Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Fred Sande, the personal representative of the Estate of Geraldine Sande, appealed a judgment distributing the estate. Geraldine Sande and her son, Philip Sande, owned Sande Music Company, a partnership. Geraldine owned 55 percent of the partnership and Philip owned the remaining 45 percent. In March 2010, Geraldine and Philip sold the company for $800,000, of which $600,000 was paid shortly after the sale and the remaining amount was to be paid in installments. Philip executed a promissory note in the amount of $55,000 in favor of Geraldine. Philip died on August 17, 2014, and his wife, Paulette Sande, was appointed the personal representative of his estate. Fred filed an inventory and appraisement of Geraldine's estate, which included real property, Geraldine's share of Sande Music sale proceeds, the $55,000 promissory note from Philip, and other assets. Philip objected to the inventory and appraisement, demanded an accounting of Geraldine's Estate, and requested the immediate return of any Estate assets. Philip alleged the Estate’s real property was undervalued, Fred removed assets from the real property, Fred conveyed real property to himself, and deprived Philip of his interest in the property, and alleged Fred failed to pay rent for use of the Estate's property while conducting business there. Philip also claimed that the value of the promissory note did not reflect payments that had been made and that there were no assets from the sale of Sande Music at the time of Geraldine's death. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the evidence supported the district court’s findings, the court’s finding that Fred breached his fiduciary duty was not clearly erroneous, and the court did not abuse its discretion by denying Fred's request for personal representative’s fees and attorney’s fees. View "Estate of Sande" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants and declaring that a foreclosure sale of Plaintiff's property was valid, holding that the foreclosure sale was void because the notice of default sent to Plaintiff failed to comply with the terms of the mortgage. In 2007, Plaintiff purchased property and granted a mortgage on the property to secure a loan. In 2014, Plaintiff became delinquent on the mortgage. The mortgagee sent a notice of default and intent to accelerate to Plaintiff. After Plaintiff failed to cure the default, Plaintiff's property was sold at foreclosure sale. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging that the default notice was deficient and thus the foreclosure sale was void. After Defendants' motion for summary judgment was denied, Defendants sought declaratory relief seeking a declaration that the default notice sent to Plaintiff complied with the terms of the mortgage. The trial justice ruled in favor of Defendants. An order then entered dismissing Plaintiff's complaint and declaring the foreclosure sale valid. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court, holding that the default notice failed strictly to comply with the terms of the mortgage, and therefore, Defendants failed to satisfy the condition precedent to a valid foreclosure. View "Woel v. Christiana Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that BVGCD violated Plaintiff Fazzino's equal protection right and has taken his property without compensation, and that BVGCD violated Plaintiff Stratta's First Amendment right to free speech. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims on the grounds of Eleventh Amendment immunity, ripeness, Burford abstention, and qualified immunity.  The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erroneously concluded that BVGCD is an arm of the State of Texas and therefore immune from suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment. In this case, five of the six Clark factors weigh against finding BVGCD is an arm of the state of Texas where, most importantly, funds from the Texas treasury will not be used to satisfy a judgment against the entity. Furthermore, the Directors are likewise not entitled to assert such immunity. The court also held that Fazzino's takings claim is ripe for adjudication because Fazzino fully pursued the administrative remedies available to him before filing this action, and the district court abused its discretion in deciding to abstain under Burford. Finally, the court held that neither BVGCD nor its Board was required to respond on the merits, and thus the substance of these allegations must be tested in discovery and further proceedings. The court reversed the district court's Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal as to all defendants and remanded. However, the court affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing Stratta's First Amendment claims. View "Stratta v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Owens owns and resides in a single-family Oakland house. He rented individual rooms to three unrelated tenants. Tenant Barghout filed a petition under Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program alleging her housing became unsuitable due to disruptive construction work and hazardous conditions and that Owens failed to provide the required notice of the Rent Adjustment Program and retaliated by terminating her lease when she complained and sought a reduction in rent. Owens filed an unlawful detainer complaint, identifying Barghout as a month-to-month housemate with “sole use of one or more rooms and shared use of common areas.” A hearing officer rejected an argument that Barghout’s rental was not subject to the Ordinance because the rooms she rented were in a single-family home that was “alienable, separate from the title of any other dwelling unit,” exempt under the Costa-Hawkins Act from local rent control. The Rent Board, trial court, and court of appeal affirmed. The term “dwelling unit” has different meanings under building and planning codes and rent control ordinances. Under landlord-tenant law, “a dwelling or a unit” is not the entire property to which an owner holds title; it is any area understood to be committed to the habitation of a given tenant or tenants to the exclusion of others. The relevant dwelling unit is not Owens’s home but each of the rooms he rented to tenants. View "Owens v. City of Oakland Housing, Residential Rent & Relocation Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court awarding attorney's fees to Defendants in this dispute over the proposed construction of seven billboards, holding that the trial court's decision to award attorney's fees was an abuse of discretion. River Ridge Development Authority (RRDA) sued Defendants seeking a declaration that seven billboards that were set to be constructed near the planned entrance of RRDA's $25 million expansion to The River Ridge Commerce Center violated the Town of Utica's zoning ordinance. During the litigation, the relevant portion of the road along which the billboards were to be constructed was approved to become a scenic byway. Thereafter, RRDA voluntarily dismissed its complaint with prejudice. Defendants filed motions to recover attorney's fees, claiming that RRDA's behavior during litigation justified such an award. The trial court granted the motions in full. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) on the record, Defendants failed to show that any exception to the American Rule requiring each party to pay its own attorney's fees applied; and (2) therefore, the trial court abused its discretion in awarding attorney's fees. View "River Ridge Development Authority v. Outfront Media, LLC" on Justia Law

