Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Masiello Real Estate, Inc. appealed a superior court’s conclusions of law on its breach-of-contract, quantum-meruit, and negligent-misrepresentation claims following a bench trial. Masiello’s claims stemmed from seller Dow Williams’ refusal to pay it a real estate commission under their right-to-market agreement. Seller owned a 276-acre property in Halifax and Guilford, Vermont. In 2013, he executed a one-year, exclusive right-to-market agreement with Chris Long, a real estate broker who worked for Masiello. Seller and broker agreed on a $435,000 asking price and a fixed $25,000 broker commission. The agreement had a one-year “tail” that compelled seller to pay the commission if, within twelve months of the agreement’s expiration, seller sold the property and Masiello was the procuring cause. The listing agreement would be renewed several times after negotiations with prospective buyers failed. Michelle Matteo and Torre Nelson expressed an interest in the property. Nelson, having obtained seller’s contact information from seller’s neighbor, contacted seller directly and asked if he was still selling. Between August and September 2016, Nelson and seller discussed the fact that seller wanted $400,000 for the property and buyers wanted seller to consider a lower price. No offer was made at that time. The tail of a third right-to-market agreement expired on September 30, 2016. Between September and November of that year, Nelson and Matteo looked at other properties with the other realtor and made an unsuccessful offer on one of those other properties. Returning to seller, Nelson, Matteo and seller negotiated until they eventually agreed to terms. Believing that it was improperly cut out of the sale, Masiello sued seller and buyers. The superior court concluded that because the property was not sold during the tail period, and because Masiello was not the procuring cause, no commission was due under the contract. The court further held that there was no negligent misrepresentation and that Masiello was not entitled to recovery under quantum meruit. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Masiello Real Estate, Inc. v. Matteo, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, tenants living in substandard conditions in a "Section 8" housing project, filed suit seeking to compel HUD to provide relocation assistance vouchers. The Fifth Circuit held that, because 24 C.F.R. 886.323(e) mandates that HUD provide relocation assistance, its alleged decision not to provide relocation vouchers to plaintiffs is not a decision committed to agency discretion by law and is therefore reviewable. Furthermore, the agency's inaction here constitutes a final agency action because it prevents or unreasonably delays the tenants from receiving the relief to which they are entitled by law. Therefore, the district court has jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) claims and erred in dismissing those claims.However, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted on their Fifth Amendment equal protection claim. In this case, plaintiffs failed to state a plausible claim of intentional race discrimination. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hawkins v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Ryan and Genevieve Weeden appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendant William Hoffman after the trial court granted Hoffman’s anti-SLAPP motion with respect to the Weedens’ complaint against Hoffman for quiet title, slander of title, and cancellation of an instrument. According to the allegations in the complaint, Hoffman sent the Weedens a letter threatening a forced sale of real property that the Weedens had purchased, based on a judgment lien created when Hoffman recorded an abstract of judgment that he obtained in a long-standing divorce proceeding between Hoffman and his former wife, Pamela Mitchell. The Weedens sought to quiet title to the property by filing this action. In response, Hoffman filed an anti-SLAPP motion, arguing that the conduct underlying the Weedens’ claims against him was protected activity under the anti-SLAPP law and the Weedens were unable to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on their claims. The Court of Appeal concluded the Weedens’ claims arose from protected activity, and that the trial court therefore properly shifted the burden to the Weedens to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on their claims. However, the Court further concluded the litigation privilege provided a defense to only one of the three pleaded causes of action. “The litigation privilege shields a defendant from liability only for tort damages that are based on litigation-related communications; the Weedens’ causes of action for quiet title and cancellation of an instrument do not seek to hold Hoffman liable for tort damages but, rather, seek to ascertain the interests of the parties with respect to a parcel of real property and to determine the validity of an instrument. The litigation privilege does not shield Hoffman from these claims.” Furthermore, the Court found the Weedens sufficiently demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the merits; the documents attached as exhibits to the complaint demonstrated that the abstract of judgment that Hoffman recorded with the county clerk did not accurately reflect the terms of the judgment entered in the divorce proceeding, thereby undermining the validity of the abstract of judgment. The trial court therefore erred in granting Hoffman’s anti-SLAPP motion with respect to the causes of action for quiet title and cancellation of an instrument. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Weeden v. Hoffman" on Justia Law

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Canton’s 2006 Tree Ordinance prohibits the unpermitted removal, damage, or destruction of trees of specified sizes, with exceptions for agricultural operations, commercial nurseries, tree farms, and occupied lots smaller than two acres. If Canton issues a permit, the owner must replace removed trees on its own or someone else’s property or pay into Canton’s tree fund. For every landmark tree removed, an owner must replant three trees or pay $450. For every non-landmark tree removed as part of larger-scale tree removal, an owner must replant one tree or pay $300.In 2016, Canton approved the division of F.P.'s undeveloped property, noting the permitting requirement. The parcels were bisected by a county drainage ditch that was clogged with fallen trees and debris. The county refused to clear the ditch. F.P. contracted for the removal of the trees and debris and clearing other trees without a permit. Canton determined that F.P. had removed 14 landmark trees and 145 non-landmark trees. F.P. was required to either replant 187 trees or pay $47,898. F.P. filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983.The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for F.P. on its as-applied Fifth Amendment claim; although the ordinance, as applied to F.P., was not unconstitutional as a per se physical taking, it was unconstitutional as a regulatory taking and as an unconstitutional condition. Canton has not made the necessary individualized determination; the ordinance fails the “rough proportionality” required by Supreme Court precedent. View "F.P. Development, LLC. v. Charter Township of Canton" on Justia Law

