Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals applying the statutory definition of "public waters" in Minn. Stat. 103G.005, subd. 15, to determine whether the upper reach of Limbo Creek was a public water, holding that the court of appeals did not err.At issue was the upper reach of Limbo Creek in Renville County and whether it was a public water for purposes of environmental review under Minn. Stat. 116D.01-.11. Specifically in question was whether the classification of waters as "public water" was based on the statutory definition of "public waters" in Minn. Stat. 103G.005, subd. 15, or the "public waters inventory" maintained by the Department of Natural Resources. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' reliance on the statutory definition of "public waters" to determine in this case whether the upper reach of Limbo Creek was a public water, holding that court of appeals did not err. View "In re Petition of MCEA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant, Ocean Bay Mart, Inc. (“Ocean Bay”), owned a 7.71- acre parcel of real property in the City of Rehoboth Beach (“the City”). In June 2015, Ocean Bay submitted a Site Plan to the City proposing to develop the property into 63 residential condominium units. Under the plan, the 7.71 acres would remain a single, undivided parcel. The development would be known as “Beach Walk.” The submission of the Site Plan set into motion a chain of events over whether Beach Walk could be approved as a single, undivided parcel or whether the project had to be subdivided into individual lots corresponding to the residential units. The events included a decision by the City’s Building Inspector that the project could not be approved as a single, undivided parcel; a decision by the City’s Board of Adjustment overruling the Building Inspector’s decision; a decision by the City’s Planning Commission, rendered after the Board of Adjustment’s decision, that the Site Plan could not be considered unless it was resubmitted as a major subdivision application; a decision by the City Commissioners upholding the Planning Commission; an appeal of the Commissioners’ decision to the Superior Court, which reversed the Commissioners; and the City’s adoption of three amendments to its zoning code. Ocean Bay filed this action with the Delaware Court of Chancery, alleging that it had a vested right to have its Site Plan approved substantially in the form submitted without going through major subdivision approval, and that the City was equitably estopped from enforcing the zoning code amendments against Beach Walk. After a trial, the Court of Chancery ruled that Ocean Bay did not have a vested right to develop Beach Walk as laid out on the Site Plan and the City was not equitably estopped from enforcing its new zoning amendments. Ocean Bay appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ocean Bay Mart, Inc. v. The City of Rehoboth Beach Delaware" on Justia Law

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Borrower took out a $5.6 million dollar bridge loan, with 8.5% interest per annum, secured by a deed of trust on real property. They defaulted on a monthly payment of $39,667, triggering late fee provisions: a one-time 10% fee assessed against the overdue payment ($3,967) and a default interest charge of 9.99% per annum assessed against the total unpaid principal balance. Borrower filed a demand for arbitration, alleging the loan was in violation of Business & Professions Code 10240 and the late fee was an unlawful penalty in violation of section 1671. The arbitrator rejected both claims and denied the demand for arbitration. Borrower petitioned to vacate the decision, arguing that the arbitrator exceeded their authority by denying claims in violation of “nonwaivable statutory rights and/or contravention of explicit legislative expressions of public policy.”The court of appeal reversed the denial of that petition. The trial court erroneously failed to vacate an award that constitutes an unlawful penalty in contravention of public policy set forth in section 1671. Liquidated damages in the form of a penalty assessed during the lifetime of a partially matured note against the entire outstanding loan amount are unlawful penalties. There is no precedent upholding a liquidated damages provision where a borrower missed a single installment and then was penalized pursuant to such a provision. View "Honchariw v. FJM Private Mortgage Fund, LLC" on Justia Law

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Whitetail Wave LLC (“Whitetail”) appealed two district court judgments granting summary judgment and dismissing claims asserted by Whitetail against XTO Energy, Inc. (“XTO”) and the Board of University of School Lands of the State of North Dakota, the State of North Dakota, and the Department of Water Resources and Director (collectively “State”). Whitetail argued the court erred by: (1) dismissing its claim asserting the State had committed an unconstitutional taking of its property interest; (2) by dismissing Whitetail’s trespass, slander of title, unjust enrichment and constructive trust claims asserted against the State; (3) by determining XTO had not breached its lease agreement by failing to pay royalties owed to Whitetail; (4) by determining XTO did not violate N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1; and (5) by dismissing Whitetail’s constructive fraud claim asserted against XTO. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded there were quiet title claims asserted by Whitetail remaining unresolved, it dismissed the appeal. View "Whitetail Wave v. XTO Energy, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that public policy prohibits an agreement between a builder-vendor and a homebuyer to disclaim and waive the warranty of workmanship and habitability implied in every contract entered into between the buyer-vendor and homebuyer and to replace it with an express warranty.Plaintiff entered into a preprinted purchase agreement with M & RC II, LLC to buy a home that M & RC II's affiliate, Scott Homes Development Company, would build. Plaintiff later sued M & RC II and Scott Homes (together, Defendants) for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff had waived the implied warranty per the purchase agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public policy underlying the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability clearly outweighed enforcement of the waiver of that warranty in the purchase agreement. View "Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC" on Justia Law

