REAL ESTATE LAW DICTIONARY

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(This is not legal advice – just helpful info)


A
Acre A unit of measurement.  Usually measures land.  4,840 square yards.  43,560 square feet.  It is approximately the size of one USA football field.
Affidavit A written statement of facts, made voluntarily and under oath.  Usually signed by the person stating the facts (called the Affiant or Declarant)
Agent A person who is authorized by another person to act for him or in place of him.
Agency A relationship between two people where one acts as the authorized representative of the other.
Amend(ment) To change, correct, or revise by addition, change, or deletion.  Usually for a written document.  The change made by the act of amending.
Amortize To allocate a cost or expense over a period of time, instead of accounting for it now.
Apartment A unit of a building used as a residence.   Usually shares common areas with other residents of other Apartments in the same building or complex.  Residents of the units do not own their units or any of the common shared areas.
Appraisal An estimate of the value of something.  Usually by an expert.
Arbitration A dispute resolution process using a neutral person.  The Arbitrator’s decision is sometimes final and binding on the parties to the dispute.  Usually includes presenting evidence and arguments to the Arbitrator, and a written decision by the Arbitrator.
Architect A person who designs and usually supervises the construction or renovation of buildings or other large structures.
Assessment The valuation of property for the purpose of calculating taxes on it.  Usually done by an expert, and often done by a government agency (Assessor).  The Assessment can be challenged by the owner.
Asset The property, of any kind, that is available for the payment of the owner’s debts, or that is used to calculate the owner’s net worth.
Assignment The transfer to another person of all or part of the Assignor’s rights.  The person receiving the assigned rights is called the Assignee
Attachment The legal process of freezing another person’s property, by court order, to secure the satisfaction (payment) of a future court judgment against the other person’s attached property.  Sometimes requires posting a Bond by the attaching party.
B
Bankrupt Unable to pay debts as they become due.
Bankruptcy The process for a bankrupt person to apply for protection under US law.
Boundary Anything which is or marks the line dividing two properties
Breach Breaking or violating a law, rule, or agreement by doing something forbidden or failing to do something required.
Broker An Agent hired to make deals and contracts between other people, for pay.
Burglary Breaking and entering a building, with the intent to commit a felony crime inside.
C
Capacity Legally qualified (to do something that has legal effect)
CC & R The CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) are the rules of your neighborhood. They describe the requirements and limitations about what you can do with your property.  Usually apply to condominium or other planned communities.  These requirements usually pass automatically to the next owner.
Change Order In construction, a document given by the owner to the contractor, to describe changes to the current work of construction, to add or remove items, usually because of a changed condition, and describing the cost and time required to make the change.
Clerk An officer of the court or government who files documents and keeps records.
Closing The final step(s) of a real estate transaction, usually where final documents are signed and exchanged, and the purchase price is paid.
Code A set of laws or rules.
Commercial Relating to business, trade, or activities done with the goal of profit.
Condemnation Process used by the Government to take property from private owner in order for it to be used for a public purpose.  Also see Eminent Domain.  This process is often challenged in court, either because the taking is wrong, or the amount paid by the Government to the owner is disputed.
Condition A future event, the happening of which determines future rights and obligations.
Condominium A system of separate ownership of separate units in a shared building.  The separate owners have rights to use the common areas outside of the separately owned units.
Conservator A guardian appointed by a Court to manage the affairs of a person or business.  Usually where the person or business is unable to manage those affairs properly.  Sometimes appointed against the wishes of that person or business (called the Conservatee or Ward).
Contingency Similar to a Condition.  Something which depends on the future occurrence of an uncertain event.  For legal fees it describes a contract where some or all of the Attorney’s fees depend on the result obtained in the case.
Contract An agreement between two or more persons which creates an obligation to do or not do a specific thing.  Can be oral or in writing.  Most Contracts involving Land must be in writing to be enforceable.
Convey To transfer or deliver to another.  To transfer the title to property from one to another.
Co-op (Cooperative) A corporation or association for the purpose of benefiting its members, with no profit to the Co-op itself.  The members are co-owners of the Co-op.  For residents of a Co-op, this is different from a Condominium.  In a Co-op apartment building, the members own the building (usually by owning shares in the Co-op corporation), but only lease their individual separate apartments from the Co-op.
