Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
by
Plaintiffs Lynn Gerlach and Lola Seals appealed the judgment entered in their action against defendant K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons at Beaumont, LLC under the Right to Repair Act (the Act), concerning alleged construction defects. After review, the Court of Appeal affirmed and published its opinion to clarify: (1) a roof is a manufactured product within the meaning of California Civil Code section 896(g)(3)(A) only if the roof is completely manufactured offsite; and (2) to prove a roof defect claim under subdivision (a)(4) or (g)(11) of section 896, a plaintiff must prove that water intrusion has actually occurred or roofing material has actually fallen from the roof. View "Gerlach v. K. Hovnanian's Four Seasons at Beaumont, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Donna Fisher lived in a mobilehome located in The Groves mobilehome residential community in Irvine, California. In 2011, Fisher filed a verified assessment appeal application with the Assessment Appeals Board No. 3 (the Board) for the County of Orange (the County) contesting the County Assessor’s assessment of the value of the land upon which her mobilehome was sitting for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. She argued the property had suffered a decline in value. Following extensive hearings, the Board issued its findings of fact and determination denying Fisher’s application. Fisher filed suit against the County to challenge the Board’s decision and sought a refund for overpayment of taxes in the amount of $739 for the underlying real property of her mobilehome. Following trial, the trial court issued a statement of decision rejecting Fisher’s challenges to the Board’s findings of fact and determination and entered judgment in favor of the County. Fisher again appealed, but the Court of Appeal affirmed, finding no reversible error. View "Fisher v. County of Orange" on Justia Law

by
The City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Board of Commissioners (collectively, Los Angeles) appealed a trial court judgment granting the petition of Mono County and the Sierra Club (collectively, Mono County) for a writ of mandate directing Los Angeles to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) before curtailing or reducing deliveries of irrigation water to certain lands Los Angeles leased to agricultural operators in Mono County. The trial court ruled that Los Angeles implemented a project in 2018 without complying with CEQA when: (1) it proposed new leases to the lessees that would not provide or allow water to be used for irrigation; and (2) while claiming it would study the environmental effects of the new leases, it nonetheless implemented that policy of reducing water for irrigation by allocating less water than usual under the prior leases that were still in effect. Los Angeles did not dispute that it was required to engage in CEQA analysis before implementing the new proposed leases, and it noted it issued a notice that it was undertaking environmental review of those new leases. But it argued that its 2018 water allocation was not part of that project and instead part of an earlier project, and the limitations period for challenging the earlier project has run. The Court of Appeal agreed with Los Angeles, the trial court's judgment was reversed. View "County of Mono v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

by
Ghuman befriended the Shokers, becoming familiar with their rental properties and promising higher returns on an investment in a technology company.. Relying on his representations, the Shokers provided Ghuman with $1.5 million and then sold 10 of their rental properties to a purported cash buyer identified by Ghuman—Phangureh. Ghuman handled the negotiations and transactions. The Shokers paid Ghuman the proceeds for investment in the technology company. Years later, after learning of the fraudulent scheme, the Shokers sued and sought “an order declaring that [Ghuman and Phangureh] hold the [Shokers’ rental properties] in trust for [the Shokers],” and an order compelling Ghuman and Phangureh to convey the properties back to the Shokers. They recorded a notice of lis pendens for each of the rental properties.The trial court expunged the lis pendens, finding that the Shokers did not assert a “real property claim” under Code of Civil Procedure section 405.4. The court of appeal reversed. Section 405.4 defines a “real property claim" as a cause action that could "affect . . . title to, or the right to possession of, specific real property.” In their constructive trust claim, the Shokers claim a present right to title in the same real properties they claim were wrongfully obtained by Phangureh. View "Shoker v. Superior Court of Alameda County" on Justia Law

by
This case was the second appeal arising out of a dispute over the operation of a commercial self-storage facility (Treelake Storage) within a planned unit development in Granite Bay (Treelake Village). Silversword Properties, LLC (Silversword) owned the property upon which K.H. Moss Company and Moss Equity (collectively, Moss) operated Treelake Storage. In a separate but related lawsuit filed in 2017, Parkford Owners for a Better Community (Parkford) challenged Placer County’s (County) issuance of a building permit for the construction of an expansion of Treelake Storage, arguing that the County failed to comply with both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Planning and Zoning Law. The trial court concluded: (1) the County’s issuance of the building permit was ministerial rather than discretionary, and therefore CEQA did not apply; and (2) Parkford’s challenge under the Planning and Zoning Law was barred by the statute of limitations. Parkford appealed. In August 2020, a different panel of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, concluding that completion of the challenged expansion of Treelake Storage prior to entry of judgment rendered moot Parkford’s challenge to the County’s issuance of a building permit authorizing construction of the expansion. In June 2021, the trial court concluded that the lawsuit here, filed by Parkford in 2018 and challenged the County’s issuance of a business license for the operation of Treelake Storage, was barred by both aspects of the doctrine of res judicata--claim and issue preclusion. The Court of Appeal concluded “Parkford I” was not a final judgment “on the merits,” therefore res judicata did not operate to bar this suit. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Parkford Owners for a Better Community v. Windeshausen" on Justia Law

