Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Appeals consolidated for the Delaware Supreme Court’s review centered on the Rent Increase Justification Act, which governed rent increases in manufactured home communities. The Rehoboth Bay Manufactured Home Community (the “Community”) was owned/managed by Hometown Rehoboth Bay, LLC (“Hometown”). The Appellant in Case No. 139, 2020 was Rehoboth Bay Homeowners’ Association (the “HOA”), the homeowners’ association. The Appellants in Case No. 296, 2020 were two individual tenants, John Iacona and Robert Weymouth. Hometown sought to raise the rents in both cases: in case No. 296, 2020, rents would be raised an amount in excess of the Consumer Price Index for this area (the “CPI-U”), for the calendar year 2017; in case No. 139, 2020, for the calendar year 2018. Under the Act, proposed rent increases that exceed the CPI-U must be justified by certain factors. Separate arbitrators in both cases found that a Bulkhead Stabilization project performed by Hometown in phases over more than one year was a capital improvement or rehabilitation work, which, along with other capital improvements and other expenses, justified rent increases in excess of the CPI-U in both years. The Appellants claimed the Superior Court erred by affirming the arbitrators’ decisions that the Bulkhead Stabilization project was a “capital improvement or rehabilitation work” and not “ordinary repair, replacement, and maintenance.” They also claimed the Superior Court should have ruled that the Act did not permit Hometown to incorporate the capital improvement component of the rent increases into each lot’s base rent so as to carry those increases forward into ensuing years. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court’s rulings on the Bulkhead Stabilization project as a capital improvement or rehabilitation work was correct, however, the Act did not permit Hometown to incorporate the capital improvement component of the 2017 and 2018 rent increases into a lot’s base rent for succeeding years after recovering that lot’s full, proportionate share of those costs in those years. Therefore, the Superior Court’s judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the cases remanded for further proceedings. View "Rehoboth Bay Homeowners' Assoc, et al. v. Hometown Rehoboth Bay" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court that Whitefish City did not engage in illegal spot zoning and reversed the district court's ruling that Whitefish City Ordinance 18-23, which specified additional conditional uses, violated the uniformity requirement found in Mont. Code Ann. 76-2-302(2), holding that the City acted within its discretion in enacting the ordinance.This case involved an undeveloped parcel in The Lakes neighborhood known as Area 2(c). IO2.5, a series member of IO-3, LLC, filed a request with the City to amend Ordinance 99-9 to allow use of a conditional use permit (CUP) instead of a planned unit development (PUD) to develop Area 2(c). The City Council approved the request and approved Ordinance 18-23, directing amendment of the official zoning map and permitting development of Area 2(c) through a CUP instead of a PUD. Plaintiffs brought this complaint alleging that Ordinance 18-23 violates the statutory uniformity requirement. The district court struck the portion of Ordinance 18-23 that specified additional conditional uses. The Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not err in ruling that Ordinance 18-23 did not constitute spot zoning; and (2) erred in ruling that Ordinance 18-23 violated section 76-2-302(2)'s uniformity requirement. View "Hartshorne v. Whitefish" on Justia Law

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When an Ohio county forecloses on a tax-delinquent, occupied property, it ordinarily sells the property at an auction, keeps proceeds to cover the outstanding taxes, and returns leftover funds to the owner. Ohio municipalities may surrender their tax interest in tax-delinquent vacant properties and transfer clear title to land banks, which may revitalize the property, sell it, or demolish the home to prepare for new neighborhoods. When counties choose the land bank route the owner's surplus equity vanishes.Harrison inherited a partial interest in her mother’s Dayton home, which had a $20,000 property tax delinquency. Montgomery County started foreclosure proceedings. The County Board of Revision transferred the home (estimated fair market value, $22,600) to the county’s land bank. Harrison never received the surplus equity; the statute offers no way to pay it.Harrison filed a purported class action under the Takings Clause. The district court dismissed, citing claim preclusion because Harrison could have raised federal takings claims at several points during the foreclosure process. The Sixth Circuit reversed, noting that federal takings law changed during the operative period. A property owner now may bring section 1983 federal takings claims in federal court “as soon as their property has been taken” without first exhausting state remedies. The Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 1341, does not bar the suit; Harrison does not challenge Ohio’s “collection” of delinquent taxes nor seek to halt foreclosures. The court remanded for consideration of the merits. View "Harrison v. Montgomery County" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying the Bank's motion for judgment on the pleadings. The court held that state legislatures may create legally protected interests whose violation supports Article III standing, subject to certain federal limitations. The court also decided that the New York law violations alleged here constitute a concrete and particularized harm to plaintiffs in the form of both reputational injury and limitations in borrowing capacity over the nearly ten-month period during which their mortgage discharge was unlawfully not recorded and in which the Bank allowed the public record to reflect, falsely, that plaintiffs had an outstanding debt of over $50,000.The court further concluded that the Bank's failure to record plaintiffs' mortgage discharge created a material risk of concrete and particularized harm to plaintiffs by providing a basis for an unfavorable credit rating and reduced borrowing capacity. The court explained that these risks and interests, in addition to that of clouded title, which an ordinary mortgagor would have suffered (but plaintiffs did not), are similar to those protected by traditional actions at law. Therefore, plaintiffs have Article III standing and they may pursue their claims for the statutory penalties imposed by the New York Legislature, as well as other relief. Accordingly, the court affirmed and remanded. View "Maddox v. Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co." on Justia Law

