Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the ruling of the district court finding that an amended pleading by the Estate of Francis O. Glaser related back to its original pleading and therefore permitted an additional conveyance to be set aside after the statute of limitations had lapsed, holding that the district court erred in concluding that the late amendment related back to the date of the original motion.The Estate in this case attempted to void a predate transfer of farm property by Glaser to a friend. In order to do so, at the close of the evidence, the Estate filed a motion to amend the original motion to set aside property conveyances that failed to mention the farm property. The district court permitted the late amendment and found that the amendment related back to the filing of the original motion. Therefore, the court concluded that the claim was not barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that the challenged conveyances should be set aside. The Supreme Court held, like the court of appeals, that the late claim to set aside the farm property was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. View "Kindsfather v. Bowling" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the district court striking Plaintiff's resistance to a motion for summary judgment and vacated the resulting summary judgment and bench trial judgment, holding that the district court abused its discretion by striking the entire resistance filing without any showing of prejudice or violation of a prior court order.On the last day of an extended deadline Plaintiff filed his resistance and supporting papers. The next day, the clerk of court rejected Plaintiff's filing because of the failure to redact Plaintiff's social security number. The district court granted Defendants' motion to strike the filing as untimely and noncompliant and subsequently granted summary judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' claims. A different judgment ultimately entered judgment for Defendants on their counterclaims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion by granting Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's resistance filings. View "Toney v. Parker" on Justia Law

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In this action seeking to set aside a sheriff's sale of the stock of Plaintiff's farm business the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the district court concluding that Plaintiff's claims were untimely or barred by claim preclusion, holding that the court of appeals erred.In his motion to dismiss, Defendant argued that this action was repetitive of prior unsuccessful lawsuits and that Defendant was precluded under court order from filing any new actions regarding the sheriff's sale. The district court adopted Defendant's arguments in its dismissal order. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that the district court correctly found that claim preclusion applies. View "Daniels v. Holtz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court granting summary judgment dismissing Kristina Lewis's negligence claims against Howard L. Allen Investments, Inc. (Allen Investments), holding that Allen Investments did not owe a duty to protect Lewis from the harm she suffered.Allen Investments sold a house under a contract of sale that required the buyers to make monthly payments for ten years. Five years into the payment period the buyers leased the house to Lewis and her fiancé. The house subsequently caught fire, causing Lewis to suffer serious injuries. Lewis brought this negligence action against the buyers and Allen Investments. The district court granted summary judgment for Allen Investments, concluding that the company, as a contract seller, owed no duty to Lewis. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Allen Investments was not the landlord of the property under Iowa's Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Iowa Code chapter 562A; and (2) Allen Investments owed no duty of care to Lewis to maintain the property. View "Lewis v. Howard L. Allen Investments, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court concluding that the county board of adjustment legally granted an area variance to certain property owners, holding that the board of adjustment acted illegally in granting the variance from the county zoning ordinance.The Board of Adjustment of Cerro Gordo County granted the application for a variance filed by Gregory and Lea Ann Saul that allowed them to construct a pergola twenty-one inches from the property line. The local ordinance required a six-foot setback. The district court concluded that the board acted legally in granting the variance. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals and reversed the district court, holding that the Sauls did not meet their burden to establish unnecessary hardship. View "Earley v. Board of Adjustment of Cerro Gordo County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Defendant's motion to set aside a default judgment awarding Plaintiff immediate and exclusive possession of Defendant's home, holding that the district court erred in denying Defendant's motion to set aside the default judgment.Plaintiff obtained title to Defendant's home by way of a tax sale deed and, after filing a petition for recovery of real property, obtained a default judgment awarding it possession of Defendant's home. Defendant filed a motion to set aside the default judgment, asserting that he was legally disabled and exempt from paying property taxes and that he had been trying to resolve the property tax issue for some time. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant established good cause to set aside the default judgment. View "No Boundry, LLC v. Hoosman" on Justia Law

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In this case brought by a tenant against her landlord and a neighboring tenant alleging breach of the lease's no-pets provision the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing the case, holding that the landlord's accommodation of an emotional support dog was not reasonable.Plaintiff moved into an apartment building because of its no-pets policy. Afterwards, another tenant requested a reasonable accommodation to have his emotion support animal (ESA), a dog, with him on the apartment premises. The landlord allowed the ESA and tried to accommodate the two tenants, but Plaintiff still suffered from allergic attacks. Plaintiff sued, alleging breach of the lease and interference with the quiet enjoyment of her apartment. The landlord asserted in its defense that its waiver of the no-pets policy was a reasonable accommodation that it was required to grant under the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). The small claims court concluded that the landlord's accommodations were reasonable. The district court dismissed the case. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the landlord's accommodation of the ESA was not reasonable because Plaintiff had priority in time and the dog's presence posed a direct threat to her health; and (2) Plaintiff was entitled to recover on her claims. View "Cohen v. Clark" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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