Copyright An Intangible property right, granted by law, to the author or originator of literary or artistic productions, giving the author the sole and exclusive privilege of publishing and/or selling copies.
Corporation An artificial person or legal entity, created under the laws of a state, and treated by the law as a person which can sue and be sued, hold property, conduct business, and pay taxes.
Covenant An agreement or promise by two or more parties, usually in writing and signed by the parties, by which either pledges that something is either done, shall be done (or not done), or stipulating to the truth of a fact(s)
Creditor A person to whom a debt is owed by another person (the Debtor)
D
Deed A signed writing (and usually delivered) whereby title to real estate is transferred from one person to another.
Deed of Trust A writing used in some states to take the place of a Mortgage.  Legal title to real property is placed in a Trustee, to secure the repayment of money or the performance of certain conditions.
Default The failure to perform a legal or contractual duty
Defect The lack of something necessary for completeness, or of something necessary for the proper use of a thing.
Delinquent (for a debt) an amount due but unpaid at the time required by law or contract.
Disclosure the manner in which basic information, necessary to an intelligent assessment of a transaction, is conveyed to a party to the transaction.  In Real Estate these are often required by law.
Domicile A person’s legal and permanent home, where he intends to return when he is away.  A person only has one domicile, but can have more than one residence.
Duty An obligation that a person has by law or contract.
E
Easement A right of use over the property of another.  Can be to benefit a parcel of land, or to benefit a person.  These rights can be created by law, by a court, by gift, by contract, or by passage of time.  These can be invisible or not obvious by inspecting the land.
Eminent Domain The power of a government to take private land for public use.  Contained in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and requires ‘just compensation’ to the private owner.  The private owner often sues for wrongful taking or for higher compensation.
Enclosure A visible obstruction surrounding land, or the act of so surrounding land with a barrier
Encroachment An unlawful intrusion onto the land of another, usually by a thing.  This might also be an unlawful Trespass.
Encumbrance A right to, or interest in, land which may subsist or remain in another person after the passing of title to that land.  Usually diminishes the value of the land.  Common types are a Lien or an Easement.
Equity The difference between the fair market value of a property and the debt in the property
Escrow A contract or system by which a person holds documents, money or other items pending the completion of certain conditions by the parties, at which time the Escrow person disburses the items according to the contract terms.  In Real Estate the Escrow company holds the deed to the property, the money to be paid, and other documents.  At successful Closing, the Escrow company gives each party the money or documents required by the Escrow Instructions (a contract)
Estate The degree, quantity, nature, and extent of interest which a person has in property.   Also used to distinguish the types of ownership of real property.  Also used to describe the collection of property (and debt) owned by a person on his death (Decedent’s Estate or Probate Estate), or on his filing for bankruptcy protection or on a couple filing for Divorce (Marital Estate).
Estimate A valuation or rating made by the mind, without actually measuring or otherwise conclusively examining the subject of the valuation or rating.  Implies a calculation or use of skill.
Evict To dispossess by process of law; depriving a person of possession of land or property.
Executor A person appointed to carry out the directions in a document.  Also known as a Personal Representative.  Commonly appointed to administer the instructions in a Will.
Extension An increase in length.  Usually the length of time, and usually before expiration of the originally agreed upon time.
F
Fence A structure serving as an enclosure, barrier, or boundary.   Can be a problem if you discover that the Fence is not actually on the boundary.   A line of trees, bushes, or plants can also be legally considered a ‘Fence’ and be subject to laws regulating its placement or height.
Fiduciary A person having the duty to act for the benefit of another person, usually requiring she acts with a high degree of good faith and honesty for the person to be benefited.  This status includes legal obligations and usually involves money or things of value.
Filing To deposit an item, usually a document, with a court or government agency, creating an official record of the filing itself and of the contents of the document.  In Law there are often deadlines for filing, or advantages to filing before someone else files.
Fixture An item which is normally personal property, but has been so attached to real estate that it is treated as a permanent part of the real estate for legal purposes.
Flip In real estate, the process of buying, usually improving, and quickly re-selling for a profit
Foreclose The legal process of depriving a mortgagor or other owner of his legal interest in a property.  Usually includes destroying his right to redeem the property.  Often includes a process of selling the foreclosed property.
Forfeit The loss of a legal or contract right, without compensation, usually due to a failure, fault, delay, crime, breach, or other event.