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Caquelin's land was subject to a railroad easement. The Surface Transportation Board granted the railroad permission to abandon the line unless the process (16 U.S.C. 1247(d)) for considering the use of the easement for a public recreational trail was invoked. That process was invoked. The Board issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment (NITU), preventing effectuation of the abandonment approval and blocking the ending of the easement for 180 days, during which the railroad could try to reach an agreement with two entities that expressed interest in the easement for trail use. The NITU expired without such an agreement. The railroad completed its abandonment three months later. Caquelin sued, alleging that a taking occurred when the government, by issuing the NITU, prevented the termination of the easement during the 180-day period. Following a remand, the Claims Court again held that a taking had occurred. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting the contention that the multi-factor approach adopted for government-created flooding in the Supreme Court’s 2012 “Arkansas Game” decision displaced the categorical-taking analysis adopted in Federal Circuit precedents for a NITU that blocks termination of an easement. The categorical taking analysis is applicable even when that NITU expires without a trail-use agreement. A NITU does not effect a taking if, even without a NITU, the railroad would not have abandoned its line during the period of the NITU. Here, the evidence permits a finding that abandonment would have occurred during the NITU period if the NITU had not issued. View "Caquelin v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered in this case in what situations a non-attorney who performs one or more of the various services that are associated with a real estate transaction is engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee transmitted three reports to the Supreme Court concluding that Respondents had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by engaging in several aspects of residential real estate transactions that constitute the practice of law. The Supreme Court declined to adopt the Committee's recommendations in part and accepted them in part, holding (1) title insurance companies and their agencies do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law when they conduct a residential real estate closing, draft a residency affidavit, and draft a limited durable power of attorney when those activities are carried out in connection with the issuance of title insurance; (2) a title insurance company by conduct the examination of title for marketability only if a licensed attorney conducts the examination; and (3) drafting a deed constitutes the practice of law and that an attorney is required to either draft the deed or review it after its has been prepared. View "In re William E. Paplauskas, Jr." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court denying Plaintiffs' complaint for relief in the nature of mandamus and for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice correctly denied relief on all of Plaintiffs' claims. Each plaintiff is or was a defendant in a post-foreclosure summary process action. After an adverse judgment, each plaintiff was required to post an appeal bond or to make periodic use and occupancy payments during the pendency of each plaintiff's summary process appeal. The appellate division affirmed the bond or use and occupancy order in each case. Plaintiffs then collectively filed this complaint for relief in the nature of mandamus and for extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking relief from the bond and use and occupancy orders. The single justice denied all substantive relief sought. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not demonstrate the absence of an adequate and effective alternative remedy. View "Bigelow v. Massachusetts Courts Promulgator of Official Forms" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Respondents' motion to dismiss on the basis of claim preclusion, holding that Appellant's action in Case 2 could not have been brought in Case 1, and therefore, Case 2 was not precluded. In Case 1, Appellant claimed that its neighbors' masonry wall and other property improvements were compromising Appellant's retaining wall. Appellant sought only monetary damages. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of the neighbors. The neighbors subsequently sold their property to Respondents. In Case 2, Appellant filed a declaratory relief action seeking a declaration that it had a right to remove its own retaining wall, even if doing so would impact the structural integrity of Respondents' masonry wall. The district court dismissed the case based on claim preclusion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Appellant's declaratory relief action in Case 2 was not brought in Case 1; (2) Appellant's action in Case 2 was not based on the same facts or alleged wrongful conduct as its claims in Case 1; and (3) therefore, Appellant's action in Case 2 was not precluded. View "Rock Springs Mesquite II Owners' Ass'n v. Raridan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court entering a declaratory judgment in favor of Ingrid Doyon, Trustee of the Oscar Olson Jr. Trust, holding that the trial court erred in interpreting a 1941 deed that contained language restriction development of three lots in a subdivision. In 2012, Ingrid Doyon acquired the three lots - Lots 3, 5, and 72 - as trustee of her father's trust. Doyon subsequently conveyed two of the lots but retained her interest in Lot 72. In 2014, Doyon initiated a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination that the restrictive covenant burdening Lot 72 permitted her to construct a single family home and garage on the property. The court issued a judgment in favor of Doyon. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that the 1941 deed unambiguously limited the construction that could take place on Lot 72 to a garage to be used with Lot 3, subject to certain setback specifications. View "Doyon v. Fantini" on Justia Law