Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff filed suit against Quicken, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, alleging causes of action for breach of fiduciary duty and violations of Civil Code section 2954.8 and Business and Professions Code section 17200, contending that section 2954.8 requires a lender to pay interest on insurance proceeds held in escrow following the partial or total destruction of the insured's residence or other structure. In this case, plaintiff's home was destroyed by Ventura's Thomas Fire and his hazard insurance policy jointly paid him and his mortgage lender, Quicken, a total of $1,342,740. The Deed of Trust allowed Quicken to hold the insurance proceeds in escrow and to disburse the funds as repairs to the home were being made.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decision sustaining Quicken's demurrer to the complaint without leave to amend, concluding that neither section 2954.8 nor the parties' loan agreement required the payment of interest. Based upon the statutory and contractual language, the court agreed with Lippitt v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC (C.D.Cal. Apr. 16, 2020, No. SA CV 19-1115-DOC-DFM) 2020 U.S. Dist. Lexis 122881, that section 2954.8 "applies to common escrows maintained to pay taxes, assessments, and insurance premiums -- not to the comparatively unique example of hazard insurance proceeds held by a lender pending property rebuilding." Therefore, the court concluded that the insurance proceeds held by Quicken pursuant to section 5 of the Deed of Trust fall outside the scope of section 2954.8. Furthermore, plaintiff's secondary reliance on the purported purposes of section 2954.8 does not and cannot circumvent the statute's plain language. View "Gray v. Quicken Loans, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ashford San Francisco owns the 2nd Street property. In 2013, a majority ownership interest in Ashford San Francisco was acquired by Ashford Hospitality. The transfer resulted in a change in ownership of the property, which the city determined triggered the imposition of the transfer tax. Ashford paid $3,348,025 in transfer taxes based upon the $133,920,700 self-reported value of the property, then filed an administrative claim for a refund. The transfer tax has five tiered (graduated) tax rates.When the city did not timely act, Ashford filed suit. seeking a refund, alleging that the transfer tax “imposes different tax rates on taxpayers for performing the same exact function” and arbitrarily classifies property transfer instruments for the imposition of a varying rate of taxation, solely by reference to the amount of the consideration in the transactions in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.The court of appeal affirmed a judgment in favor of the city. The city rationally chose to treat the sale or transfer of a higher-valued property differently from the sale of a lower-valued property; the transfer tax “taxes all transfers of the same consideration or value equally.” The court noted the city’s justifications: the owner’s ability to pay and that time and costs associated with the city’s audits for the self-reported transfer tax may increase depending on the value of the property. View "Ashford Hospitality v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David Demarest filed suit against the Town of Underhill, seeking a declaration that he had a right of vehicle access over a Town trail, and appealing the Selectboard’s decision denying his request for highway access to a proposed new subdivision on his property. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town, concluding that plaintiff’s request for declaratory relief was barred by claim preclusion and that the Town acted within its discretion in denying the permit. On appeal, plaintiff argued the trial court erred in applying claim preclusion, and that the Town exceeded its authority under the statute in denying his request for access. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed judgment. View "Demarest v. Town of Underhill" on Justia Law

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Daughter Deborah George appealed the civil division’s determination that her father, decedent Theodore George, was the sole owner of a vehicle at the time of his death and that the vehicle was properly included in his estate. Decedent purchased the vehicle at issue, a 1979 Cadillac Eldorado, in 1992. The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued a Certificate of Title to decedent in 1994 in his name only. The copy of the title in the record contained no assignment of ownership to daughter. In 2006, decedent submitted a Vermont Registration, Tax, and Title Application to the DMV. Decedent’s name was listed in the space provided for the owner, and daughter’s name was listed in the adjacent space provided for a co-owner. Next to daughter’s name, a handwritten annotation said, “add co-owner.” The form directed applicants to select rights of survivorship if more than one owner was listed and provides that “if no box is checked joint tenants will be selected.” Decedent made no indication. At the bottom of the form, decedent signed the application; the line for the co-owner’s signature was left blank. No bill of sale accompanied the 2006 Registration Application. The DMV issued registration certificates naming both decedent and daughter for 2012-2013, 2014-2015, and 2017-2018. On appeal of the civil division's determination, daughter argued that decedent’s act in changing the registration to reflect joint ownership effectively transferred an interest in the vehicle to her. Alternatively, she argued that decedent’s act demonstrated his intent to make a gift of joint ownership. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded there was insufficient evidence that decedent transferred an interest in the vehicle to daughter under either theory and affirmed. View "In re Estate of Theodore George" on Justia Law

