Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff, Bridge Aina Le'a, filed suit challenging the Commission's 2011 reversion of land on the island of Hawaii from a conditional urban land use classification to the prior agricultural use classification. The reversion came after twenty-two years during which various landowners made unfulfilled development representations to the Commission to obtain and maintain the land's urban use classification. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the state's motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL), because the evidence did not establish an unconstitutional regulatory taking under either Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992), and Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104 (1978). Accordingly, the panel vacated the judgment for plaintiff and the nominal damages award, remanding with instructions for the district court to enter judgment for the state. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's equal protection claim, holding that issue preclusion barred plaintiff from litigating the claim. View "Bridge Aina Le'a, LLC v. Hawaii Land Use Commission" on Justia Law

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This case concerned accreting land along the South Carolina coast that owned by the Town of Sullivan. Petitioners Nathan and Ettaleah Bluestein and Theodore and Karen Albenesius (collectively, Petitioners) bought property in the Town that abutted the accreting land. Petitioners' properties were once considered oceanfront lots only a short distance from the beach, but due to accretion, the properties were now a substantial distance away. The accreting land was subject to a 1991 deed, which set forth certain rights and responsibilities respecting the condition of the property and the Town's duties concerning upkeep of the land. Petitioners were third party beneficiaries of the 1991 deed. Petitioners argued the 1991 deed mandated the Town keep the vegetation on the land in the same condition as existed in 1991, particularly as to the height of shrubs and vegetation. Conversely, the Town contended the 1991 deed granted it unfettered discretion to allow unchecked growth of the vegetation on the accreting land. The South Carolina Supreme Court determined all parties cherrypicked language from the 1991 deed to support their respective interpretations of the deed. But contrary to the holding of the court of appeals and the trial court's findings, the Supreme Court held the deed was “far from unambiguous;” because the 1991 deed is ambiguous in terms of the Town's maintenance responsibilities, the court of appeals erred in affirming the entry of summary judgment for the Town. As a result, the matter was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Bluestein v. Town of Sullivans Island" on Justia Law

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The City of San Diego (the City) appealed a judgment in a lawsuit filed by Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access (Plaintiff), which challenged the City's issuance of a conditional use permit allowing it to convert a motel that it recently purchased into a transitional housing facility for homeless misdemeanor offenders. Specifically, the City contended the trial court erred by ruling that the City was required to obtain a coastal development permit for the project because the motel was located in the Coastal Overlay Zone as defined in the City's municipal code. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in concluding that a coastal development permit was required under state law regulations promulgated by the California Coastal Commission (the Commission). Because the Commission certified the City's local coastal program, those provisions applied here rather than the Commission's regulations. "Under the City's local coastal program, the project is exempt from the requirement to obtain a coastal development permit because it involves an improvement to an existing structure, and no exceptions to the existing- structure exemption are applicable." Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment. View "Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The common issue from three property tax cases presented to the Colorado Supreme Court for review centered on what constituted "residential land" under 39-1-102(14.4)(a), C.R.S. (2019). In Colorado, residential land was taxed as a lower rate than vacant land. The Mooks owned two parcels of land in Summit County, Colorado. One parcel contained the Mooks’ house, classified as residential land. The other parcel was undeveloped, and it was classified as vacant land (“the subject parcel”). The parties agreed that these two parcels didn't physically touch. The Homeowners’ Association (“HOA”) owned an approximately seventeen-foot-wide strip of land that completely separated the two properties (that strip provided other members of the HOA access to adjacent public land). The Mooks petitioned the Board of County Commissioners of Summit County (“BCC”) to reclassify the subject parcel from vacant land to residential land. The BCC denied their petition, and the Mooks appealed to the Board of Assessment Appeals (“BAA”). The BAA upheld the BCC’s decision. Notably, the BAA determined that contiguous parcels are those that are “physically connected.” Here, the residential and subject parcels didn't physically touch, and the BAA “was not persuaded that the use of the subject lot in conjunction with the residential lot was sufficient to defeat the plain meaning of contiguity.” Thus, the BAA concluded that the two parcels aren’t contiguous, and it denied the Mooks’ appeal. Taking the three appeals together, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded: (1) only parcels of land that physically touch qualify as “contiguous parcels of land;” (2) a residential improvement isn’t needed on each contiguous and commonly owned parcel of land and a landowner can satisfy the “used as a unit” requirement by using multiple parcels of land together as a collective unit of residential property; and (3) county records dictate whether parcels are held under “common ownership.” View "Mook v. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs" on Justia Law