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In this construction defect case brought by homeowners against several contractors, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court that the limitations period against each contractor began to run upon the substantial completion of each contractor's project.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the contractors in this case, generally agreeing that the limitations period for the homeowners' claims against the contractors began to run on the dates that each contractor substantially completed its work. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Homeowners' claims against the contractors were time barred as matter of law under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-223 and by denying their oral motion seeking leave to amend their complaint to add a new claim. View "McCaulley v. C L Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Will Hughes and Chad Penn were commercial farmers who leased farmland in Madison County, Mississippi. They began using propane cannons in the summer months to deter deer from eating their crops. Because of the intentionally loud noise these devices created, neighboring property owners sought to enjoin Hughes and Penn from using the cannons. But citing the Mississippi Right to Farm Act, the chancellor found the neighbors’ nuisance claim was barred. Undisputedly, Hughes’s and Penn’s farms had been in operation for many years before the nuisance action was filed. So the chancery court ruled Miss. Code Ann. Section 95-3-29(1) was an absolute defense and dismissed the neighbors’ nuisance action. On appeal, the neighboring property owners argued the chancery court misinterpreted the statute. In their view, the chancery court erred by looking to how long the farms had been in operation instead of how long the practice of propane cannons had been in place. But the Mississippi Supreme Court found their proposed view contradicted the statute’s plain language. "The one-year time limitation in Section 95-3-29(1) does not hinge on the existence of any specific agricultural practice. Instead, it is expressly based on the existence of the agricultural operation, which 'includes, without limitation, any facility or production site for the production and processing of crops . . . .'" Applying the plain language in Section 95-3-29(2)(a), the Supreme Court found the properties being farmed were without question agricultural operations. And the propane cannons were part of those operations, because they were part of the farms’ best agricultural-management practices. Since the farms had been in operation for more than one year, the chancellor was correct to apply Section 95-3-29(1)’s bar. View "Briggs v. Hughes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint in this fraudulent conveyance suit, holding that the circuit court erred in shifting only the burden of production, and not the burden of persuasion, to Defendants after Plaintiff established a presumption of fraudulent conveyance.Plaintiff filed this suit seeking to void a purported fraudulent conveyance of a certain residence. The circuit court found that Plaintiff's evidence was sufficient to establish a presumption that the conveyance was fraudulent but eventually dismissed Plaintiff's complaint. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the circuit court erred in ruling that after a plaintiff in a fraudulent conveyance case proves a badge of fraud, which creates the presumption of a fraudulent conveyance, the plaintiff still retains the burden of persuasion to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, a fraudulent conveyance. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred when it (1) did not shift to Defendants the burden of persuasion along with the burden of production, and (2) did not apply a standard of proof that required strong and clear evidence in determining the sufficiency of Defendants' evidence offered to rebut the presumption of a fraudulent conveyance. View "White v. Llewellyn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court concluding that Sierra Club lacked standing to challenge the Clay County Board of Adjustment's decision affirming the issuance of a permit for the operation of a concentrated animal feeding operation in Clay County, holding that the circuit court erred in holding that Sierra Club lacked representational standing.In concluding that Sierra Club lacked standing under S.D. Codified Laws 11-2 to bring this lawsuit in its own right, the circuit court concluded that Sierra Club was not a person aggrieved and lacked representational standing because participation in the suit by its individual members was required. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit circuit properly determined that Sierra Club lacked standing to bring suit in its own right under section 11-2-61; and (2) the circuit court erred in concluding that Sierra Club lacked representational standing. View "Sierra Club v. Clay County Board Of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Nationstar in a diversity action brought by plaintiff alleging claims arising from nonjudicial foreclosure by a HOA on real property in Nevada. The Federal Foreclosure Bar, 12 U.S.C. 4617(j)(3), and Nevada state law, which establishes that in the event a homeowner fails to pay a certain portion of HOA dues, the HOA is authorized to foreclose on a "superpriority lien" in that amount, extinguishing all other liens and encumbrances on the delinquent property recorded after the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions attached to the title. The panel concluded that while Nevada law generally gives delinquent HOA dues superpriority over other lienholders, it does not take priority over federal law. Furthermore, federal law, in the form of the Federal Foreclosure Bar, prohibits the foreclosure of Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) property without FHFA's consent.In this case, the panel concluded that Nationstar properly and timely raised its claims based on the Federal Foreclosure Bar. The panel also concluded that the Federal Foreclosure Bar applies to the HOA foreclosure sale here where Fannie Mae held an enforceable interest in the loan at the time of the HOA foreclosure sale, as established by evidence of Fannie Mae's acquisition and continued ownership of the loan throughout that time and by evidence of its agency relationship with BANA (formerly BAC), the named beneficiary on the recorded Deed. The panel explained that Fannie Mae's interest in the loan, coupled with the fact that it was under FHFA conservatorship at the time of the sale, means the Federal Foreclosure Bar applies to this case. Finally, the panel concluded that the Federal Foreclosure Bar preempts the Nevada HOA Law. View "Nationstar Mortgage LLC v. Saticoy Bay LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's action seeking a writ of prohibition to prevent the enforcement of a foreclosure judgment against her, holding that the court of appeals did not err.Appellant filed this prohibition action asserting that Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., which filed the foreclosure action against Appellant, had failed to obtain service within one year of filing the complaint. The court of appeals sua sponte dismissed the cause, concluding that this action was moot and that Appellant's appeal in the foreclosure action constituted an adequate remedy precluding extraordinary relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant's cause of action was not moot; but (2) Appellant's opportunity to assert service and personal jurisdiction defenses in the foreclosure case and on appeal was an adequate remedy at law. View "Lundeen v. Turner" on Justia Law