Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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This cases concerns a dispute regarding terms included in a 1957 grant deed (and incorporated by reference into various other documents) transferring the land on which SCST's campus sits from Claremont College to SCST. The deed at issue contained two conditions subsequent, one regarding permissible uses of the property (Educational Use Clause) and one regarding conditions that would require SCST to offer the property for sale to Claremont on agreed terms (First Offer Clause), enforceable by a power of termination and right of reentry. On appeal, Claremont challenges the trial court’s use of the forfeiture doctrine to decline to enforce the deed's First Offer Clause and to create a first right of refusal in its stead.The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment, agreeing with Claremont that the forfeiture doctrine has no application under these circumstances. The court need not decide whether the Marketable Record Title Act (MRTA) applies to the parties' dispute because even if it does apply, the First Offer Clause is an equitable servitude that the MRTA does not extinguish. The court concluded that enforcing the First Offer Clause as written would operate no forfeiture to either party; indeed, each party would receive that for which they bargained, and that to which they agreed. The court remanded with instructions. View "Southern California School of Theology v. Claremont Graduate University" on Justia Law

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Defendant William Bowser appealed to challenge an interlocutory order forbidding him from transferring or encumbering a residence he was arranging to purchase and requiring him to deposit almost $350,000 with the district court. The Tenth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The district court characterized its order as a prejudgment writ of attachment, which was unappealable. And although the Court might agree with Mr. Bowser that the characterization was incorrect, the Court disagreed that the order should have been characterized as an injunction that he would have a right to appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). The Court declined to treat the order as the equivalent of an injunction because Mr. Bowser did not show that it “might have a serious, perhaps irreparable, consequence.” View "DiTucci v. Bowser" on Justia Law

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Two taxing districts undertook parallel challenges to a property’s partial tax exemption. Appellee Huston Properties, Inc. (“Taxpayer”), owned the subject property (the “Property”). In 2013, Taxpayer, claiming to be a charitable institution, sought tax-exempt status for the Property for the 2014 tax year. After a hearing, the Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals granted a partial exemption, reasoning that that portion of the Property was used for charitable purposes. The City of Coatesville appealed that decision to the Court of Common Pleas. Six days later, the Coatesville Area School District, another taxing authority encompassing the Property, lodged its own appeal, also challenging the Property’s partially-tax-exempt status. The School District also intervened in the City's case. Ultimately, the trial court affirmed the Board's grant of a partial exemption. Both the City and the School District appealed to the Commonwealth Court, and Taxpayer cross-appealed as to each, seeking fully-exempt status for the Property. In a memorandum decision, the Commonwealth Court vacated and remanded to the trial court for more specific findings to support the partial tax exemption. On remand, the trial court set forth particularized findings and conclusions, and re-affirmed its earlier decision assessing the Property. At this juncture, the City elected not to appeal to the Commonwealth Court. The School District appealed the ruling in its own case, but it did not appeal the identical, simultaneous ruling which contained the City’s docket number. Taxpayer moved to quash the School District’s appeal. The Commonwealth Court granted the motion and dismissed the appeal observing that the common pleas court’s ruling in the City’s case became final after no party appealed it. Because the School District had intervened in that matter, it was a party to those proceedings. With that premise, the court found that res judicata and collateral estoppel barred it from reaching the merits. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that issue preclusion under the rubric of collateral estoppel should not have been applied to defeat the School District’s ability to obtain merits review of its substantive arguments in the intermediate court. The Commonwealth Court's judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for a merits disposition of the consolidated cross-appeals. View "In Re: Appeal of Coatesville Area Sch Dist" on Justia Law