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This case asked the Colorado Supreme Court to construe the definition of residential land in section 39-1-102(14.4)(a), C.R.S. (2019). Stephen Ziegler (through the Stephen J. Ziegler Revocable Trust Dated July 17, 2008) owned four parcels of land in Park County, Colorado. One parcel was classified as “residential land” under section 39-1-102(14.4)(a) and taxed accordingly. However, the other three parcels remained “vacant land” and are thus taxed at a higher rate. Ziegler sought to reclassify those vacant parcels as residential land to receive a corresponding tax abatement. As it concluded in Mook v. Summit Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs, 2020 CO 12 (2020): (1) a residential improvement isn’t needed on each contiguous and commonly owned parcel of land for that parcel to be “used as a unit;” and (2) a landowner can satisfy the “used as a unit” requirement by using multiple parcels of land together as a collective unit of residential property. The BAA here applied the same legal standards that the Court expressly disavowed in Mook. Thus, it reversed the BAA’s order and remanded for the BAA to apply the standards articulated in this case to determine whether the vacant parcels qualified as “residential land.” View "Ziegler v. Park Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court dismissing a lender's complaint seeking to recover on an accelerated promissory note, holding that, under either of two statutes of limitations, the lender can assert its claim. As explained today in Blair v. EMC Mortgage, LLC, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind. Feb. 17, 2020), two statutes of limitations apply equally to a cause of action upon a promissory note. Further explained in Blair is that the Supreme Court will not impose an additional rule of reasonableness on a mortgage lender's ability to bring an action upon a closed installment contract. In the instant case, Borrower executed a promissory note and mortgage to be paid in monthly installments over twenty-five years. After Borrower stopped making payments on the note Lender accelerated the debt, demanding payment in full. Borrower did not pay, and Lender sued. Borrower moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the claim was barred by Ind. Code 34-11-2-9. The court of appeals affirmed and held that Borrower waived its argument that Ind. Code 26-1-3.1-118(a) should also apply. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Borrower did not waive its argument under section 26-1-3.1-118(a); and (2) Borrower can equally recover amounts owed under either statute of limitations. View "Collins Asset Group, LLC v. Alkhemer Alialy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court foreclosing a mortgage but finding that Lender was entitled to recover only payments and interest that accrued after a certain date due to Indiana's six-year statute of limitations to bring an action on the note underlying a mortgage, holding that there is no need to judicially create additional time constraints on a lender's ability to bring an action upon a closed installment contract. Lawsuits to enforce obligations under closed installment contracts are subject to multiple statutes of limitations. Borrowers in this case asked the Supreme Court to impose an additional rule of reasonableness. The trial court granted partial relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) imposing additional, judicially-created time constraints upon a lender's ability to bring a claim on a closed installment contract is not necessary; (2) two statutes of limitations apply to a cause of action upon a promissory note; and (3) Lender sued within the applicable statutes of limitations. View "Blair v. EMC Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