Forgery The false making or changing of a document with the intention to deceive or defraud.  Often includes using the signature of another without his knowledge or consent.
Franchise A privilege sold by the owner of a trademark or process, allowing the buyer to sell a product or service using that trademark, trade name, or process.
Fraud A false statement of fact, knowing it is false, with the intention of causing a person to rely on the false statement, usually to benefit the person making the false statement or to harm the person relying on the false statement.
G
Grade The line of a land’s angle compared to the horizon.  A slope.  Also used in Construction to describe changing the slope of land (usually to make it flat).
Grantor The person who makes a transfer of land, or who creates or funds a Trust.
Grantee A person receiving a transfer of land or property, usually by a grant from a Grantor.
Guarantee A promise, usually by contract, to pay for the debt or obligation of another.
Guarantor A person who becomes secondarily liable for the debt or contractual performance of another; a person who promises to answer for a debt or default of another.
Guaranty An agreement to satisfy the debt of another person, only if and when that other person fails to pay or perform an obligation.  It is a separate contract from the promise between the other persons.
H
Habitability Condition of premises allowing an inhabitant to live free from serious defects to health and safety.   This has different requirements in different jurisdictions.  Tenants sometimes sue the Landlord for a violation of habitability requirements.
Heir A person, according to law, who succeeds to an Estate when another person dies without a Will.  The Heir then Inherits all or part of the Estate.  Technically, an Heir cannot be determined until the moment a person dies so, because you are able to read this, you cannot know who your Heirs are, because you do not have any yet.
Highway A public roadway which every person has the right to use.
Homestead By law, an artificial Estate to protect the owner’s possession of land against the claims of creditors, by excluding the Homestead  property (in full or part) from being taken to repay creditors.  Often called a Homestead Exemption, and varies by state laws.
I
Inherit To receive something, by law, upon the death of another person.  The thing(s) received is called an Inheritance.
Inspect To examine or investigate for the purpose of determining the condition of a thing.
Insurance A contract whereby one person agrees to compensate the other person for a specific loss, usually caused by a specific event or force.
Intangible A thing which has no physical form and cannot be touched; an idea or a right.  An example would be a Patent or Copyright.  An intangible asset is treated by law as property.  These are often difficult to put a value on.
Interest A right, claim, title, or legal share in something.  Usually means something that is less than full ownership.
Intestate Not having a written Will to specify what happens upon the person’s death.  In this case, state law determines the treatment of the assets and debts of the Intestate person.
Invest Expending assets to acquire property in order to produce future income or gain from that expenditure.
J
Joint A common, shared ownership interest, right, or obligation between two or more owners where the group is responsible for the right, interest, or obligation.
Joint and Several A Joint obligation or liability whereby each person bears full responsibility for the entire obligation or responsibility of the group, not just his share of it.
Judgment An official decision by a court deciding the rights and claims of the parties.
Junior Lower in rank, order, or preference.
Jurisdiction The power of a court to make a binding and enforceable decision.  Often, but not always, determined by a geographical area or location.
L
Landlocked Property which is surrounded on all sides by property owned by others.  The landlocked property cannot be accessed without traveling over and/or through the property of others.
Landlord The owner of an estate in land who has leased it to another, who is usually called the Tenant or Lessee
Lateral Support The right to have land supported by the adjacent land and/or the soil beneath that land.  The owner of the adjacent land has a duty not to change his own land in violation of his neighbor’s right to Lateral Support from that land.  Subjacent Support is the term for support from the land and structures under your own land.
Lease A contract for exclusive possession and use of land or other property interest belonging to another. The owner is the Lessor and the person acquiring possession and use is the Lessee.
Liability A legal obligation that a person is bound to perform or satisfy.  Broadly used to mean legal fault or other responsibility to compensate another person for a harm or loss.
License A personal privilege to do an act.  Usually can be revoked by the person granting it, and usually cannot be transferred to another person.
Lien A claim or charge or Encumbrance against property to secure the payment of a debt or obligation.  Also a right to enforce the claim or charge against the property.  A lien can be created by law or by contract.
Litigation The process of presenting evidence and arguments to a court or other decision maker, to resolve a dispute.  Usually begins with a dispute, then negotiation and, if not settled, an arbitration and/or a lawsuit filed with a court.
Loan Delivery of money or valuable property by one person to another, with agreement that it will be returned according to the terms of the agreement.
