly worded written agreement, but the best method is of course to do things right in the beginning.  A well drafted agreement might be a waste of paper if all goes well but it sure helps avoid a mess if things don’t turn out as planned.

Home remodeling: beyond simple projects, you really need to demand a written agreement on the cost and terms of any construction work.  Can you look at the written agreement and confirm exactly what materials are being used? If not, require detailed plans and specs so the contractor can’t try and upcharge you on things you thought were part of the original quote.  Require proof of insurance and licensing information. There are many protections for homeowners but many of them won’t apply if you are working with someone that just works on the side out of his pickup. It’s worth paying a bit more to make sure someone has financial backing so there is coverage for when things go wrong.

Please send any request for topic suggestions to  Although we cannot give you legal advice through the column, we can provide some general information that may be helpful for you to know.  Our purpose is to educate and we hope that you can take something new away from this column each time you read it.