Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that a prior final circuit court order had a preclusive effect on Appellant's claims regarding her ownership rights in parcels of property, holding that the circuit court did not err. Linda and David were the children of George and Dorothy, who owned properties as tenants in common. After George died, Dorothy executed deeds of gift purporting to convey the properties to Linda. The circuit court voided the purported conveyance. Dorothy then executed deeds of sale regarding the properties, purporting to vest complete fee simple ownership of the properties in Linda. A commissioner concluded that a determination that the deeds of sale from Dorothy conveyed 100 percent fee simple ownership of the properties to Linda was barred by collateral estoppel. After Dorothy died, David filed a complaint asserting that he had an interest in the properties. The circuit court concluded that Linda held a seventy-five percent interest and David a twenty-five percent interest in fee simple absolute in the properties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that claim preclusion barred Linda from relitigating her claim of a 100 percent ownership interest in the properties and in determining the ownership of the properties. View "Alexander v. Cobb" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court upholding Taxpayer's real estate assessments for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015 for a property located in the City of Portsmouth and the attorney's fees charged to Taxpayer to collect the assessments, holding that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion. Specifically, the Court held (1) Va. Code 58.1-3984(B) establishes the method for challenging real property assessments; (2) Taxpayer failed to establish that the assessment for the property deriving from a mass appraisal did not conform to generally accepted appraisal practices, procedures, rules and standards or applicable state law relating to valuation of property; and (3) the trial court acted within its discretion in concluding that the attorney's fees were reasonable. View "Portsmouth 2175 Elmhurst, LLC v. City of Portsmouth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that an attorney-in-fact had the authority to gift a principal's real and personal property to herself and her surviving children, holding that the transfers were invalid. Samuel Dickey signed a durable power of attorney document giving his mother, Agnes Davis, certain powers. As Dickey lay dying, Agnes used the power of attorney Dickey had given her to transfer the vast majority of Dickey's personal property to herself. She also executed three deeds of gift transferring Dickey's real property to her surviving children. This suit followed. The circuit court held that the transfers of Dickey's property were validly authorized by the power of attorney document. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in holding that Agnes was authorized to gift Dickey's real and personal property to herself and her two surviving children. View "Davis v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court adopting the partial subordination rule to construe the subordination agreement in this case, determining that the agreement was not ambiguous and dismissing Futuri Real Estate Inc.'s cross-claim with prejudice, holding that Futuri's assignments of error were without merit. Landowners owned real property encumbered by three separate lines of credit. A subordination agreement was recorded providing that Walls Fargo Bank agreed to subordinate the lien of the original security instrument to the lien of the subsequent security instrument. The property later went into foreclosure, and the trustee sold the property to Futuri. A dispute then arose between Futuri and Wells Fargo concerning the disbursal of the surplus fund. Futuri filed a cross-claim against Wells Fargo seeking a declaratory judgment that the subordination agreement ousted the Wells Fargo lien from its first priority position. The circuit court concluded that the agreement was a partial subordination agreement and dismissed Futuri's claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) not adopting the complete subordination rule of construction, and (2) finding that the agreement was not ambiguous. View "Futuri Real Estate, Inc. v. Atlantic Trustee Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this tax assessment dispute the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the trial court's judgments in two cases consolidated for trial, holding that a real estate appraiser need not be licensed in Virginia to offer expert testimony in a tax assessment dispute and that the taxpayer failed to meet its burden of proving that the assessment overvalued the subject property. Virginia International Gateway, Inc.'s (VIG) believed the assessments for its real and personal property were above fair market value and filed separate applications to correct the 2015-16 real estate and personal property assessments. At trial, VIG offered expert testimony to support its position that the actual fair market value of the real property was lower than the City of Portsmouth's assessment. The trial court did not recognize the appraiser as an expert because he lacked Virginia licensure at the time of trial. The trial court ultimately dismissed both of VIG's applications. The Supreme Court reversed the real estate case but affirmed the personal property case, holding (1) the trial court's exclusion of the appraiser's testimony was an abuse of discretion; but (2) the trial court did not err in ruling that VIG failed to overcome the presumption of the personal property assessment's correctness. View "Virginia International Gateway v. City of Portsmouth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiffs' claims against home builder gravestone Homes, Inc. seeking tort and contract remedies after mold developed in a new home, holding that the circuit court erred in dismissing negligent-repair claims and contract claims. George and Crystal Tingler entered into a construction contract with Graystone to construct a new home on property owned by a family-run company, Belle Meade Farm, LLC. After the house was built, rain water leaked into the house, and mold developed. Graystone tried unsuccessfully to remediate the mold. The Tinglers and their children subsequently abandoned the home and sued Graystone seeking contract remedies for roperty damage, personal injuries, and economic losses. The Tinglers and Belle Meade separately sued Graystone seeking contract remedies for economic losses and property damage. The circuit court dismissed all claims in each of the complaints. