In most cases, United States courts look to resolve civil legal disputes by awarding — or denying — compensatory damages. For example, if a commercial sales agreement is breached, the non-breaching party may be awarded financial compensation to account for the value of their losses. Money awarded to a plaintiff in a civil case is often referred to as a legal remedy.
While legal remedies are appropriate for most disputes, there are plenty of exceptions. Although they are generally much more hesitant to do so, courts can also award a damaged plaintiff an equitable remedy or equitable relief. In contrast to a legal remedy, an equitable remedy usually involves an injunction — a court order that prohibits or compels a specific action.
Real Estate Injunctions: What You Need to Know
As a general rule, courts will use injunctions when other forms of relief — such as the payment of damages — are deemed to be inadequate or ineffective given the specific circumstances at hand. One area of the law where injunctions are most frequently used is in real estate litigation. Most often, a real estate injunction will be sought to prevent one party from causing damage to another party’s underlying property interest.
As an example, imagine that two homeowners are in a dispute over who owns a row of 90-year-old trees that are right near the boundary line of their property. One of the homeowners wants to cut those trees down immediately. However, the other homeowner desperately wants to preserve the tree. In this situation, seeking an injunction would likely be the appropriate legal remedy. Once the trees are cut down, the damage has already been done. There is no going back. The injunction would ensure that the trees stay up while the dispute is being resolved.
Study Tip: Familiarize Yourself With the Types of Injunctions
Real estate agents are not legal professionals. If you are preparing to take the real estate exam, you certainly do not need to know all of the complex minutiae regarding property law or real estate litigation. That being said, you absolutely do need to know some of the basics. In studying for the real estate agent examination, it is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with the different types of injunctions. Specifically, you should know the following:
- Temporary injunction: A temporary injunction is generally an emergency, stop-gap order that is issued on a short-term basis. In real estate, a plaintiff may seek a temporary injunction to stop immediate action so that the court has time to conduct a more in-depth review of the case. The temporary injunction is an important legal tool in fast-paced situations.
- Preliminary injunction: A preliminary injunction will typically come after a temporary injunction. It will be issued at the beginning of a case and it will usually stay in place until the full resolution is reached. Of course, parties are not automatically entitled to a preliminary injunction. In order to obtain one, a real estate plaintiff must prove that they have a reasonably good probability of prevailing in the actual case. In other words, you must prove that you have a decent, but not definite, chance of winning the case. In addition, courts require a moving party to show that a preliminary injunction is necessary to prevent an irreparable injury.
- Permanent injunction: A permanent injunction may be entered at the end of legal proceedings. This type of injunction may continue indefinitely. Generally, courts will only enter a permanent injunction if the moving party proves their case and if ordinary legal remedies are ill-suited to resolve the dispute. If compensatory damages can reasonably be awarded instead of injunctive relief, most courts will prefer to go with that option.
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