This glossary defines legal terms commonly used in real estate to define disputes, transactions, or services. Khirallah, PLLC wants you to be as educated as possible during your real estate litigation case.

We also offer blog posts on legal topics so that our clients can familiarize themselves with the legal process. We hope you find the definitions of these terms helpful as you navigate your real estate dispute.

Adverse Possession

A claim of ownership to property that arises after known, unauthorized use of another’s property for a certain number of years. A common example is a neighbor that builds a shed on your property. If you knew about the shed but did nothing to stop him, your neighbor would eventually be able to initiate a court proceeding to claim ownership.

Assignment of Contract

A process in which a party to an existing contract sells, transfers, or assigns their rights under that contract to another party.

Contract for Deed

An alternative method of payment that allows a buyer to make regular payments on a property until the amount owed is paid in full. During the repayment period, the buyer has “equitable title” in the property and is, for all intents and purposes, the owner. The seller still retains “legal title” until the property is fully paid off. Also known as an “installment land contract.”

Deed of Trust

An agreement between a lender and a borrower to transfer property to a neutral third party trustee. The trustee holds legal ownership until the borrower pays off the debt, but the borrower maintains full responsibility for the property during the repayment period.


The right to use someone else’s property for a specific purpose. For example, an easement might exist where one property is only accessible by passing through the private property of another (via a driveway or other path).

Escrow Payment

A portion of a mortgage payment, set aside in an escrow account, used to pay property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. This money is stored in an escrow account to guarantee it can be used.


The difference between the fair market value of the property and the amount of money you owe on the mortgage. Put another way, equity is the money you would receive after paying off the mortgage if you sold your home.

Forced-Placed Insurance

An insurance policy placed on property when the owners’ own policy lapses, is cancelled, or is insufficient and a new policy is not obtained. Force-placed insurance policies allow lenders to protect their financial interest in a property.

Joint Tenancy

An equal, undivided interest in property shared by two or more tenants. Ownership in a joint tenancy must be established by the same deed, at the same time. If one tenant dies, their ownership automatically passes to any surviving tenants.


A notice attached to a property indicating that there is some unpaid debt. A lien prevents the property from being sold or refinanced until it is paid off.

Lis Pendens

Written notice that a lawsuit has been filed concerning title or other interest of a piece of property. Lis pendens is Latin for “a suit pending.”

Marketable Title

A title that is free from any threat of litigation or encumbrances (like a mortgage). When a seller sells property, there is an implied promise in the contract that the title is marketable.


The act of dividing up an estate owned by multiple people at the same time. The estate is divided proportionally based on the ownership interests of the concurrent owners.

Quiet Title Proceeding

A legal action taken to resolve disputes over ownership of real property. If more than one person claims ownership of a piece of property, an action to quiet title can determine the rightful owner, “quieting” any challenges to ownership.


Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act—Federal law that requires lenders to disclose certain costs related to real estate transactions and related settlement services. RESPA also regulates the use of escrow accounts and prohibits kickbacks.

Specific Performance

A contract remedy where a court orders the breaching party to perform its contractual duty. Specific performance may be awarded when money damages would be inadequate.

Title Insurance

Insurance that protects the holder from financial loss caused by defects in the title to a property. Unexpected defects may be present if unpaid taxes or liens are missed during a title search (a review of public records to confirm ownership of the property).

Warranty Deed

A type of deed where the seller guarantees that she holds clear title (free of debt or other liens) to the property being sold and that she has the legal right to sell it.

Wraparound Mortgage

A subordinate mortgage that “wraps around” and incorporates an existing loan. The borrower makes payments to the lender, who makes payments on the underlying mortgage.

Start Your Real Estate Litigation Case

Understanding these terms can make the real estate litigation process easier for you. Knowledge of these terms helps facilitate discussion with your real estate attorney about your case. If you are looking for a real estate attorney that will work with you every step of the way, contact Khirallah, PLLC today. 

Author Photo

Rachel Khirallah

Rachel E. Khirallah is the founder of Khirallah, PLLC. She was admitted to the Texas Bar and U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas in 2005 after graduating from Texas Tech University School of Law, and admitted to the U.S District Court, Eastern District of Texas in 2006.

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