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Pheasant Run VI, LLC, Robert Drinkard, and Nancy Drinkard (collectively, “the Drinkards”) appealed a district court’s order renewing a judgment for Alpha Mortgage Fund II (“Alpha”) for $1,842,509.59. Pheasant Run was a company wholly owned by the Drinkards. Pheasant Run obtained a loan from Alpha. Robert and Nancy acted as guarantors for the loan. Pheasant Run ultimately defaulted on the loan and Alpha foreclosed on property the Drinkards used as collateral for the loan. Although Alpha recouped the property, a significant deficiency existed between the amount Pheasant Run owed and the property’s fair market value. Alpha thereafter sued Robert and Nancy for the amount of the deficiency. The Original Judgment was entered in 2010, and renewed in 2015. Alpha did not record the 2015 judgment. In 2020, Alpha moved the district court to again renew the Original Judgment pursuant to Idaho Code section 10-1111. The Drinkards objected, leading to this appeal. The Idaho Supreme Court found the district court did i not err when it granted Alpha’s motion to renew the Original Judgment, even though the 2015 judgment was not recorded: the judgment remained unsatisfied, and Alpha’s motion was filed within five years of the most recently renewed 2015 judgment. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Alpha Mortgage Fund v. Drinkard" on Justia Law

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A junior lienholder who took no steps to protect his interest at a nonjudicial foreclosure sale appealed the superior court’s subsequent summary judgment decision dismissing his claim that the sale process was defective and that the sale thus should have been set aside. Finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Thomas v. Joseph P. Casteel Trust" on Justia Law

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Property owners sued the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, challenging the validity of easements that cross their property to give access to neighboring residences. The superior court dismissed most of the property owners’ claims on res judicata grounds, reasoning that the claims had been brought or could have been brought in two earlier suits over the same easements. The court also granted the Borough’s motions for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings on the property owners’ claims involving the validity of construction permits, redactions in public records, and whether the Borough had acquired a recent easement through the appropriate process. One claim remained to be tried: whether the Borough violated the property owners’ due process rights by towing their truck from the disputed roadway. The court found in favor of the Borough on this claim and awarded the Borough enhanced attorney’s fees, finding that the property owners had pursued their claims vexatiously and in bad faith. The property owners appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court correctly applied the law and did not clearly err in its findings of fact. Therefore, the superior court’s judgment was affirmed. View "Windel v Matanuska-Susitna Borough" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding to the Commonwealth a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to the Marquis de Lafayette on July 21, 1780 that was the subject of a civil forfeiture action, holding that there was no error.The letter at issue was seized pursuant to a judicial warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigations from a fine antiques auctions house in Virginia. The government filed a verified complaint for forfeiture in rem against the letter, alleging that the letter was subject to forfeiture as property traceable to a violation of statutes that criminalize interstate transport of and trade in stolen goods valued over $5,000. The Commonwealth and the Estate of Stewart Crane filed claims to the letter. The district court struck the Estate's claim and concluded that the Commonwealth was the only entity that could own the letter. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in honoring the Commonwealth's claim of entitlement to the letter. View "United States v. Boss" on Justia Law

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Cathy Mixon sued the Georgia Department of Transportation (“GDOT,” or “the State”), claiming nuisance and inverse condemnation based on alleged flooding on her property following a road-widening project. Mixon claimed GDOT’s failure to maintain its storm water drainage systems resulted in regular flooding, drainage, and erosion problems “within and around” her property. Her complaint sought “just and adequate compensation” for the alleged taking, other money damages, attorney fees, and a permanent injunction “to prevent future nuisance and continual trespass[.]” GDOT moved to dismiss, which the trial court granted in part and denied in part. In particular, the trial court dismissed any claims arising from professional negligence (due to the lack of an expert affidavit, as required by OCGA 9-11-9.1) and any claims arising more than four years prior to the filing of the complaint (due to the applicable statute of limitations). The trial court otherwise denied GDOT’s motion. Among other things, the trial court rejected GDOT’s argument that sovereign immunity barred Mixon’s claims. The Court of Appeals granted GDOT’s application for interlocutory appeal and then affirmed, holding in relevant part that the trial court did not err in ruling that sovereign immunity is waived for Mixon’s claims for damages and injunctive relief. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed: because Mixon’s claim for injunctive relief ... fell into at least one of the two categories of situations in which the Just Compensation Provision acted as a waiver of sovereign immunity for injunctive relief. View "Dept. of Transportation v. Mixon" on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising out of an adversary action filed in a Chapter 11 proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the bankruptcy court allowing the debtor to avoid a mortgage, holding that there was no error in the bankruptcy court's judgment.After Debtor filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Debtor commenced an adversary proceeding against U.S. Back seeking to "avoid" the mortgage because her name was missing from the certificate of acknowledgment. The district court granted Debtor's motion. The district court affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted for Debtor because the omission of Debtor's name from the certificate of acknowledgment was a material defect under Massachusetts law. View "U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Desmond" on Justia Law