Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Landlords challenged a Hammond ordinance that they either obtain a city license or hire licensed contractors to perform repairs and renovations to their properties. Obtaining a license involves a test, payment of a fee, and a criminal background check. The ordinance does not apply to individual homeowners working on the properties in which they reside. On summary judgment, the district court rejected their argument that the ordinance impermissibly burdens owners who do not reside in Hammond. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The ordinance does not discriminate against non-residents and is supported by a rational basis. The court noted the significant differences between resident owners and landlords and the city’s interests in safety and the habitability of dwellings. View "Regan v. City of Hammond" on Justia Law

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Englewood amended its ordinances to address aggressive antiabortion protests that had been regularly occurring outside of a health clinic that provided reproductive health services, including abortions. Some of the “militant activists and aggressive protestors” support violent reprisal against abortion providers. The ordinance restricted the use of public ways and sidewalks adjacent to healthcare facilities during business hours to persons entering or leaving such facility; the facility's employees and agents; law enforcement, ambulance, firefighting, construction, utilities, public works and other municipal agents within the scope of their employment; and persons using the public way solely to reach another destination. The ordinance created overlapping buffer zones at qualifying facilities. Turco, a non-aggressive “sidewalk counselor,” filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and association. The district court concluded that the statute was overbroad and not narrowly tailored to serve the government’s interest. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that genuine issues of material fact preclude the entry of summary judgment to either side. The buffer zones’ exact impact on the sidewalk counselors’ speech and the concomitant efficacy of their attempts to communicate is unclear. Turco admitted that she continued to speak with patients entering the clinic. The city considered and attempted to implement alternatives before creating the buffer zone. View "Turco v. City of Englewood" on Justia Law

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Jerry and Brenda McCavit built a dock extending into Wasilla Lake from their upland property. Their neighbors, Barbara and Louis Lacher, sued the McCavits claiming the dock unreasonably interfered with their riparian rights and constituted a private nuisance. The superior court found for the Lachers and issued an injunction ordering the McCavits to remove a portion of their dock. The McCavits appealed. Because the Alaska Supreme Court, by this case, announced a new rule of reasonableness regarding riparian or littoral rights, it vacated the superior court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Order Granting Injunctive Relief and Nuisance Abatement, remanded for the superior court to conduct the proper legal analysis, and vacated the superior court’s award for attorney’s fees and costs. View "McCavit v. Lacher" on Justia Law

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For several years two condominium owners withheld a portion of their dues in protest. Then beginning in 2014, they sent the condominium association several payments, with instructions to apply them to recent debts and current dues. In this appeal, the owners argued they accrued no debts within the statute of limitations because their payment directives were binding. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the superior court’s conclusion that these payment directives were not effective because the governing declaration allowed the association to apply any payments to “the oldest balance due.” The Court affirmed the trial court in all other respects. View "Black v. Whitestone Estates Condominium HOA, et al." on Justia Law

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In this quiet title action involving the mineral interests in two tracts of real estate, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that the grantees' successors in interest obtained ownership of minerals when twenty years expired without production on the property, holding that the common-law rule against perpetuities (the rule) should not be applicable to the circumstances of this case. The tracts at issue were conveyed by deeds in which the grantor excepted the mineral interests for a "period of 20 years or as long thereafter" as minerals may be produced. The grantor's successors in interest claimed full ownership of the mineral interest in both tracts, arguing that the future ownership of the minerals when the grantor's excepted term interest ended violated the rule, thereby voiding those conveyances ab initial and preventing them from devolving to the grantees' successors in interest. The district court concluded that the grantees' heirs obtained ownership of the minerals when twenty years expired without production on the property. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the rule did not apply under these circumstances. View "Jason Oil Co. v. Littler" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit certified the following question of law to the Supreme Court of Texas: Is a lender entitled to equitable subrogation, where it failed to correct a curable constitutional defect in the loan documents under section 50 of the Texas Constitution? The court also held that a secondary lender is not entitled to contractual subrogation without a valid contract. In this case, without a signature, Freddie Mac has no ability to enforce the contract itself or its subrogation provision. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Freddie Mac's contractual subrogation claim. View "Zepeda v. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal finding the City of Oroville liable in inverse condemnation for property damage suffered by a dental practice when raw sewage began spewing from the toilets, sinks, and drains of its building, holding that where the dentists did not install a legally required backwater valve on their premises the City was not liable for the property damage. The dentists argued that the City was legally responsible for the property damage because it was caused by the sewer system's failure to function as intended. The City argued in response that the damage occurred because the dentists failed to install the backwater valve that would have prevented sewage from entering their building in the event of a sewer main backup. The trial court concluded that an inverse condemnation had occurred. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the damage was not substantially caused by the sewer system when the dentists failed to fulfill a responsibility to install a backwater valve that would have prevented or substantially diminished the risk of the mishap that occurred in this case. View "City of Oroville v. Superior Court of Butte County" on Justia Law