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Bernard and Sheila created the Family Trust and transferred their home to themselves as trustees. The trust became irrevocable upon the death of the surviving spouse, when the estate would be distributed to Sheila’s 13 children, including Bohnett. Sheila died in 2003. Bernard died in 2008. The property was rented out. The rent was deposited into the trust’s bank account. In 2012, the trustee filed a successful Claim for Reassessment Exclusion for Transfer Between Parent and Child (Proposition 58 claim), listing Sheila and Bernard as transferors, her children as transferees, and the date of Bernard’s death as the date of transfer.In 2013, the property was transferred by the trustee to Bohnett. A Preliminary Change of Ownership Report listed the trust as the seller/transferor, stated that the purchase was a transfer between parent(s) and child(ren), and listed the sale price as $1,030,000. The trustee distributed the money in equal shares to the 13 siblings. A second Proposition 58 claim listed Sheila and Bernard as transferors and Bohnett as transferee, leaving blank the date of transfer.The county found that there was a 12/13 change in ownership and reassessed the property from $157,731 to $962,873 for 2012/2013, and $963,114 for 2013/2014. Bohnett filed unsuccessful Applications for Changed Assessment. The court of appeal affirmed in favor of the County. The purchase by one beneficiary from his siblings and co-beneficiaries was not a parent-child transfer exempt from reassessment for property tax purposes. View "Bohnett v. County of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law

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After unsuccessful attempts to subdivide his property, appellant petitioned for exclusion under the Subdivision Map Act, Government Code section 66410 et seq., seeking orders declaring the 1974 parcel map void and restoration of the historical lot lines.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the petition based on the doctrine of laches and entry of judgment without reaching appellant's legal arguments. The court held that the doctrine of latches applies to petitions for exclusion, and that substantial evidence supports the trial court's laches ruling. In this case, the trial court found the County's determination, that a prior landowner that commissioned the creation of the 1974 map missed an opportunity to correct the map's flaws, more persuasive. The trial court noted that it would be patently unfair to rely upon indirect evidence that is subject to conflicting reasonable interpretations when direct evidence was once available and could have been provided in the absence of needless delay. Thus, the court concluded that the time to address the map's purported errors passed 35 years ago, and it would be inequitable to awaken the issues now. View "Decea v. County of Ventura" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Lauren Shearer appealed, and defendants Ronald Raymond and Sandra Auvil cross-appealed a superior court order which found plaintiff had an easement across defendants’ property to access his landlocked property. The court ruled that “by operation of common law” plaintiff had an easement to access his parcel over a public highway that was discontinued by town vote in 1898. Defendants’ cross-appeal presented a question of first impression for the New Hampshire Supreme Court: whether the owner of landlocked property had an easement for ingress and egress over a public highway that was discontinued by town vote prior to the enactment of the statutory right of access. Plaintiff, in turn, appealed certain aspects of the trial court’s order relating to the width and permitted uses of the easement. The Supreme Court held that, under New Hampshire common law, an easement existed over a discontinued highway if the landowner demonstrated the easement was reasonably necessary for ingress and egress to the property. The Court vacated the trial court’s decision and remanded for the trial court to make that determination in the first instance. In the interests of judicial economy and because the issues might arise on remand, the Supreme Court also addressed the issues raised by plaintiff in his appeal. View "Shearer v. Raymond" on Justia Law

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James Seidel, Troy Seidel, and Gravel Supply LLC (Defendants) appealed a judgment awarding the Estate of Leroy Seidel $68,958.75 relating to the Defendants’ sale of gravel from certain real property. Defendants argued Leroy Seidel did not own any gravel interests in the property because he had conveyed his interests to James Seidel in a 2008 warranty deed. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding Leroy Seidel indeed did not own any gravel or other surface mineral interests in the subject property. View "Estate of Seidel v. Seidel, et al." on Justia Law

