Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the determination of the Iowa Department of Revenue that capital gains Taxpayer earned from the sale of farmland she inherited from her father and leased on a cash-rent basis did not qualify for the exclusion from Iowa income tax allowed under Iowa Code 422.7(21)(a), holding that the assessment of additional taxes and related penalties and interest was not irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable. At issue was whether the Department's interpretation of section 422.7(21)(a), as delineated in Iowa Administrative Code rule 701-40.38(1)(c), or the director's application of that rule to the facts was irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustified. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department acted within its discretion when it promulgated distinct rules for farm leases and other types of real property leases in rule 701-40.38(1)(c); and (2) Taxpayers' attempt to avoid the farm-specific rules is rejected. View "Christensen v. Iowa Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court ruling that Plaintiffs' claim seeking contract damages was barred by the limitations period set forth in Iowa Code 614.17A, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment. John and Dessie Rottinghaus filed a claim in the Estate of Sandra Franken, alleging that the Estate sold certain real estate in violation of their right of first refusal to purchase the real estate. The executor disallowed the claim and moved for summary judgment, claiming that section 614.17A barred the Rottinghauses' claim. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment, concluding that the statute of limitations precluded the Rottinghauses' claim for damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 614.17A applies only to actions seeking to recover or establish an interest in or claim to real estate filed against the holder of the record title; and (2) neither the merger doctrine, the statute of frauds, the indirect effect of section 614.17A, nor the statute of limitations in section 614.1(5) barred the Rottinghauses' damages action. View "In re Estate of Franken" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Plaintiffs had a "losing cause of action," concluding that Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants were frivolous, and granting Defendants' motion for costs and expenses, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. A group of property owners alleged that confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) operated and supported by Defendants amounted to a nuisance. The plaintiffs later dismissed their lawsuit because they failed to exhaust farm mediation and then later refiled. Two of the plaintiffs (together, Plaintiffs), however, voluntarily dismissed their claims a second time, resulting in an adjudication against them on the merits. Defendants sued Plaintiffs seeking costs and expenses pursuant to Iowa Code 657.11(5). The district court granted the motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) two voluntary dismissals meant Plaintiffs had "a losing cause of action"; (2) Plaintiffs' claims were frivolous; and (3) the district court's apportionment of costs and expenses was appropriate. View "Merrill v. Valley View Swine, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the foreclosure decree entered by the district court giving priority under a future-advances clause to the full amount of credit extended by the first lienholder rather than the maximum amount set forth in the notice provision of the first lienholder's mortgage, holding that the first lienholder's priority was capped at $148,000. A bank made a series of loans to a farmer and obtained a mortgage with a future-advances clause on a farm property. The bank's mortgage contained language stating that the mortgage secured credit in the amount of $148,000. The farmer later took out a loan from a second bank, also secured in part by the same farm property. When the first bank filed a foreclosure proceeding, the parties disputed whether the first bank's lien had priority for all amounts due to the first bank or only up to $148,000. The district court found that the first bank's priority was not limited to $148,000 but extended to all debt secured by the mortgage. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the first bank's priority was capped at $148,000, plus interest; and (2) the first bank was not allowed to collect default interest at eighteen percent as part of its first-priority lien where there was no written agreement to pay that rate. View "Blue Grass Savings Bank v. Community Bank & Trust Co." on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over Contractor's attorney fees the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Homeowners waived their assertion that including attorney fees in a mechanic's lien foreclosure decree violated their homestead rights, holding that Homeowners needed to raise their homestead exemption before the district court entered the foreclosure decree. This appeal stemmed from a judicial determination that Homeowners had to pay most of Contractor's unpaid bill and that Contractor was entitled to foreclosure of its mechanic's lien. Later, a revised decree was entered granting Contractor the right to foreclose a mechanic's lien against the property both for the principal amount due and for the attorney fees. When a second sheriff's sale of the residence was impending, Homeowners, for the first time, asserted that including attorney fees in the mechanic's lien foreclosure decree violated their homestead rights. The judicial court found a waiver by Homeowners. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) attorney fees can be recovered in a mechanic's lien foreclosure action against the homestead; and (2) the district court correctly found that principles of res judicata and waiver barred Homeowners' assertion of a homestead exemption. View "Standard Water Control Systems, Inc. v. Jones" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court declining to modify a restriction on alienability of paintings painted by artist Grant Wood and donated in 1976 to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, holding that the 1976 gift was restricted. A foundation donated the paintings to the college, and the gift letter stated that "this would be their permanent home, hanging on the walls of Stewart Memorial Library." While the college traditionally treated the paintings on its books as an unrestricted gift that could be sold or otherwise alienated, in 2016, an auditor determined the paintings should be treated as a restricted gift. The college subsequently filed a petition seeking a judicial interpretation of the gift's terms. The district court ruled that there existed a restriction on the alienability of the paintings and declined to modify the restriction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the language in the gift letter did restrict the gift; (2) the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act does not apply; and (3) it was premature to consider the application of the common law doctrine of cy pres because there was no showing the gift restrictions cannot be carried out at present. View "In re Application of Coe College for Interpretation of Purported Gift Restrictions v. Coe College" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the Carroll County Board of Adjustment's denial of Appellants' application for a variance from Carroll County Airport Zoning Ordinance height restrictions, holding that this Court's opinion rejecting Appellants' preemption defense in a companion case, was fatal to Appellants' appeal of the zoning variance denial. Appellants built a grain leg on their farmland that violated the zoning ordinance's height restrictions. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made a no-hazard determination. The Carroll Airport Commission disagreed with the FAA's determination and filed an equitable action to have the grain leg declared a nuisance. After Appellants unsuccessfully sought a variance, the district court entered judgment for the Commission on its nuisance claim. In both the nuisance action and the zoning appeal Appellants argued that the FAA's no-hazard determination preempted local regulations as a matter of law. The district court rejected that defense in the nuisance action. The court of appeals and Supreme Court affirmed. The district court then affirmed the Board's denial of the variance, again rejecting the preemption defense. Because the nuisance case adjudicated the same federal preemption issue Appellants raised in this preceding, the Supreme Court's opinion rejecting Appellants' preemption defense in the nuisance action was fatal to Appellants' appeal of the zoning appeal. View "Danner v. Carroll County Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals declining to give preemptive effect to a no-hazard determination by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and affirmed as modified the judgment of the district court, holding that the Federal Aviation Act allows for local zoning regulation, and the FAA's no-hazard letter did not preempt the local airport zoning regulations as a matter of law. A farmer built a twelve-story grain leg near an airport. The airport commission informed the farmer he needed a variance and refused to grant one. Thereafter, the FAA approved the structure. The local commissioners later brought this action in equity to force the farmer to modify or remove the structure. The district court issued an injunction. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted further review and held (1) state and local regulators can impose stricter height restrictions on structures in flight paths notwithstanding an FAA no-hazard determination, and therefore, the no-hazard letter did not preempt the local airport zoning regulations; and (2) the district court properly found that the structure constituted a threat to aviation requiring abatement, but the $200 daily penalty is vacated and the judgment is modified to require the farmer to abate the nuisance within nine months of this opinion. View "Carroll Airport Commission v. Danner" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dissolving an injunction that had precluded a sale after ruling that the City of Waterloo had complied with Iowa Code 306.23 in transferring land from an unused right-of-way to a developer of a residential subdivision. Plaintiffs, adjacent landowners and taxpayers, alleged that the City violated the requirements set forth in section 306.23 imposing notice and appraisal requirements when transferring land from the unused right-of-way. The district court entered an injunction precluding the sale but later lifted its injunction after finding that the City complied with section 306.23. The district court subsequently refused to hold the City in contempt and dismissed Plaintiffs' mandamus claim and application for sanctions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the City complied with section 306.23. View "Hartog v. City of Waterloo, Iowa" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for a judgment creditor and dismissed the petition filed by the judgment debtor and his wife to vacate a charging order to execute foreign judgments in Iowa district court against the judgment debtor's membership interests in an Iowa limited liability company (LLC), holding that there was no reason to reverse the judgment of the district court. The judgment debtor and his wife sought to vacate the charging order on the grounds that the creditor could not attach the debtor's interests in the Iowa LLC since the debtor and his wife owned them as a tenancy by the entireties in their domicile of Florida. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the creditor, holding (1) the district court properly applied Iowa law because membership interests in an LLC are located in the state where the LLC is formed; (2) the district court correctly dismissed the petition to vacate the charging order since Iowa law does not recognize the ownership of property by a married couple as tenants in the entireties; and (3) the foreign judgments were properly registered, and the charging order was properly issued. View "Wells Fargo Equipment Finance Inc. v. Retterath" on Justia Law