Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiffs' action seeking compensation for what it alleged was a taking, by the Town of Sturbridge, of certain property, holding that the superior court judge correctly concluded that Plaintiffs did not establish a taking or any right to compensation or damages. Plaintiffs, trustees of a trust, commenced an action against the Town seeking declarations concerning the Town's right to discharge water onto trust property. A judge declared that the Town had obtained a prescriptive easement on the property to discharge storm water through a town culvert onto and across the property. Plaintiffs then brought this action seeking compensation, arguing that the easement amounted to a taking for which it was entitled to compensation. A judge allowed the Town's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs had no basis on which to claim a taking because the Town acquired the right to discharge storm water onto the property via the prescriptive easement. View "Gentili v. Town of Sturbridge" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's putative class action suit alleging that the City of Gardner and its private water supply contractors were negligent and grossly negligent and created a nuisance in knowingly supplying corrosive water to the City's residents, holding that the superior court judge erred in dismissing the complaint for lack of timely presentment. In allowing the City's motion to dismiss the judge concluded that Plaintiff failed to make timely presentment as required by the Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 4. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the dismissal, holding (1) the Act covers all claims brought against a city, even claims arising from the city's sale of water to its residents; and (2) the trial judge erred in dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for lack of timely presentment. View "Magliacane v. City of Gardner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the trial court dismissing this case alleging that a Massachusetts assisted living residence's (ALR) charge to new residents of an upfront "community fee" violated the security deposit statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, 15B, holding that if an ALR charges upfront fees that are not used to fund distinct assisted living services, it does so in violation of section 15B. Plaintiff alleged that the community fee, which was intended to cover upfront administrative costs, move-in assistance, an initial service coordination plan, and a replacement reserve for building improvements, violated section 15B because it exceeded the upfront costs allowed by the statute. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that ALRs are not subject to section 15B. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this case, holding (1) ALRs may institute upfront charges beyond those permitted by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, 15B(1)(b) to the extent those charges correspondent to the distinct services enumerated in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 19D, 13 or to other services specifically designed for ALRs; and (2) further factual development was required to determine whether the fee at issue here was permissibly charged and used for services distinct to ALRs. View "Ryan v. Mary Ann Morse Healthcare Corp." on Justia Law

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In this appeal from ongoing litigation involving adjoining property owners the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the motion judge's order denying plaintiff developer's special motion to dismiss defendant abutters' counterclaims, holding that the abutters could not demonstrate that their claims were not strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP suits). The developer filed a complaint against the abutters alleging abuse of process and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. Both parties were then involved in motions filed under the anti-SLAPP act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. Here, the developer appealed from the denial of its special motion to dismiss the abutters' counterclaims alleging breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, abuse of process, and violation of chapter 93A. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for entry of an order allowing the special motion to dismiss, holding (1) none of the abutters' contract-based counterclaims was colorable; and (2) the abutters failed to demonstrate that any of their remaining counterclaims were not retaliatory. View "477 Harrison Avenue, LLC v. JACE Boston, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decision of the Land Court judge determining that the primary purpose of Plaintiff's proposed residential program for adolescent males could not be characterized as "educational" under the Dover Amendment, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 3, second paragraph, and therefore was not exempt from certain zoning restrictions, holding that the proposed facility and its curriculum fell within the "broad and comprehensive" meaning of "educational purposes" under the Dover Amendment. Plaintiff, The McLean Hospital Corporation, sought to develop a residential life skills program for fifteen to twenty-one year old males who exhibit extreme emotional dysregulation to allow the adolescents to lead useful, productive lives. The building commissioner determined that the proposed use was educational and that Plaintiff could proceed under the Dover Amendment and its local analog, section 6.1(i) of the town of Lincoln's bylaw. The town's zoning board of appeals reversed, determining that the program was medical or therapeutic, as opposed to education. The Land Court judge upheld the determination. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for entry of a judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the fact that the curriculum of the facility is not conventional does not negate the fact that the predominant purpose of the program is educational. View "McLean Hospital Corp. v. Town of Lincoln" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court challenging the legality of the Boston Redevelopment Authority's (BRA) actions executing a permanent taking of the "Yawkey Way" easement and subsequently selling the easement rights, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the permanent taking of the Yawkey Way easement and the sale of the easement rights pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 121B, 46(f). After plans were made to try to improve Fenway Park and its surroundings, the BRA executed a permanent taking of an easement over a portion of Yawkey Way - a public way adjacent to Fenway Park. The BRA then sold the easement rights to the Boston Red Sox for as long as Major League Baseball games are played at Fenway Park. Plaintiff, a local attorney and business owner who had sought to acquire the Yawkey Way easement rights for himself, brought this action challenging the BRA's actions. The motion judge granted judgment for the BRA. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the BRA's actions. View "Marchese v. Boston Redevelopment Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Land Court judge reversing the decision of the zoning board of appeals of Brockton (board) denying Plaintiffs' appeal of the denial of their permit to construct a house on a lot in Brockton, holding that the Land Court judge correctly determined that the division of the lot was not a subdivision and that the owners were not otherwise required to seek any planning board action. In 1964, the lot at issue was part of a lot that was divided by its owner into two separate conveyances without a plan presented to the local planning board. Plaintiffs applied for a permit to construct a house on the lot. The building inspector denied the permit. The board denied Plaintiffs' appeal, concluding that the lot was unbuildable because the division of the lot did not comply with the subdivision control law. A Land Court judge reversed the board's decision, determining that the division did not constitute a subdivision under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 41, 81L. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the original division did not require planning board approval and that the lot met all other requirements that existed at the time for a proper division of land. View "RCA Development, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Brockton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner's petition for extraordinary relief from an order of the Housing Court denying Petitioner's motion to remove a receiver appointed with respect to real property owned by East Fourth Street, LLC, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying the petition. In denying Petitioner's petition, the single justice held that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the extraordinary relief he sought was appropriate in this case. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Housing Court correctly determined that Petitioner, who is not an attorney, cannot present arguments on behalf of his limited liability company, which was the owner of the property that had been placed into receivership; (2) Petitioner's ownership interest in the LLC did not give him standing to raise the claims of the company, pro se, in his individual capacity; and (3) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 is generally not an appropriate avenue to challenge an order appointing a receiver. View "Dickey v. Inspectional Services Department of Boston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Petitioner's petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Petitioner challenged summary process proceedings in the Worcester Division of the Housing Court Department, now part of the Central Division (Housing Court), holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying relief. Petitioner was a self-represented litigant engaged in a summary process eviction action after her home was purchased at a foreclosure sale. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the Housing Court judge erred in denying her request for a reasonable accommodation, violated a Federal Bankruptcy Court automatic stay order, and violated her right to due process. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Petitioner was not entitled to relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 because she did not meet her burden of demonstrating the absence or inadequacy of other remedies. View "Evans v. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying Petitioners relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Petitioners challenged summary process proceedings in the Worcester Division of the Housing Court Department, now part of the Central Division (Housing Court), holding that the single justice did not abuse his discretion or otherwise err in denying Petitioners' petition. Although most Petitioners in this case were also petitioners in Adjartey v. Central Division of Housing Court Department, 481 Mass. __ (2019), also decided today, Petitioners, who were involved in eviction actions stemming from the foreclosure of their homes, raised specific complaints in this case that were not addressed in the Adjartey case. Here, Petitioners claimed that the Housing Court violated their substantive and procedural due process rights, as well as other constitutional rights. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the single justice's denial of relief, holding that Petitioners failed to meet their burden to demonstrate the absence or inadequacy of other remedies, as is required for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Hilton v. Central Division of the Housing Court Department" on Justia Law