Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff H.C. Equities, L.P. asserted contract claims against its commercial tenant, the County of Union, after the County began to withhold rent payments in response to a dispute about the condition of the leased commercial buildings. During negotiations to settle the contract matter, the County directed its co-defendant, the Union County Improvement Authority (Authority), to assess the County’s real estate needs. H.C. Equities obtained a copy of a consultant’s report prepared as part of that assessment and objected to statements in the report about the condition of the buildings that it had leased to the County. H.C. Equities filed suit against the County and the Authority, asserting conspiracy claims against both defendants and trade libel and defamation claims against the Authority. Plaintiff did not apply for permission to file a late tort claims notice until more than eight months after the expiration of the one-year period allowed under N.J.S.A. 59:8-9 for the filing of such motions. The trial court held that H.C. Equities had failed to file the notices of claim that the Tort Claims Act required and dismissed its tort claims. H.C. Equities appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed the trial court. Relying on a combination of excerpts from three letters written by H.C. Equities’ counsel, the Appellate Division found that H.C. Equities substantially complied with the Act’s notice of claim provisions. The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed that a finding of substantial compliance with the Tort Claims Act could be premised on comments made by plaintiff’s counsel in three different letters sent to lawyers representing the defendant public entities. The Supreme Court did not find that H.C. Equities’ letters, individually or collectively, communicated the core information that a claimant had to provide to a public entity in advance of filing a tort claim. The Appellate Division’s determination was reversed, and the matter remanded to the trial court. View "H.C. Equities, LP v. County of Union" on Justia Law

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In this summary process action for nonpayment of rent under the terms of a commercial lease the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's judgment of possession rendered in favor of Plaintiffs, holding that the trial court properly denied Defendants equitable relief from forfeiture of their tenancy.After the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's judgment of possession rendered in favor of Plaintiffs, Defendants appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying their special defense of equitable nonforfeiture. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts of this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant Defendants equitable relief from forfeiture. View "Boccanfuso v. Daghoghi" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals determining that Joseph and Jennifer Roach's appeal was not barred by their acceptance of a remittitur on future damages and that the Roaches could seek attorney fees, holding that attorney fees were not authorized under the watershed statute, Minn. Stat. 103D.545, subd. 3.The Roaches, whose home was damaged during the construction of a home on property owned by Thomas and Sandra Alinder, brought nuisance and other claims against the Alinders and the company that built the home. After years of litigation, a jury trial was held to address damages. The jury awarded the Roaches damages. The Roaches moved for attorney fees. The district court denied the motion on the grounds that section 103D.545, subd. 3, did not apply. The district court further conditionally ordered a new trial unless the Roaches accepted a remittitur of the future damages award to zero. The Roaches accepted the remittitur and appealed the denial of attorney fees. The Supreme Court held (1) the Roaches were permitted to appeal issues separate and distinct from the subject of the remittitur order; but (2) attorney fees were not authorized under the statute. View "Roach v. County of Becker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the equitable estoppel doctrine offers a discrete basis for tolling a statute of limitations in Utah.Owners executed a trust deed note with Alpine East Investors, LLC for certain property and promised to pay the note in full within two years. The promise was not fulfilled. After the foreclosure limitations period had expired, Owners sought to enjoin Alpine East from foreclosing its trust deed on the property and a determination that Alpine East had no valid interest in the property. Alpine East invoked the doctrine of equitable estoppel seeking to toll the limitations period. Owners argued that equitable estoppel is not a stand-alone basis for defeating a statute of limitations defense. The district court granted summary judgment for Owners, declaring that the limitations period for enforcing the trust deed had expired before Alpine East recorded a notice of default or filed an action to foreclose. Thereafter, the court granted Alpine East's Rule 59 motion to revise the ruling, concluding that findings of fact existed precluding summary judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court, holding (1) equitable estoppel is a discrete basis for tolling a statute of limitations; but (2) a mere promise to pay, without more, is insufficient to invoke equitable estoppel. View "Fitzgerald v. Spearhead Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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Antonia Nyman was renting a backyard cottage to Dan Hanley when the COVID-19 pandemic began. She sought to evict Hanley and gave him 60 days’ notice of her intention to move into the unit herself. Due to this unprecedented pandemic, Washington Governor Jay Inslee temporarily halted most evictions, but not for landlords seeking to occupy the unit personally. A federal eviction moratorium imposed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also temporarily halted some evictions, but not for tenants who have violated a contractual obligation (with certain specified exceptions). The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether Hanley violated a contractual obligation by holding over in his unit after his lease expired by its terms. Based on undisputed facts before us, the Court held that he did. "While the CDC order may be more protective than Washington’s eviction proclamation in some instances, it does not apply here. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court and lift the stay of the writ of restitution." View "Nyman v. Hanley" on Justia Law