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The defendants, exploration and production companies, contracted with landowners (plaintiffs) to drill for oil and gas on leased properties in Ohio’s Utica Shale Formation between 2010-2012. The agreements provide for royalty payments to the plaintiffs based on the gross proceeds received by the defendants from the sale of each well’s oil and gas production. The defendants sell the oil and gas extracted from the leased properties to “midstream” companies affiliated with the defendants. To calculate the price that an unaffiliated entity would have presumptively paid for the oil and gas, the defendants use the “netback method.” The plaintiffs claim the defendants underpaid their royalties because the netback method does not accurately approximate an arm’s-length transaction price, and improperly deducts post-production costs from the price. The district court granted class certification under FRCP 23(b)(3). The Sixth Circuit affirmed. While the plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that common issues predominate with respect to a theory that the defendants sold oil and gas to midstream affiliates at below-market prices, the plaintiffs no longer pursued that theory at the class-certification stage. The plaintiffs satisfy the requirements of Rule 23(b)(3) with their liability theory based on the defendants’ deductions of post-production costs. View "Zehentbauer Family Land, LP v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Richard Tranfield and Karla Doremus-Tranfield (the Tranfields) on their complaint alleging that Patricia Arcuni-English's installation of trees on the boundary line between the parties' properties constituted a nuisance under both common law and Maine's spite fence statute, Me. Rev. Stat. 17, 2801, holding that the court did not err. The superior court determined that Arcuni-English's installation of trees on the parties' boundary line constituted a spite fence because her installation of more than thirty trees, which created a dense and continuous wall, was done with malice. The court ordered Arcuni-English to remove every other tree along the boundary line, remove the trees that were planted as an additional row to fill in gaps, and trim the trees to a height no greater than ten feet. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court did not err in determining that the Transfields demonstrated that Arcuri-English had a dominantly malicious move; (2) the court did not err by finding that the height of the trees unnecessarily exceeded six feet; and (3) the court crafted a fair remedy based on its findings. View "Tranfield v. Arcuni-English" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment dismissing Bragg Hill Corporation's claims against the City of Fredericksburg, holding that the rezoning of property by a city ordinance upon annexation of the property by the city was not void ab initio and did not violate the procedural due process rights of Bragg Hill, the property owner. In the early 1970s the Spotsylvania Planning Commission approved a master plan submitted by Bragg Hill. Bragg Hill built several sections of a townhouse project on the property. The City of Fredericksburg later annexed Bragg Hill's property. The annexed property was zoned into the City's R-1 zoning classification, which did not permit the development of townhouses. Bragg Hill unsuccessfully requested a determination that it had a vested right to develop the property zoned R-1 according to the master plan. The property was later rezoned to an R-2 zoning classification. Bragg Hill then brought this action against the City. The circuit court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the change in the zoning of the property upon annexation was authorized; (2) the issue of whether Bragg Hill had a vested right was previously decided; and (3) Bragg Hill was not deprived of any property interest as a result of the rezoning, and its procedural due process rights were not violated. View "Bragg Hill Corp. v. City of Fredericksburg" on Justia Law