Lot One of several units of property resulting from the division of a larger property.
M
Maintenance The upkeep or preservation of the condition of property; includes the cost of ordinary repairs needed for that purpose.
Mechanic’s Lien A claim (Lien) created by law to secure the payment for the value of work performed and materials used to create, improve, or repair property.  The lien attaches to the property and is an Encumbrance on it.
Mediation Private resolution of a dispute between parties, using a neutral decision-maker.  The mediator (usually) does not have power to make a decision that is binding on the parties.
Memorandum A brief writing to reflect something the parties will use as a basis for a future agreement.  These are usually not binding as contracts.
Minor A person under the age set by law to be legally competent to do certain acts, unless there is an exception to the law.
Misdemeanor A criminal offense lower than a felony.  Defined by state law.  In California it is generally punishable by a fine, penalty, and/or jail for less than one year.
Mitigate To reduce or make a result less severe.  Generally requires a person who has suffered loss or harm to take steps to make his loss as small as possible.  Known as the Duty to Mitigate (damages).  Failure to Mitigate damages is often litigated as a defense to paying damages or to reduce the amount owed.
Mortgage An interest in land, created by a written document, providing security for the performance of a duty or the payment of a debt.  In most states it is a Lien against the property, entitling the Mortgage holder (usually a bank) to enforce payment by taking and selling the property (by the process of Foreclosure).
Mutual Something common to all parties.  Usually reciprocal.
N
Negligence Under normal circumstances, either the failure to do something which a normal, reasonable person using normal care or skill would do, or the doing of something which an ordinary, reasonable person using normal care or skill would not do.  A legal standard designed to protect others against an unreasonable risk of harm.
Nominal Not substantial, but just named or stated.
Notary / Notarize A licensed public officer who administers oaths and certifies certain documents, and attests to the authenticity of signatures.  Normally, a Notary only verifies that the person signing a document is the person named in the document, usually by checking valid identification.  The Notary does not verify the actual contents of any document.
Notice Information communicated to a person to inform him of a fact.  Usually involves information regarding a fact that the person has a right to be informed of, and/or a fact that the person communicating the fact has a Duty to communicate to him.  Notice is sometimes legally required, and then it is to be given according to specific procedures.
Novation Substituting a prior valid contract for a new valid one, by agreement of all parties to extinguish the prior contract.
Nuisance An offensive, annoying, or unpleasant thing or act, or the cause of it.  Usually involves the disturbance of another person’s right, or causes another person injury, inconvenience, or damage.  Abatement is the removal of the Nuisance.
Nullify To cause an act or thing to have no legal effect, as if it never occurred or existed.
O
Oath A process by which a person signifies that he is bound in conscience to perform an act faithfully and truthfully.  Often includes the words “I swear.”
Objection An act in opposition to, or disagreement with, another statement or act.
Obligation A duty under law or contract to do, or to not do, an act.
Occupy Taking and actual use of possession of property.
Offer A proposal to do a thing or give something of value.  Usually in exchange for receiving something of value in return.  For Contracts, an Offer is valid and complete if a contract is automatically created by the other person formally accepting the offer, before the offer is formally revoked.
Option A right to choose to exercise a right or privilege, according to the Option terms.
P
Partition The dividing of real estate held by joint tenants or tenants in common.  Or, generally any co-owners.  Partition results in each individual owning his partitioned portion, instead of shared ownership.  Often the desire of a party to a Partition results in a sale of the property, by agreement or court order.
Partnership An association of two or more people to conduct a business for profit, but which is not organized as a Corporation.  Usually involves an agreement that profits and losses will be shared proportionately among them (or by a different formula in the Partnership Agreement).
Patent A grant, usually by a government, of the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling one’s own invention.  It includes the right to license others to make, use, or sell it.
Perfection A legal process whereby a security interest is protected against other claims to the collateral secured.  Perfection usually requires public notice of the claimed security interest by filing documents with a Government office.
Perjury A statement of fact, opinion, belief, or knowledge, made by a person under Oath, which is material to the issue and which the maker of the statement knows (or believes) to be false.
Permit A document which grants a person the right or authority to do something.  Usually involves something which cannot be legally done without a Permit.
Plaintiff A person who brings a lawsuit, seeking court relief for injury or to protect his rights.