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The Indiana Southwestern Railway Company sought to abandon railway easements, in which the owners had reversionary interests. The Surface Transportation Board (49 U.S.C. 10903) issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use and Abandonment (NITU). Negotiations with potential railbanking sponsors failed. Eventually, the NITU expired, Railway abandoned its easements without entering into a trail use agreement, and the landowners’ fee simple interests became unencumbered by any easements.The landowners sought compensation for an alleged taking arising under the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d), claiming that the government had permanently taken their property in April 2001, when the NITU became effective. The Claims Court found that the government had taken the property but that the taking lasted only from the date the NITU went into effect until it expired. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. The landowner’s property was temporarily taken under the Trails Act. The NITU delayed the reversion of the owners’ interests. The Railway would have otherwise relinquished its rights to its right-of-way during the NITU period. The court remanded for a determination as to the compensation and interest to which the owners are entitled. View "Memmer v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Cathedral of Faith Baptist Church, Inc., and Lee Riggins appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing their complaint against Donald Moulton, Sr., and Broken Vessel United Church ("the Broken Vessel defendants") pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., on the basis that the claims asserted in the complaint against the Broken Vessel defendants are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the allegations of the complaint, when construed in plaintiffs' favor, were sufficient to sate a claim for a declaratory judgment. Further, the Court found the trial court erred in dismissing count one of the complaint against the Broken Vessel defendants on the basis that it was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Watkins v. Matrix, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the Land Court denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in this land dispute, holding that an undeveloped lot that was deemed unbuildable under the local zoning bylaw in effect when the lot's owner requested a building permit was protected as buildable under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6.At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court was whether the lot at issue met the minimum "frontage" requirement set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6. The land court annulled the issuance of the building permit in this case, concluding that the lot did not qualify for protection under the statute. The appeals court reversed and reinstated the decision of the zoning board of appeals allowing the application for a permit. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and vacated the land court judge's order, holding that the subject lot had more than fifty feet of "frontage" on a "way," and therefore, the lot was protected as a buildable lot pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6. View "Williams v. Board of Appeals of Norwell" on Justia Law

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An Alaska superior court ordered a landowner to temporarily remove a tourist railway it had built across an easement on his land to allow the easement holder to build a paved road capable of dedication as a public right-of-way. The court required the railway, once reinstalled, to be operated in ways designed to lessen interference with use of the road. Further, the court ruled that the landowner would be liable for any increased construction and dedication costs the easement holder incurred as a result of the railway crossing. On appeal the easement holder argued the court erred by permitting the landowner to make reasonable use of land covered by the easement; allowing the landowner to build permanent improvements in the easement; limiting the road width to 60 feet when the width of the granted easement was 100 feet; permitting improvements that would allegedly interfere with the ability to dedicate the easement; and failing to account for time needed to obtain administrative approvals when setting a road construction schedule. The landowner cross-appealed, claiming it was the prevailing party entitled to attorney’s fees. Seeing no error in the superior court’s rulings, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "Reeves, et al. v. Godspeed Properties, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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In this marriage dissolution case, the Supreme Court held that the appropriate method of establishing the marital community's interest in separate property should begin with trial judges using the "Drahos/Barnett formula" and then adjust the calculation to account for the community's overall contribution of labor and funds to the separate property along with the market appreciation of the property.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the formula laid out in Drahos v. Rent, 149 Ariz. 248 (App. 1985) and refined in Branett v. Jedymak, 219 Ariz. 550 (App. 2009) (the Drahos/Barnett formula) was the appropriate method of establishing the marital community's equitable lien on a spouse's separate property, in order to provide for a fair division of the separate property’s increase in value proportionate to the amount the community contributed to the property. The Supreme Court held that the Drahos/Barnett formula is an appropriate starting point for courts to calculate a marital community's equitable lien on a spouse's separate property, thus affirming the trial court's judgment in this case. View "Saba v. Khoury" on Justia Law