Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Defendant Town of Windham (Town) appealed a superior court order denying its motion to dismiss the tax abatement appeal of plaintiff Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. (Shaw’s), for lack of standing. The Town also appealed the superior court's order granting Shaw’s requested tax abatement. The owner of the property at issue leased 1.5 acres of a 34.21-acre parcel in Windham established as Current Use. The lease, in relevant part, required Shaw’s to pay the Owner its pro rata share of the real estate taxes assessed on the entire parcel, and the Owner was required to pay the taxes to the Town. If the Owner received a tax abatement, Shaw’s was entitled to its pro rata share of the abatement. In 2017, Shaw’s was directed by the Owner to pay the property taxes directly to the Town, and it did. Shaw’s unsuccessfully applied to the Town’s selectboard for a tax abatement and subsequently appealed to the superior court. The Town moved to dismiss, arguing that Shaw’s lacked standing to request a tax abatement on property it did not own. Finding the superior court did not err in finding Shaw's had standing to seek the abatement, or err in granting the abatement, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's orders. View "Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Pittsburgh City Council passed Ordinance 2015-2062. The Ordinance supplemented Section 659.03 of the Pittsburgh Code of Ordinances, which already barred various forms of discrimination in housing. In early 2016, the Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh (“the Association”), a nonprofit corporation comprising over 200 residential property owners, managers, and landlords, filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas a Complaint for Equitable Relief and Request for Declaratory Judgment against the City, alleging that the Nondiscrimination Ordinance violated the Home Rule Charter ("HRC") and the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Association also sought a temporary stay of enforcement of the Ordinance, which the court granted. The parties submitted Stipulations of Fact and submitted the case for judgment on the pleadings (the City) or summary judgment (the Association). The trial court heard argument, and ultimately ruled in favor of the Association, declaring the Ordinance invalid. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the HRC’s Business Exclusion precluded the Pittsburgh ordinance that proscribed source-of-income discrimination in various housing-related contexts. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court’s entry of judgment in favor of Apartment Association. View "Apt. Assoc. of Metro Pittsburgh v. City of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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In 1981, a Georgia federal district court concluded that Atlanta’s zoning regulations for adult businesses were constitutionally overbroad in their entirety and permanently enjoined their enforcement. Atlanta did not appeal. Cheshire operates an Atlanta adult novelty and video store, Tokyo Valentino, and sued, asserting that the definitions of “adult bookstore,” “adult motion picture theater,” “adult mini motion picture theater,” “adult cabaret,” and “adult entertainment establishment” in the current Atlanta City Code are facially overbroad in violation of the First Amendment.On remand, the district court granted Atlanta summary judgment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not err in providing a narrowing construction of certain terms (the term “patron” in the definitions of “adult motion picture theater” and “adult mini-motion picture theater”) in the challenged provisions. The phrase “intended, designed, or arranged” suggests that the challenged provisions do not apply to isolated or intermittent uses of the property. Cheshire failed to show that any overbreadth in the provisions is “substantial” as required by Supreme Court precedent. The challenged provisions do not purport to ban the activities or conduct they define or describe but are part of a zoning scheme regulating where covered establishments can locate or operate. View "Cheshire Bridge Holdings, LLC, v. City of Atlanta," on Justia Law

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In this California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) case, the Court of Appeal granted the petition for writ of mandate and directed respondent Los Angeles Superior Court to vacate its order awarding attorney fees to Charter and to conduct a new hearing to reconsider Charter's motion for attorney fees. At issue is whether an employer's arbitration agreement authorizes the recovery of attorney fees for a successful motion to compel arbitration of a FEHA lawsuit even if the plaintiff's opposition to arbitration was not frivolous, unreasonable or groundless.The court concluded that, because a fee-shifting clause directed to a motion to compel arbitration, like a general prevailing party fee provision, risks chilling an employee's access to court in a FEHA case absent Government Code section 12965(b)'s asymmetric standard for an award of fees, a prevailing defendant may recover fees in this situation only if it demonstrates the plaintiff's opposition was groundless. In this case, no such finding was made by the superior court in the underlying action before awarding real party in interest Charter its attorney fees after granting Charter's motion to compel petitioner to arbitrate his FEHA claims. View "Patterson v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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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