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In August 2017, the City of West Fargo passed a resolution determining it was necessary to construct a sewer improvement project. The project consisted of the design and installation of two sewer pipes between West Fargo and Fargo. To complete the project, West Fargo had to acquire a right of way across certain private property, including Mark McAllister’s. McAllister appealed a judgment allowing the City of West Fargo to use its quick-take eminent domain power to acquire a right of way across his property. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court inappropriately granted the N.D.R.Civ.P. 54(b) order certifying the judgment as final, it dismissed the appeal. View "City of West Fargo v. McAllister, et al." on Justia Law

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Gary and Bella Martin appealed after the trial court granted in part and denied in part their petition for writ of administrative mandate to challenge the imposition of certain special conditions placed on the development of their property - a vacant, oceanfront lot in Encinitas - by the California Coastal Commission (Commission). The Commission also appealed the judgment. The Martins’ challenged a condition requiring them to eliminate a basement from their proposed home, while the Commission challenged the trial court’s reversal of its condition requiring the Martins to set back their home 79 feet from the bluff edge. Because the Court of Appeal agreed with its own recent decision in Lindstrom v. California Coastal Com., 40 Cal.App.5th 73 (2019) interpreting the same provisions of the Encinitas Local Coastal Program (LCP) and Municipal Code at issue here, the trial court’s invalidation of the Commission’s setback requirement was reversed. The trial court’s decision to uphold the basement prohibition was affirmed. View "Martin v. Cal. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that sexual harassment—both hostile housing environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment—is actionable under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, provided the plaintiff demonstrates that she would not have been harassed but for her sex.In this case, plaintiff filed suit against the property manager and the property's owner, alleging sexual harassment claims under the Act and state law. The district court found no guidance from the court on this question and therefore dismissed the complaint based on the ground that plaintiff's claims were not actionable under the Act. The court vacated the district court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint and remanded for reconsideration. View "Fox v. Gaines" on Justia Law

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Spencer sued Sheriff Benison under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Benison violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by ordering him to remove cones and vehicles that were preventing Spencer’s neighbor from completing construction that Spencer claimed encroached on his property. The district court found that Benison acted outside the scope of his discretionary authority and was not entitled to qualified immunity on Spencer’s individual capacity claims and that Spencer had presented adequate evidence of a constitutional violation to sustain his section 1983 claims against Benison in both his individual and official capacities.The Eleventh Circuit reversed. Benison was acting within the scope of his discretionary authority when he ordered Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles. It was a legitimate job-related function for Benison, an Alabama sheriff, to seek the removal of cones and vehicles for the purposes of achieving public safety, given that traffic was backing up and customers were unable to access a business. Benison properly carried out his duties by verbally commanding Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles and by threatening arrest should he fail to comply. Spencer failed to present adequate evidence of a constitutional violation; he did not demonstrate that Benison’s actions caused him to be deprived of a constitutionally-protected property interest. View "Spencer v. Benison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Main St Properties LLC's (MSP) "Petition to Appeal Assessment of Bellevue Board of Equalization" for lack of jurisdiction, holding that Neb. Rev. Stat. 19-2422 authorized MSP's appeal of the resolution that levied a special assessment and placed a lien on MSP's property.MSP sought to appeal a City of Bellevue resolution that placed liens on property owned by MSP so as to collect costs that had been assessed for the demolition and removal of a structure on the property. In its petition, MSP argued that the resolution levied a "special assessment" pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 18-1722 and attempted its appeal under section 19-2422. The district court dismissed the appeal, determining that no special assessment was imposed and, therefore, section 19-2422 did not apply. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the City's resolution levied a special assessment against MSP under the authority of section 18-1722; and (2) therefore, section 19-2422 authorized MSP's appeal of the resolution. View "Main St Properties LLC v. City of Bellevue" on Justia Law