Real Estate and Construction Law

Photograph: Kevin Breer.Kevin Breer, '99, an attorney with the Polsinelli Shughart law firm, spoke to law students and faculty February 9 about real estate and construction law in relation to the economic downturn that the housing market has experienced in recent years. Breer's visit was part of the Lunch and Learn series sponsored by the Business and Transactional Law Center.

Breer worked in the marketing and management end of construction before attending law school, a decision, he said, was beneficial for his law career. Because he knew and understood construction, as well as construction law, he said his clients were more confident in his abilities to represent them.

Breer's law practice was very different prior to the market crash in 2008. He primarily handled real estate development involving disputes about property lines and adverse possession claims. He also represented developers who were suing the city or county over their refusal to allow certain development plans, such as changing land zoned for commercial development to land for single family homes. Prosperity of the times resulted in hundreds of building permits being drawn constantly, some by non-professional builders. This resulted in major flaws and building defects, the bulk of the construction claims in the early 2000s. Claims of subcontractors against general contractors for payment were also very common.

After the market crashed, Breer said real estate and construction completely changed. Banks stopped loaning money for development and home purchases. Clients could not afford to hire attorneys to defend law suits so if they were sued they filed for bankruptcy. Loan enforcement and bankruptcy became the bulk of his practice, which now includes residential foreclosures, commercial foreclosures, and landlord tenant cases. The firm also represents contractors and suppliers who aren't getting paid, and mechanics liens have become commonplace. To cover the financial losses resulting from the crash, Breer said some states require contractors' general liability insurance to cover building defects. Kansas is one of those states, which means the firm must sue insurance companies for defect claims instead of the contractor.

Breer's lecture offered students a better understanding of construction law and how to adapt to changes in the market.

Zach Young contributed to this article.