Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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San Francisco obtained fee title to an 80-foot strip of land by grant deed in 1951 from the plaintiffs' grandparents to construct an underground pipeline for the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. The deed reserved to the plaintiffs’ family the right to use the surface of the property for pasturage and the right to construct roads and streets “over and across” the property “but not along in the direction of the City’s pipe line or lines.” The property has served since the 1960s as a paved parking lot for commercial uses on plaintiffs’ properties on either side of the pipeline. When a dispute arose about whether parking and related circulation was authorized under the deed versus under a revocable permit issued by San Francisco in 1967, the plaintiffs filed a quiet title action.On remand, the trial court concluded that the deed authorized plaintiffs to use the pipeline property for ornamental landscaping, automobile access, circulation, and parking. The court of appeal agreed that the deed authorizes ornamental landscaping, the three existing paved roads running across the pipeline property, and the use of the property to access auto mechanic service bays. While some degree of parking incidental to those authorized uses may be allowed, the express language of the deed does not allow the plaintiffs’ current use of the pipeline property as a parking lot. View "Pear v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Gary and Bella Martin appealed after the trial court granted in part and denied in part their petition for writ of administrative mandate to challenge the imposition of certain special conditions placed on the development of their property - a vacant, oceanfront lot in Encinitas - by the California Coastal Commission (Commission). The Commission also appealed the judgment. The Martins’ challenged a condition requiring them to eliminate a basement from their proposed home, while the Commission challenged the trial court’s reversal of its condition requiring the Martins to set back their home 79 feet from the bluff edge. Because the Court of Appeal agreed with its own recent decision in Lindstrom v. California Coastal Com., 40 Cal.App.5th 73 (2019) interpreting the same provisions of the Encinitas Local Coastal Program (LCP) and Municipal Code at issue here, the trial court’s invalidation of the Commission’s setback requirement was reversed. The trial court’s decision to uphold the basement prohibition was affirmed. View "Martin v. Cal. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Champir, LLC (Champir), Daniel Javaheri, and Shiva Dehghani sued the Fairbanks Ranch Association (the Association) to enforce the recorded covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) of their planned development community. Upon resolution of the litigation, both parties sought an award of attorney fees and costs as the “prevailing party” under Civil Code section 5975(c). The trial court determined Plaintiffs were the prevailing party and entered judgment for Plaintiffs with an award of $112,340 in attorney fees, plus costs of suit. The Association appealed, asserting the court should have determined that it was the prevailing party in the litigation. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Champir, LLC v. Fairbanks Ranch Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Linda and Dwayne Struiksma lost title to their home in a foreclosure sale. The purchaser at the sale then brought an unlawful detainer action against them under Code of Civil Procedure section 1161a(b)(3). A default judgment was issued, and plaintiffs were evicted from their property. Plaintiffs then filed this action against defendants HSBC Bank USA, N.A. and Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC (collectively, defendants), their lender and loan servicer, who were not parties to the unlawful detainer action. Generally, they alleged defendants carelessly failed to credit several payments to their loan balance. Thus, plaintiffs contended they were never in default and defendants wrongfully foreclosed on the property. The trial court sustained defendants’ demurrer to the complaint, finding all of plaintiffs’ claims were precluded by the unlawful detainer judgment except for a claim under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which was defective for other reasons. Plaintiffs were denied leave to amend on all claims and appealed the resulting judgment. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court erred in ruling plaintiffs’ claims were precluded, and published this case to clarify the preclusive effect of an unlawful detainer action under section 1161a. Defendants also argued certain claims the trial court found precluded failed for reasons other than preclusion. Given its ruling, the court had no opportunity to consider these arguments. So, this case was remanded for the trial court to consider them in the first instance. As to the TILA claim, the Court held it suffered from several defects, and the trial court correctly sustained the demurrer to this claim without leave to amend. View "Struiksma v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellant Pentech Financial Services, Inc. (Pentech) and Respondent Edward Roski, Jr., Trustee of the Roski Community Property Trust Dated November 1, 1987 (Roski), were two of several lien holder defendants in the underlying partition action involving four properties. Pentech obtained the judgment underlying its lien in March 2008. At the first phase of a bifurcated trial in November 2015, the trial court adopted the parties’ stipulation to determine lien priority by the date of recording the judgment lien with the San Diego County Recorder’s Office (Recorder’s Office). In accordance with that stipulation, the trial court determined that Pentech was the priority lien holder. In March 2017, the trial court adopted the parties’ stipulated interlocutory judgment, wherein the parties stipulated that “satisfaction of any judgment or tax lien shall be prioritized by date of recording of such lien with the [Recorder’s Office].” Pentech’s judgment expired in March 2018, by operation of law, when it failed to renew the judgment within the prescribed 10-year period. By then, only one of the four subject properties had been sold. At the second phase of the bifurcated trial in January 2019, the trial court determined that Pentech lost its priority status because it no longer had a valid, enforceable judgment. The court subsequently awarded Roski, as the new priority lien holder, its proportional share of the funds: a sum of $505,957.45 from the sales of all four properties. Pentech admitted it did not renew its judgment. Nonetheless, Pentech contended on appeal that the trial court’s initial determination of priority lien status was final and non-reviewable. In the alternative, Pentech sought modification of the judgment to entitle Pentech to receive a portion of the sale of the one property that sold before its judgment expired. Finally, Pentech argued the judgment should have been reversed and remanded so that the trial court could consider arguments asserted by Pentech for the first time in its objections to a proposed statement of decision. Because these contentions lacked merit, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Starcevic v. Pentech Financial Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Charles and Kimberley Bailey petitioned to quiet title to property in Frazier Park, California, based on their alleged adverse possession of the property for a five-year period. Before that period was completed, defendant