Pledge Personal property (not real estate) delivered to a holder, usually a creditor, to secure payment of a debt or fulfillment of an obligation.  Often creates a lien on the pledged property.
Possession Having physical control over a thing, with intention to exercise that control.
Power of Attorney A written document whereby a person appoints another person as his agent, with authority to perform certain specified acts on behalf of the person appointing him as agent.  The person with the power does not need to be a licensed Attorney at Law.
Preclude To prohibit or prevent a person from doing some act.
Predecessor A person who held a particular position before the current holder.  Usually is the person immediately before the current person.  The person who holds the position immediately after transfer is called the Successor.
Prejudice Leaning toward a decision or judgment for reasons other than an honest belief in the truth or justice of the result.
Preponderance The amount of proof to establish that a fact is more likely true than not true.  This is the standard of proof required to win in most civil lawsuits.
Principal -For a debt of money, it is the amount of the debt without considering interest.
-For an Agent, the Principal is the person who appointed the Agent to act on behalf of the Principal.
Priority A legal preference.  A legal placing of something ahead of another thing.  The relative ranking of competing claims to the same property.
Probate The legal procedure used to determine if a Will is valid, after that person’s death.  It also includes procedures to create the dead person’s (known as the “decedent”) Estate of assets, determine his debts, and settling all of the affairs of the Estate, and then distributing remaining assets of the Estate according to the Will or the orders of the court.
Profit Financial gain from a transaction or from an investment or business activity, usually calculated as income (revenue) minus the costs used to produce that income.
Property Anything than be the subject of ownership.  The exclusive right to a thing.  The right to dispose of it, to possess it, use it, and to exclude every other person from interfering with it.
Proprietor A business owner who has the legal right and exclusive title to that business.  Usually is a single person (which is sometimes called a “sole proprietor”).  Usually is not a corporation.
Prorate To adjust or divide proportionately, according to the amount of time of use (or sometimes according to the number of participants).
Prospectus A document required by law, containing all ‘material’ facts of a business venture and is used by a potential investor to evaluate the potential risks and benefits of a purchase or investment in that business.  Usually applies to stocks or shares in a corporation or other business venture.  The contents of the Prospectus are governed by Federal laws.
Proxy A person who is substituted by another person to act on the other’s behalf.  Similar to an Agent.  Usually used for corporation board meetings where the Proxy person has the right to vote and conduct all business on behalf of another person.  Also used to describe the document giving the person the Proxy authority.
Q
Quantum Meruit A legal claim for payment by a person who worked without a contract, to be paid “the reasonable value” for the work and materials.  Usually where the situation makes clear that the person was not working for free, and that the person receiving the benefit of the work should reasonably have expected to have to pay for it.
Quiet (enjoyment) The right of an owner or tenant to enjoy the use of land in peace and without disturbance or interference.  This is not limited to noise.  This is a Contract right.
Quiet (title) A lawsuit to establish a person’s title to land against any / all others.
Quitclaim (deed) A deed given by a person to release his entire interest, if any, in the land covered in the deed, in favor of another person.
R
Realty / Real Estate Land, and anything permanently attached to the land
Receiver A person appointed by a court order to hold, manage, and preserve property during a trial or other resolution of claims.  Usually where there is danger that the property will lose value during the case, due to actions or inactions of the owner.
Reckless A term for the amount of care a person uses.  It does not consider the person’s intent.  It is a knowing disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm that will probably or possibly result from the conduct.  It involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a normal reasonable person would use in a similar situation.
Recompense Payment or reward, usually for property, work or services.  Similar to compensation.
Record(ing) Filing a document with a public agency.  The purpose is usually to give Notice to the world of the contents of the filed document, where any person may check the public records to find the recorded document.
Redeem To buy back.  Usually for re-acquiring a person’s property by paying the debt owed.
Red-lining A procedure used by lenders to refuse to make loans on property located in specific areas.  This is illegal if the refusal is based on unlawful discriminatory reasons.  Banks used to draw red lines on maps to remember the areas they decided not to loan money into.
Register To record something formally, according to required procedure.  Also the book or list containing properly recorded filings.
Rehab(ilitate) To return something to its earlier level of quality, or higher.  In Real Estate, this step is used after buying a property and before using it, to increase the value and income from it.
Release To give up a right, claim, or privilege.