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Bennett Day, Trustee of Trust B of the Donald M. and Marjorie D. Day Family Trust, John Day, Dan E. Day, Holcomb Road Holdings, LLC, Donna Day Jacobs, and David R. Day (collectively, the Day family) appealed a district court's decision dismissing their claims against the State of Idaho and the Idaho Transportation Department (the Department). This case related to certain property the Day family owned near Isaacs Canyon in Ada County, Idaho. In the 1990s, the State began working on the Isaacs Canyon Interchange near the Day property. The frontage road (Eisenman Road) was extended to the interchange. Eisenman Road did not reach the Day property. In late 1997, which the parties each stipulated was the date for valuation of any taking, the Department substantially completed construction of the Isaacs Canyon Interchange project. After the interchange was completed, the State transferred jurisdiction and maintenance of Eisenman Road southwest of the Interchange to the Ada County Highway District (ACHD). In 2014, the Department applied to ACHD to obtain access from Eisenman Road to the Day property. In 2015, the Department offered the Day family $560,000 to build an access road themselves, but the Days rejected the offer. In May 2016, ACHD advised the Department that it would “not accept a public street” needed to create the access desired by the Day family. Following ACHD’s denial of the Department’s application, the Day family filed this action, asserting claims against the Department for inverse condemnation, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Both parties moved for partial summary judgment and the Department moved to dismiss the Day family’s complaint. The Day family appealed when the district ocurt dismissed its claims. Their appeal presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review: (1) a question of whether the district court erred by considering the Department’s motion to dismiss without notifying the Day family that it would consider matters outside of the pleadings; (2) a question of whether the district court correctly dismissed the Day family’s claims for lack of standing and for untimeliness; and (3) whether either party was entitled to an award of attorney fees on appeal. The Supreme Court determined the district court: erred in granting summary judgment for the Department on all of the Day family’s inverse condemnation claims; erred by granting summary judgment on the contract claim; and incorrectly held that the statute of limitations barred the inverse condemnation claims of Donna Day Jacobs and David R. Day. Furthermore, the Court determined the district court erred by dismissing the Day family’s contract-based claims. View "Day v. Idaho Transportation Dept" on Justia Law

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Dale Forbes, as administrator ad litem for the estate of Gay Nell Mize, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Platinum Mortgage, Inc. ("Platinum"), and PennyMac Loan Services, LLC ("PennyMac"). Gay Nell signed, and the record contained, a notarized power of attorney. The limited power of attorney authorized Gay Nell's husband, Charles Mize, to execute, on Gay Nell's behalf, certain documents in a transaction refinancing the Mizes' house. On the authority of the power of attorney, Charles borrowed $175,000 from Platinum and gave Platinum a mortgage on the Mizes' residence, executing both a loan agreement and a mortgage. Platinum then assigned the loan and mortgage to PennyMac. In 2015, Gay Nell was declared incompetent and a conservator was appointed for her. The conservator sued multiple defendants, including Platinum and PennyMac, alleging that the power of attorney executed by Gay Nell was invalid, that Gay Nell was not bound by the loan agreement and the mortgage executed by Charles, and that the Mizes' house was not encumbered by the mortgage. Platinum and PennyMac filed separate motions for a summary judgment. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the estate did not provide any persuasive argument that would render the loan agreement and the mortgage anything other than valid and binding on Gay Nell. "The trial court in the present case determined, and rightly so, that Platinum and PennyMac properly relied on the power of attorney, because they had no actual knowledge that it was anything other than a valid instrument authorizing Charles to execute the loan agreement and the mortgage as Gay Nell's duly authorized agent." Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Forbes v. Platinum Mortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that an annexation of 247 acres of land to the City of Sheboygan satisfied the statutory contingency requirement, the rule of reason, and the procedural requirements of Wis. Stat. 66.0217, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion. This appeal concerned J. Kohler Company's plan to convert 247 acres of land located in the Town of Wilson into a golf course. Kohler petitioned for annexation to the City of Sheboygan, determining that the golf course would not be developed if the land remained in the boundaries of the Town. In response, the Town filed this declaratory judgment action challenging the annexation. The circuit court dismissed the action in full. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the annexation met the statutory contiguity requirement in Wis. Stat. 66.0217(3); (2) the annexation satisfied the rule of reason; and (3) the petition complied with the signature and certification requirements set forth in Wis. Stat. 66.0218(3) and (5)(a). View "Town of Wilson v. City of Sheboygan" on Justia Law