Citibank, N.A. (Citibank), as successor in interest of a deed of trust recorded against the property long before plaintiffs’ adverse possession began, foreclosed and acquired title to the property under the trustee’s deed. Citibank, however, failed to answer or otherwise respond to the complaint, and its default was entered, and the trial court ultimately entered a judgment quieting title in plaintiffs’ favor. Citibank moved to set aside both the default and the judgment under the mandatory provisions of Code of Civil Procedure section 473, based on Citibank’s attorney’s affidavit of fault. The trial court granted Citibank’s motion, and the default and the judgment quieting title were set aside. Plaintiffs appealed that order on the ground that no basis existed for potential relief under section 473 since Citibank’s attorney was not retained to handle this case until after the default was entered. In response to plaintiffs’ appeal, Citibank filed a protective cross-appeal, arguing that even if relief under section 473 was unavailable, the judgment quieting title in plaintiffs’ favor was erroneous as a matter of law and should have been reversed. The Court of Appeal agreed with Citibank: the undisputed facts showed Citibank was the owner of the property as a matter of law. Judgement was reversed as to the trial court's section 473 ruling and as to quieting title in favor of plaintiffs; on remand the trial court was instructed to enter a new judgment in Citibank’s favor. View "Bailey v. Citibank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Sellers bought an Oakland property to “flip.” After Vega renovated the property, they sold it to Vera, providing required disclosures, stating they were not aware of any water intrusion, leaks from the sewer system or any pipes, work, or repairs that had been done without permits or not in compliance with building codes, or any material facts or defects that had not otherwise been disclosed. Vera’s own inspectors revealed several problems. The Sellers agreed to several repairs Escrow closed in December 2011, but the sewer line had not been corrected. In January 2012, water flooded the basement. The Sellers admitted that earlier sewer work had been completed without a permit and that Vega was unlicensed. In 2014, the exterior stairs began collapsing. Three years and three days after the close of escrow, Vera filed suit, alleging negligence, breach of warranty, breach of contract, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Based on the three-year limitations period for actions based on fraud or mistake, the court dismissed and, based on a clause in the purchase contract, granted SNL attorney’s fees, including fees related to a cross-complaint against Vera’s broker and real estate agent.The court of appeal affirmed. Vera’s breach of contract claim was based on fraud and the undisputed facts demonstrated Vera’s claims based on fraud accrued more than three years before she filed suit. Vera has not shown the court abused its discretion in awarding fees related to the cross-complaint. View "Vera v. REL-BC, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellants owned beachfront mobilehomes in Capistrano Shores Mobile Home Park located in the City of San Clemente. Each of their mobilehomes was a single-story residence. Between 2011 and 2013, appellants each applied for, and received, a permit from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to remodel their respective mobilehome. Appellants also applied for coastal development permits from the Coastal Commission. Their applications expressly indicated they were not addressing any component of the remodels for which they obtained HCD permits, including the addition of second stories. Rather, their coastal development permit applications concerned desired renovations on the grounds surrounding the mobilehome structures, including items such as carports, patio covers, and barbeques. Appellants completed their remodels at various times between 2011 and 2014. The parties disputed whether appellants received, prior to completion of construction, any communication from the Coastal Commission concerning the need for a coastal development permit for their projects.In February 2014, the Coastal Commission issued notices to appellants that the then-complete renovation of their residential structures was unauthorized and illegal without a coastal development permit. Faced with a potential need to demolish, at minimum, completed second-story additions to their mobilehomes, appellants unsuccessfully petitioned for a writ of mandate declaring that the coastal development permits were deemed approved by operation of law under the Permit Streamlining Act. In denying the petition, the trial court concluded the Coastal Commission had jurisdiction to require appellants to obtain coastal development permits and the prerequisite public notice to deemed approval under the Streamlining Act did not occur. Appellants contended on appeal that the trial court erred in both respects. The Court of Appeal concluded appellants’ writ petition should have been granted. "The Coastal Commission has concurrent jurisdiction with the California Department of Housing and Community Development over mobilehomes located in the coastal zone. Thus, even though appellants obtained a permit from the latter, they were also required to obtain a permit from the former. The Coastal Commission’s failure to act on appellants’ applications for costal development permits, however, resulted in the applications being deemed approved under the Streamlining Act." Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the matter with directions to the trial court to vacate the existing judgment and enter a new judgment granting appellants’ petition. View "Linovitz Capo Shores LLC v. California Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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The County of Sacramento (County) filed an action to abate building and housing code violations at two properties owned or managed by Raj Singh and Kiran Rawat, individually and as trustee of the SitaRam Living Trust dated 2007 and the Sita Ram Trust. The trial court appointed a receiver under Health and Safety Code section 17980.7 to take control of and rehabilitate the properties upon the County’s motion. Singh appealed pro se the trial court’s order approving the receiver’s final account and report and discharging the receiver. The Court of Appeal addressed Singh's claims "as best as [the Court could] discern them." After careful consideration of Singh's claims, the Court found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court. View "County of Sacramento v. Rawat" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging that he improperly obtained money and property from plaintiffs' deceased parents. The trial court concluded that defendant was unjustly enriched and entered judgment in plaintiffs' favor for more than $34 million. The parents had executed powers of attorney granting defendant authority to act on their behalf in reclaiming and selling properties in Iran. Plaintiffs contend that defendant conspired with another individual to steal their parents' properties and defraud them out of tens of millions of dollars.The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the trial court properly denied defendant's renewed motion for inconvenient forum where the law of the case doctrine applies here; plaintiffs' claims are not barred by the statute of limitations; the trial court did not abuse its discretion by imposing discovery sanctions on defendant; and the trial court properly awarded plaintiffs equitable relief. View "Aghaian v. Minassian" on Justia Law