Remainder For Real Estate, a future interest in land which will arise after an event affecting the current interests in that land.  An example is a gift of a house to a person for the rest of her life, with ‘remainder’ to another person after the death of the first person.
Renounce To reject or abandon a known right, power, or privilege.
Rent Something of value (usually money) given in exchange for the use of land or improvements on the land, such as a building.
Repudiate To reject or give up a right, duty, obligation, or privilege.
Restraining Order A court order forbidding the person named from doing an act, until a full hearing in court to decide the rights of the parties involved.  This is temporary and is sometimes called a TRO.
Retainer In the legal profession, an amount given by the client as a deposit for the lawyer’s future services.  The use of the funds is specified in the contract, often called a Retainer Agreement.  Court fees and other costs and expenses are usually not included in the Retainer.
Retaining Wall A wall built and used for supporting soil laterally (side-to-side) so that it can be kept at different levels on the two sides.  Designed to keep soil to a slope that it would not naturally keep to, so that it does not slide down.  Can be temporary or permanent.  Sometimes called ‘shoring’ a wall or soil.
Retaliatory Eviction Act of a Landlord to Evict a Tenant, usually to punish the Tenant for an act.  This can be illegal if it can be proven that the reason was based on discrimination or some other unlawful purpose. This can also be a defense by the Tenant from being Evicted.  If proven, this can result in fines or other punishment to be paid by the Landlord.  (there are many other Tenant defenses to Eviction which are not listed in this Dictionary)
Revoke To make something void by taking it back or canceling it (such as a Will or License or Permit or Offer or gift).
Rider An attachment to a document to add to the document.  Usually used in Insurance contracts to add or exclude events or risks the company is insuring.
Riparian Relating to land on the border of a river or stream.  Riparian rights can include use of the water by the owner of the Riparian land.  For land on the border of non-moving water such as a lake, the term is Littoral land.
Runs with the land Legal term to describe rights or burdens on property that are not canceled when the property is transferred to another person.  Because the right is attached to the land in a legal sense, and not to the person who owns it.  Usually involves Easements or Covenants (like CC&Rs)
Rural Term used for areas outside of cities or developed areas. Often for farms, forests, and places where homes and businesses are farther apart than in cities.  The opposite term is “Urban.”
S
Sanction A penalty for violating a rule or law.
Secured A transaction, debt, or obligation supported by a pledge of collateral, usually property, to be used to satisfy the debt or obligation in case of non payment or non performance.  Usually done by giving a Lien against the secured property.  A debt which does not have property as Security (such as credit card debt) is known as unsecured debt.
Security Term for the property used to Secure a debt or obligation (also known as Collateral).  Also used as another term for a Stock, which is evidence of a debt owed by the company to the holder of the Security.
Senior Earlier in line or rank for payment of a debt, compared to other claims which are said to be Junior to the Senior claim.
Serve / Service In a lawsuit, the formal procedure, according to rules, to give a person Notice that a claim has been filed which involves his rights, and enough information about the claims for him to be able to decide whether, when, where, and how to respond.
Service Mark A mark or symbol used in business and advertising to identify the services offered by one person, to distinguish it from services offered by others.  Similar to a Trademark, which is more commonly used for sale or advertising of physical items instead of services.
Settlement The result of discussions or negotiations to resolve claims between people.  Usually used to describe the written document containing the agreed terms.
Statute A written law or rule enacted by a legislative body of government.
Statute of Limitation A law setting a deadline for filing a lawsuit.  It is to protect people from having to worry forever about the consequences of an action.
Stock For a Corporation, evidence of a partial ownership of that Corporation.  Stock is property, usually has a value, and gives the owner certain rights and restrictions.
Stop Order (or Stop Notice) In construction, an instruction to stop work on a project.
Subordinate For a debt or claim, indicates that it is to be paid or satisfied only after other specified debts or claims.  Often requested by a bank before it will lend money for property, to be sure that any other loans are Subordinate to the bank’s loan, so that  the bank will be paid first if the borrower Defaults on the Loan.
Subpoena A command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony (and/or to produce documents or physical evidence), usually issued under the authority of a court.
Subrogation For Insurance, the substitution of one person for another, giving the substituted person all of the rights of the original person.  Usually where the Insurance company pays the insured person for a loss in exchange for that person’s rights to pursue his claims against another person (to recover the money already paid by the Insurance company).