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San Rafael voters approved by a two-thirds vote a Paramedic Services Special Tax, imposing an annual special tax up to a maximum of 14 cents per square foot on all nonresidential structures in the city to fund paramedic services. In 2015-2016, the city determined that the Assessor had been inadvertently omitted certain properties from the Paramedic Tax assessment. City officials rectified this oversight prospectively and sought to collect a portion of the Tax that had gone unpaid. One property owner that received notice of the levy was Valley Baptist, a nonprofit religious organization that operates a church on property within city boundaries. The city requested payment of $13,644.Valley Baptist filed suit, challenging the constitutionality of the Tax as applied to a place of worship. Valley Baptist argued that it is exempted from payment of all property taxes under article XIII, section 3(f) of the California Constitution, including the Paramedic Tax. Reversing the trial court, the court of appeal held that the religious exemption does not extend to non-ad valorem special property taxes like the Paramedic Tax. The constitutional articles added by Propositions 13 and 218 do not evince an intent by the electorate to extend the scope of article XIII exemptions to special property taxes. View "Valley Baptist Church v. City of San Rafael" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court invalidating Order No. 1293A, which prohibited the driving of new domestic wells in the Pahrump Artesian Basin unless the applicant identified and relinquished 2.0 acre-feet annually from an alternate source (the 2.0 afa requirement), as unlawful, holding that Nevada law authorized the order's 2.0 afa requirement under the circumstances.In invalidating the order, the district court concluded (1) the State Engineer violated due process by issuing the order without first providing notice and a public hearing; (2) the State Engineer lacked authority to issue the 2.0 afa requirement; and (3) substantial evidence did not support the order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State Engineer was not required to hold a hearing or develop a more robust record; (2) the State Engineer was not required to provide notice and a hearing regarding the 2.0 afa requirement under the circumstances; and (3) the State Engineer's decision was supported by substantial record evidence. View "Wilson, P.E. v. Pahrump Fair Water, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court concluding that the county board of adjustment legally granted an area variance to certain property owners, holding that the board of adjustment acted illegally in granting the variance from the county zoning ordinance.The Board of Adjustment of Cerro Gordo County granted the application for a variance filed by Gregory and Lea Ann Saul that allowed them to construct a pergola twenty-one inches from the property line. The local ordinance required a six-foot setback. The district court concluded that the board acted legally in granting the variance. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals and reversed the district court, holding that the Sauls did not meet their burden to establish unnecessary hardship. View "Earley v. Board of Adjustment of Cerro Gordo County" on Justia Law

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In this partition action, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court ruling that Plaintiff's death terminated her interest in a joint tenancy, holding that R.I. Gen. Laws 34-15-12 abrogates the common law right of survivorship in a joint tenancy when an action for partition is pending.Plaintiff filed a partition action requesting that the superior court partition property she owned in a joint tenancy with Defendants. Defendants asserted counterclaims for unjust enrichment and breach of agreement. While the litigation was pending, Plaintiff died. Defendants moved to dismiss the partition action, asserting that Plaintiff's property interest had passed to the remaining joint tenants by operation of law upon Plaintiff's demise. The hearing justice granted the motion. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that Plaintiff's decease did not abate her action for partition, and therefore, the litigation remained pending. View "Butler v. Gavek" on Justia Law

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In this foreclosure action, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court, holding that questions of disputed material facts existed regarding Plaintiff's claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing that could not be resolved on a motion for judgment on the pleadings.Defendants, as mortgagees, caused a foreclosure sale to be conducted for certain property. Plaintiff was the successful bidder. Defendants were prepared to convey title to Plaintiff but when Defendants asserted that Plaintiff was liable for all costs that had accrued with respect to the property, but Plaintiff disputed this liability. Defendants then caused a foreclosure-of-bid letter to be sent to Plaintiff. Plaintiff brought this action alleging four counts. The superior court granted Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment as to the claim under the Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Act and otherwise vacated the judgment, holding that the district court erred in granting judgment on the pleadings as to the remaining counts. View "Premier Home Restoration, LLC v. Federal National Mortgage Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Deutsche Bank on Deutsche Bank's foreclosure complaint, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.On appeal, Stephen Clifford argued that the district court abused its discretion by admitting several documents under the business records exception to the rule against hearsay and erred in finding that Deutsche Bank satisfied the elements of proof to support the judgment of foreclosure. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the documents under the business records exception; and (2) Deutsche Bank proved all the required elements to foreclose by a preponderance of the evidence. View "Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas v. Clifford" on Justia Law