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court erred (1) in dismissing the negligent-repair counts in the Tingler family's personal injury complaints and the Tinglers' and Belle Meade's complaint; and (2) in dismissing the contract claims and contractual claims in the Tinglers' and Belle Meade's complaint. View "Tingler v. Graystone Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this action brought by Radiance Capital Receivables Fourteen, LLC seeking to collect the principal due on a promissory note the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court sustaining Defendants' plea in bar based on the statute of limitations and dismissing Radiance Capital's complaint with prejudice, holding that Defendants were not estopped from pleading the statute of limitations. Foster and Wilson Building, LLC (the Company) executed a promissory note, and Robert Foster and James Wilson executed a continuing guaranty agreement guaranteeing to pay the Company's debt. In the guaranty, Foster and Wilson agreed to waive the benefit of any statute of limitations or other defenses affecting the guarantor's liability under the agreement. After the Company defaulted on the promissory note, Radiance Capital, the holder of the promissory note and guaranty, brought suit against Foster and Wilson seeking to collect the principal due on the note, interest, and attorney's fees. Foster and Wilson, in turn, argued that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The circuit court concluded that the contractual waiver of the statute of limitations defense was not valid and dismissed Radiance Capital's complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the waiver was neither valid nor enforceable under Virginia law. View "Radiance Capital Receivables Fourteen, LLC v. Foster" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court and set aside the award of the condemnation commissioners to the Helmick Family Farm, LLC for a taking of slightly more than two acres of land along with some easements, holding that the reasonable probability of rezoning of property taken through condemnation may be relevant to the property's fair market value and that Helmick presented sufficient concrete facts to warrant submission of the question of reasonable probability of rezoning to a jury. On appeal, Helmick argued that exclusion of certain evidence prevented the commissioners from considering probative evidence concerning the fair market value of the land at issue. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) ample authority supports the admissibility of evidence that the property taken has a reasonable probability of rezoning; (2) nothing in prior cases forecloses the admissibility of such evidence; (3) there are certain parameters concerning such evidence; and (4) Helmick presented sufficient concrete facts to warrant submission of the question of reasonable probability of rezoning to a jury. View "Helmick Family Farm v. Commissioner of Highways" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court awarding a monetary judgment, injunctive relief, and attorney fees and costs to a homeowners association (the HOA) in its suit against Homeowners for violations of the HOA's guidelines governing the use of holiday decorations, holding that the trial court erred in finding that the HOA's seasonal guidelines were enforceable under the HOA's declaration of restrictive covenants. On appeal, Homeowners argued that the seasonal guidelines - the basis of the fines imposed against Homeowners - exceeded the HOA's authority under the HOA's amended declaration and were thus unenforceable. The Supreme Court agreed with the Homeowners and reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of the HOA and its ancillary award of attorney fees and costs, holding that the seasonal guidelines exceeded the scope of the restrictive covenants and were not reasonably related to any of them. View "Sainani v. Belmont Glen Homeowners Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In this complaint alleging breach of a deed of trust the Supreme Court reversed and vacated the judgments of the circuit court granting Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC's plea in bar of res judicata and dismissing Gloria Lane's amended complaint as to all defendants, holding that Lane's amended complaint was not barred by either claim preclusion or issue preclusion. On appeal, Lane argued that the circuit court erred in sustaining Bayview's plea in bar because Bayview failed to prove the prerequisites for the application of res judicata. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) an attorney does not share the same legal interest as his or her client merely by virtue of his or her representation of that client; (2) a prior judgment and rulings obtained in an earlier injunction action had no preclusive effect upon any claims or issues asserted in Lane's amended complaint; and (3) therefore, the decisions of the circuit court granting Bayview's plea in bar of res judicata were in error. View "Lane v. Bayview Loan Servicing" on Justia Law