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R & F Financial Services, LLC, appealed a district court order dismissing its claims against Cudd Pressure Control, Inc., and RPC, Inc., and granting Cudd’s and RPC’s counterclaims and cross claims. North American Building Solutions, LLC (“NABS”) and Cudd Pressure Control, Inc. (“Cudd”) entered into an agreement where Cudd would lease from NABS 60 temporary housing modules for employee housing. The terms of the Lease required Cudd, at its sole expense, to obtain any conditional use permits, variances or zoning approvals “required by any local, city, township, county or state authorities, which are necessary for the installation and construction of the modules upon the Real Property.” The Lease was set to commence following substantial completion of the installation of all the modules and was to expire 60 months following the commencement date. NABS assigned its interest in 28 modules under lease to R & F; NABS sold the modules to R & F by bill of sale. Cudd accepted the final 32 modules from NABS, to which R & F was not a party. RPC, as the parent company of Cudd, guaranteed Cudd’s performance of payment obligations to R & F under the Lease. The Lease was for a set term and did not contain an option for Cudd to purchase the modules at the expiration of that set term. At the time R & F purchased NABS’s interest in the Lease, it understood the purpose of the Lease was to fulfill Cudd’s need for employee housing. The County required a conditional use permit for workforce housing, and Cudd had been issued a permit allowing for the use of the modules as workforce housing. The City of Williston annexed the Property within its corporate limits. Thereafter, the City adopted a resolution that declared all workforce housing was temporary and extension of permits was subject to review. The City modified the expiration date policy and extended all approvals for workforce housing facilities to December 31, 2015, such that all permits would expire the same day. In December 2015, Cudd successfully extended its permit for the maximum time permitted to July 1, 2016. Cudd sent a letter to NABS stating that it viewed the Lease as being terminated by operation of law as of July 1, 2016. R & F argued the trial court erred in finding the Lease was not a finance lease and, in the alternative, that the court erred in finding the doctrines of impossibility of performance and frustration of purpose to be inapplicable. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "R & F Financial Services v. North American Building Solutions, et al." on Justia Law

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A Compact between Pennsylvania and New Jersey created the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, which is authorized to “acquire, own, use, lease, operate, and dispose of real property and interest in real property, and to make improvements,” and to "exercise all other powers . . . reasonably necessary or incidental to the effectuation of its authorized purposes . . . except the power to levy taxes or assessments.” The Commission undertook to replace the Scudder Falls Bridge, purchased land near the bridge in Pennsylvania, and broke ground on a building to house the Commission’s staff in a single location. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry inspectors observed the construction; the Commission never applied for a building permit as required under the Department’s regulations. The Commission asserted that it was exempt from Pennsylvania’s regulatory authority. The Department threatened the Commission’s elevator subcontractor with regulatory sanctions for its involvement in the project. The Commission sought declaratory and injunctive relief.After rejecting an Eleventh Amendment argument, the Third Circuit upheld an injunction prohibiting the Department from seeking to inspect or approve the elevators and from further impeding, interfering, or delaying the contractors. Pennsylvania unambiguously ceded some of its sovereign authority through the Compact. The fact that both states expressly reserved their taxing power—but not other powers—indicates that they did not intend to retain the authority to enforce building safety regulations. View "Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission v. Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of John Bump on Wells Fargo Bank's foreclosure complaint, holding that the court did not err by concluding that a 2015 order dismissing without prejudice Wells Fargo's earlier action seeking foreclosure on the same mortgage did not vacate the final judgment in Bump's favor that had been entered in 2013 in that same case.Wells Fargo filed a foreclosure action in the district court in 2009. After a bench trial in 2013, the court entered judgment on the merits in favor of Bump. In 2015, the court granted Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss the 2009 action without prejudice. In 2016, Wells Fargo filed a new action to foreclose on the same mortgage. In 2020, the court entered judgment in favor of Bump, stating that it took notice of the 2013 final judgment and concluding that the 2015 order of dismissal without prejudice did not operate to vacate that judgment. The court then determined that Wells Fargo's entire claim was barred by res judicial given the 2013 judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) properly concluded that the preclusive effect of the 2013 judgment barred the present action; and (2) did not abuse its discretion in taking judicial notice of the prior judgment. View "Wells Fargo Bank v. Bump" on Justia Law