Successor A person who takes the place (including rights and obligations) of an earlier person (who is called the Predecessor).
Survey The measurement of land to determine lengths, areas, heights, and locations, and other information about the property.  Usually includes maps, drawings, research and reports, and is usually done by an expert.
T
Tax A charge by a government based on value, income, or some other basis.  In Real Estate, this includes Assessments, property tax, transfer tax, and others, usually based on a determination of the value of the property.
Tenant A person holding a possessory interest in property belonging to another, usually permitting him to Occupy the property along with other rights and Duties.
(in)Testate A person who has made a Will (also called the Testator).  If a person dies without a Will he is called Intestate.
Testify To give evidence, usually by statement and usually under Oath.
Title In real estate, the formal right of property ownership.  Usually includes a document showing the nature and extent of the ownership.
Trademark A distinctive mark of origin of a product used in trade or business.
Transcript A copy, usually written, recording an event.  Usually used for court or official proceedings as a record of what was said or done.
Trespass An unlawful interference with a person’s rights.  In real estate it is any unauthorized intrusion onto or invasion of private property or land of another person, and can be committed by a person, object, or other method.
Trial A court determination of rights and issues between parties, usually involving evidence and argument.
Trust A legal entity created for the benefit of another.  Usually created by a person who funds the Trust and by written instructions for the treatment and distribution of the Trust property.  A Trustee governs the Trust Property according to the Trust documents.  A Beneficiary is a person receiving value from the Trust Property.
Trustee A person having responsibility to govern and manage a Trust, usually according to written instructions.  Often a person or bank (Trust Company).
U
Underwrite In insurance, the insuring of life, property, or something else against risk.  Also the process used by the Insurer to determine whether to insure and how much to charge for it.
Also used in Banking to describe the process used by the lender to determine whether to lend money, how much, and on what terms.
Urban Characterized as being in a city or town.  The opposite is Rural.  Sub-Urban refers to the areas outside of the Urban area, but still more like a city than a countryside or Rural area.
Usury The charging of an illegally high rate of interest for the use of money.  Sometimes violated when other charges for a loan are really just disguised interest and which push the total interest above the legal limit.
V
Variance In Real Estate, official permission to do something that is not allowed by the Zoning laws.  Can be for the physical features of the property (such as height) or for the use of a property (such as sale of alcohol or hours of operation).
Vendor A person who transfers an item by sale of it, or offers the item for sale.  The buyer is known as the Vendee.
Venue The correct legal location for a lawsuit, usually determined by law.  Usually determined by reference to where the parties are located or where the cause of the dispute occurred.  For Real Estate disputes the proper Venue is usually determined by the location of the property.
Vested Describes a right that has become certain, based on the passage of time or some other requirement.  Before the right vests it is known as contingent because it might never reach vesting.
Void Having no legal force or effect.
Voidable Something which may be declared or become Void, but until that occurs it is otherwise valid and has legal effect.
W
Waiver A relinquishment of a right.  Can be automatic or implied, but usually requires knowledge of the right, understanding of the right, and voluntary relinquishment.
Ward A person placed by a court under the care and supervision of a guardian or conservator.
Warrant A written order, issued by a court under the authority of the government.  Usually gives authority to do an act, such as the arrest of a person or the search of a thing or area, according to law and the written instructions in the Warrant.
Warranty A promise or assurance that a fact is true, so that the fact can be relied upon by another person.  Usually includes that the person giving the Warranty will be responsible for the consequences of the failure of the fact assured.
Waste In real estate, any act or failure to act, by a person in possession of land or property, which unreasonably causes damage to the property or a reduction in the amount or value of a property.
Wholesale In Real Estate investment, the process of entering a contract to purchase property, with the intention of selling that contract for a profit to another investor instead of actually buying the property as his own investment.  Most states have laws to regulate this investment strategy.
Will The legal expression of a person’s wishes and instructions for his property upon his death.  Usually written, signed, and delivered to another person.  A competent person may change or revoke his Will during his life.  Each state has laws governing the creation, validity, challenges, and effect of a Will.
Witness A person who perceives an event.  May be called to testify as to his observation.  Only an Expert Witness may testify about his opinions in addition to facts.
Writ A written order by a court to perform an act according to the written terms.
Z
Zoning The division by a local government of its lands into districts and the statement of rules regarding the types and uses allowed for property in each district.