April 2016 Real Estate Law Newsletter

The Law Is Not Always Clear Cut

Spring means that the flowers are in bloom and the grass is green once again. The Bay Area has some of the most diverse plant life in the country, creating beautiful scenes of nature throughout the inland areas and all the way down along the coast. During Spring, many households take on new landscaping projects. However, cutting back weeds, trimming trees, cleaning up shrubs, and planting gardens can sometimes precipitate neighbor disputes.

Without physical demarcations or boundary markers, it is sometimes hard to know if trees are on a boundary line or a garden crosses over a property line – many homeowners only know their property line based on how far the grass is mowed! Even when there are physical boundaries, they could be in conflict with recorded documents or based on incorrect land surveys. The law can be used to resolve these issues, but it involves a lot of interpretation. What constitutes “historical use”? How “essential” is the use of something? The law isn’t always so clear cut.

This month, we address an area of law that is not always “clear cut” – easements & boundary laws. Additionally, we help clarify the differences between the CAR and PRDS purchase agreements.

-Watch the video replay and download the slides from Simon Offord’s webinar about easements & boundary law in California

-Check out additional resources about easements published by our firm

-Read recent blog articles written by Ashlee D. Adkins and Henry Chuang

-Utilize our tool for better identifying the differences between the PRDS and CAR purchase agreements

We hope you enjoy reading the April edition of our newsletter!

NOTE: For those that may not have heard, the founder of our firm – Peter Brewer – was involved in a motorcycle accident earlier in the month. Attorney Brewer is now recovering at home, and is anticipated to make a full recovery. Until Peter’s return, the attorneys and staff at the firm are handling all new and outstanding matters.


In California, the real estate boom has led to the construction of many new housing and commercial developments. To accommodate the growing population and demand for housing, new homes are popping up in places where available land is shrinking. As a result, property lots are being divided, new property lines are being drawn, and new homes are being built with “interesting” architectural designs.

Whether it is new homes being built or existing real estate being sold, the conditions of use for the property are critically important. Easements may exist on a parcel of land that grant utility companies the right to dig under a front yard – or neighbors to drive through the backyard. If an easement does exist on a property, it should appear on the Preliminary Title report, since easements generally have to be recorded.

Easements can affect a property owner’s ability to enjoy or improve their land, and can impact everything from utilities to light to view to driveways to fences to even AIR! As a result, it is critical to understand the basics of easements & boundary law in California.

On Wednesday, April 27th, attorney Simon Offord presented an in-depth webinar (for an over-capacity virtual crowd!) about easements, covering essential information such as:

  • What are Easements & How Are They Created?
  • How To Find & Understand Easements on a Preliminary Report
  • What Disputes Arise with Easements & How Are Disputes Resolved
  • Fences, Trees, & Property Lines
  • …and many other terms & considerations

A full video of the webinar, including the corresponding slides, are now available to view and download. Visit www.brewerfirm.com/easementwebinar or click the button below to access the webinar resources!



Easement disputes are not always just between neighbors. Homeowner associations can also have easement rights, and can defend those rights when they are violated. Simon Offord writes about how one HOA obtained an equitable easement when challenged by a developer.


Easements in California are most common in places where homes were built on hillsides or around steep turns. In areas like Los Gatos and Saratoga, new access roads have made many right of way easements unnecessary. Julia M. Wei explains how easements are extinguished.


Some easement disputes arise because of poorly drafted documents. Failing to include accurate descriptions of the land or legal definitions of the desired use can create conflict. Often, the courts will look to intent and historical use in making their ruling. Simon Offord explains one such case.


You can find all of our firm’s published resources in one place on our website!

Access all of our resources, including

  • Past Newsletters
  • Articles
  • E-books
  • Infographics
  • Published Industry Materials
  • And much more!



Important Water Considerations for After El Niño

The heavy rains of El Niño seem to have concluded – although more rain could still fall – which means real estate law issues relating to heavy rain are now showing up. For example, leaky roofs aren’t prevalent during the dry season, but after a heavy rain, they can make quite a splash. Ashlee D. Adkins writes about the real estate law issues that a heavy rain season can cause in her recent blog article.


Court Denies a Landlord’s Ability to Change House Rules in San Francisco

Rent control ordinances seem to be a popular option for local governments to try and curb the rising cost of living in the Bay Area. Recently, a San Francisco rent control ordinance was challenged by a landlord in court, and the case made it to the California 1st Court of Appeals. Henry Chuang discusses the case and its impacts for Bay Area landlords in his most recent blog article.



In the Bay Area, real estate transactions are usually executed by one of two forms: the CAR (California Association of REALTORS®) residential purchase agreement or the PRDS (Peninsula Regional Data Service) purchase contract. These two standardized forms were created to ensure that all the important topics involved in purchasing and selling real estate are covered – from contingencies to disclosures to deposits to closing escrow.

While the two forms are becoming more similar every year, there are still distinct and important differences between them – in content, form, and technicality. To highlight these differences, attorney Simon Offord completed a comprehensive, side-by-side comparison of the two forms. He evaluated how each form addresses a multitude of topics: from the disparity in how each form enforces the close of escrow, to minute discrepancies in how “maintenance” is defined.

Our firm published an interactive web tool to best illustrate these differences, sorted by topic.

Click the “Go To Site” button below to explore this interactive tool,

or visit: https://www.brewerfirm.com/feature/purchase-contract-comparison-2016


  • Brewer Offord & Pedersen LLP hosted a private dinner for members of the California Mortgage Association (CMA) on April 28th. Attorneys Julia M. Wei, Henry Chuang, Simon Offord, and Ashlee D. Adkins attended the dinner held at Kuleto’s Italian Restaurant during the CMA Spring Seminar in San Francisco
  • Simon Offord attended the California Association of REALTORS® (CAR) Legal Affairs Forum Meeting in Sacramento on April 29th
  • As a member of the Palo Alto District Council for the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR), Peter N. Brewer introduced the featured presenter, Rob Chrisman, during the Palo Alto Speaker Series on April 1st
  • Simon Offord successfully resolved a deposit dispute in the transaction of a $3m+ property in Palo Alto
  • Director of Marketing Clayton Dodds attended the 2016 Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Annual Conference in Austin, TX on April 11-13
  • Simon Offord negotiated a favorable settlement shortly after pre-litigation mediation for a client in a failure to disclose case in San Jose