by
This was the second time plaintiff-appellant Petrolink, Inc. returned to the Court of Appeal in its suit against Lantel Enterprises. Petrolink filed an action against defendant Lantel Enterprises (Lantel), seeking specific performance of a lease agreement that gave Petrolink the option to purchase a commercial property owned by Lantel at fair market value; Lantel cross-complained against Petrolink, contending that Petrolink was refusing to purchase the property for its fair market value. The parties disagreed as to the valuation of the property and were effectively seeking a judicial determination as to the fair market value of the property so that they could complete the transaction. After years of litigation in the trial court, an appeal, a partial reversal of the judgment, remand, and further litigation, the trial court ultimately concluded that the fair market value of the property was $889,854. The court then calculated a net purchase price of $948,404 by subtracting from the fair market value a credit to Petrolink for the rents that it had paid from the date the purchase should have been completed, and adding a credit to Lantel for the loss of use of the sale proceeds. In its amended judgment, the court ordered the parties to complete the transaction; Petrolink was to deposit $948,404 in escrow and Lantel was to deliver title to the property “by grant deed free and clear of all encumbrances.” Petrolink appealed the amended judgment, arguing that it was entitled to certain additional financial reductions and offsets to the purchase price. The Court of Appeal rejected Petrolink’s contentions and affirmed the amended judgment in Petrolink II. Eleven days after Petrolink II was issued, and four days after Petrolink deposited the purchase funds in escrow, the State of California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) filed an eminent domain action pertaining to the property. The filing of the Caltrans action prevented Lantel from being able to convey unencumbered title, as required by the amended judgment. Petrolink then refused to close escrow. Lantel moved to compel performance under the trial court's order, despite the encumbrance on title resulting from the Caltrans eminent domain action. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Petrolink to accept title encumbered by the Caltrans eminent domain action. "[T]he trial court weighed the equities and concluded that it would be more equitable for Petrolink to bear any burden of the encumbrance created by the filing of the Caltrans action." View "Petrolink, Inc. v. Lantel Enterprises" on Justia Law

by
In 1979, the property was owned by one entity and divided into four parcels. Before 1997, the county assessor divided the property into three parcels with distinct assessor’s parcel numbers (APNs). In 1997, the owner reconfigured it into two parcels. In several transactions, one reconfigured parcel was conveyed to XPO, and the other to Hayward. The 1997 document reconfiguring the property has an error in defining one parcel by its metes and bounds. The boundaries of the APNs were not changed. The metes-and-bounds descriptions support XPO’s claim to the disputed area; the APN references arguably support Hayward’s claim. XPO sued to quiet title. Hayward cross-complained to quiet title or obtain restitution for property taxes and the purchase price.The court granted XPO judgment on the title claims. The parties ultimately stipulated to an estimated amount of real property taxes Hayward had paid for the disputed area, in excess of the taxes that XPO had paid on part of Hayward’s property. The court quieted title to the disputed area in XPO, denying Hayward’s purchase-price restitution claim, and awarding relief on its tax restitution claim in the stipulated sum—plus prejudgment interest,The court of appeal affirmed in part. The trial court correctly disregarded APN references in the deeds; Hayward did not acquire an interest in the disputed area. The award of prejudgment interest on Hayward’s restitution award was reversed so the court can exercise its discretion in determining the amount. The court affirmed the orders taxing XPO’s costs and denying sanctions. View "XPO Logistics Freight, Inc. v. Hayward Property, LLC" on Justia Law

by
After concluding that the project was not subject to the Housing Accountability Act (HAA) (Gov. Code 65589.5), the county denied the plaintiffs’ application o build a nearly 4,000-square-foot single-family home on a hillside lot in San Anselmo finding that the home was outsized compared to the surrounding neighborhood. Plaintiffs claim that their planned home qualified as a “housing development project” under the HAA and that the county improperly rejected it based on subjective criteria.The court of appeal affirmed the denial. The county lawfully rejected the plaintiffs’ application; the HAA does not apply to a project to build an individual single-family home. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ equitable-estoppel claims. There was sufficient evidence for the county to deny the project on the basis of the project’s outsized character. View "Reznitskiy v. County of Marin" on Justia Law

by
In 2017, Bakewell submitted applications regarding its proposed development of "Campus Town," on approximately 122 acres of the former Fort Ord military base. The City of Seaside certified an environmental impact report under the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code section 21000, and approved the project. After holding a public hearing, the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) determined that the project was consistent with the Fort Ord Reuse Plan. A nonprofit organization filed a petition for a writ of mandate, alleging that the Campus Town EIR violated CEQA and that FORA’s failure to provide the Committee with notices of the consistency hearing for the project violated the Committee’s right to due process. Bakewell argued that the CEQA causes of action were time-barred and the due process cause of action was moot.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of all claims. Under Emergency rule 9(b) the last day for the Committee to file its petition asserting CEQA causes of action was August 4, 2020; it was not filed until September 1, 2020. there is currently no requirement that development projects proposed for the former Fort Ord military base be consistent with the Fort Ord Reuse Plan, so the due process claim is moot. View "Committee for Sound Water & Land Development v. City of Seaside" on Justia Law

by
Lassen Irrigation Company (Irrigation Company) challenged the superior court’s orders interpreting paragraphs1 17 and 55 of the 1940 Susan River Water Rights Decree (decree). The superior court adopted the trust’s interpretations of those paragraphs, thereby overturning the contrary decisions by Honey Lake Valley Resource Conservation District, serving as the watermaster administering the decree. Although the superior court expressed an unfamiliarity with water law, it viewed the trust’s interpretations of the paragraphs as “not ridiculously inconsistent with the objectives of the overall agreement” and “within the bounds of the agreement and . . . consistent with the language in the agreement.” The Court of Appeal concluded the trust’s interpretations of paragraphs 17 and 55, as adopted by the superior court, were unreasonable considering the language, record, history, and context of the decree. The superior court’s finding the trust’s place of use change request otherwise comported with Water Code section 1706 and California water law also did not save the paragraph 17 order. Accordingly, the superior court’s orders were reversed in their entirety. View "Dow v. Lassen Irrigation Company" on Justia Law