Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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Property owners filed suit after the Town of Redington Beach passed an ordinance that granted the public certain access to the dry sand beaches. After the lawsuit was filed, Plaintiff Fields was asked to resign from her position on the Board of Adjustment (which reviews requests for variances from the Town's zoning code), because she had filed this suit against the Town.The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's grant of summary judgment to the property owners on their claims that the ordinance violated Florida law and constituted an unlawful taking. The court concluded that the district court erred in declaring the ordinance void under Florida Statute 163.035; the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the property owners on the Town's customary use defense; and the district court erred in finding a facial and an as-applied taking. The court also vacated and remanded the district court's grant of summary judgment to Plaintiff Fields on the First Amendment retaliation claim. View "Buending v. Town of Redington Beach" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case are the terms of a recorded easement that runs with two beachfront lots in Walton County, Florida. After the County enacted an ordinance purporting to establish the public's right to use the dry-sand area of all beaches for recreational purposes, two beachfront property owners filed suit alleging that the ordinance triggered the easement's abandonment clause.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the County, holding that the ordinance triggered the abandonment clause and that no other source of law—Florida common law, separate provisions in the easement, a Walton County resolution, or a consent judgment—forestalls or limits the abandonment clause's operation. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "A Flock of Seagirls LLC v. Walton County Florida" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that sexual harassment—both hostile housing environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment—is actionable under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, provided the plaintiff demonstrates that she would not have been harassed but for her sex.In this case, plaintiff filed suit against the property manager and the property's owner, alleging sexual harassment claims under the Act and state law. The district court found no guidance from the court on this question and therefore dismissed the complaint based on the ground that plaintiff's claims were not actionable under the Act. The court vacated the district court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint and remanded for reconsideration. View "Fox v. Gaines" on Justia Law

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Spencer sued Sheriff Benison under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Benison violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by ordering him to remove cones and vehicles that were preventing Spencer’s neighbor from completing construction that Spencer claimed encroached on his property. The district court found that Benison acted outside the scope of his discretionary authority and was not entitled to qualified immunity on Spencer’s individual capacity claims and that Spencer had presented adequate evidence of a constitutional violation to sustain his section 1983 claims against Benison in both his individual and official capacities.The Eleventh Circuit reversed. Benison was acting within the scope of his discretionary authority when he ordered Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles. It was a legitimate job-related function for Benison, an Alabama sheriff, to seek the removal of cones and vehicles for the purposes of achieving public safety, given that traffic was backing up and customers were unable to access a business. Benison properly carried out his duties by verbally commanding Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles and by threatening arrest should he fail to comply. Spencer failed to present adequate evidence of a constitutional violation; he did not demonstrate that Benison’s actions caused him to be deprived of a constitutionally-protected property interest. View "Spencer v. Benison" on Justia Law

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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Pub. L. No. 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (2020) (CARES Act), among other things, imposed a 120-day moratorium on evictions for rental properties receiving federal assistance. The CDC then issued a temporary eviction moratorium on September 4, 2020, that suspended the execution of eviction orders for nonpayment of rent. Before the CDC's order was originally set to expire on December 31, 2020, Congress enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which extended the CDC's order through January 31, 2021. The CDC's order was then extended again through March 31, 2021, and again through June 30, 2021, and again through July 31, 2021.Plaintiffs, several landlords seeking to evict their tenants for nonpayment of rent and a trade association for owners and managers of rental housing, filed suit alleging that the CDC's orders exceeds its statutory and regulatory authority, is arbitrary and capricious, and violates their constitutional right to access the courts.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction based on plaintiffs' failure to show an irreparable injury. The court declined to find that the CDC's order is unconstitutional, and failed to see how the temporary inability to reclaim rental properties constitutes an irreparable harm. Furthermore, the court explained that, without any information about a tenant’s financial or employment picture, the court has no way to evaluate whether she will ever be able to repay her landlord; to decide otherwise based solely on the CDC declaration would be to conclude that no one who signed the declaration is likely to repay their debts after the moratorium expires. Given the lack of evidence and the availability of substantial collection tools, the court could not conclude that the landlords have met their burden of showing that an irreparable injury is likely. View "Brown v. Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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This appeal relates to TOT Holdings' execution of a deed that donated to Foothills Land Conservancy, a conservation easement encumbering nearly all its property. The IRS disallowed the deduction claimed by the taxpayer, and the Tax Court upheld that decision because the deed conveying the easement contained a formula for the distribution of proceeds that did not comply with the extinguishment proceeds requirement and the deed was not saved by purported interpretive provisions. The taxpayer appealed.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the Tax Court correctly determined that the taxpayer did not comply with the extinguishment proceeds requirement and that the deed was not saved by the disputed provisions because they constitute an unenforceable condition-subsequent savings clause. The court also held that the Tax Court did not commit reversible error in approving the penalties assessed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "TOT Property Holdings, LLC v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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In 1994, SGV bought 547 acres in Alabaster for $1.65 million. The master development plan, approved in 1995, zoned the land as R-2 (90-foot wide single-family residences), R-4 (60-foot wide garden homes), and R-7 (townhomes). Most of the development was completed by 2008, except the 142-acre Sector 16, zoned predominantly for R-4 and R-7 with a small part as R-2. In 2011, the city rezoned Sector 16 for R-2 lots only. SGV filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, 1985(3), and 1988, alleging that the rezoning “constitute[d] an unlawful taking” without just compensation and denials of procedural and substantive due process. The court rejected the due process claims. The city objected to evidence of the city’s motive and the “lot method” valuation and argued that the case was not ripe for adjudication, since SGV had not sought variances. The court found that a zoning ordinance was a final matter that could be adjudicated. A jury found that there was a regulatory taking without just compensation; that before the taking, the value of the property was $3,532,849.19; and after the taking, the value of the property was $500,000. The court added prejudgment interest and entered a final judgment of $3,505,030.65. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the just compensation claim was not ripe, that the district court improperly allowed evidence regarding the city’s motivation for enacting th ordinance, and concerning the admission and exclusion of certain other evidence. View "South Grand View Development Co., Inc. v. City of Alabaster" on Justia Law

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PBT, on behalf of itself and the owners of the other condominiums, sought an injunction in state court barring the Town from levying a special assessment against their properties. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Town's motion for summary judgment on the owners' substantive due process and equal protection claims. In regard to the substantive due process claim, the court concluded that PBT failed to provide evidence showing that the Town lacked a rational basis in enacting the Resolution as a whole. In regard to the equal protection claim, given the relevant differences between the Comparators and the PB Towers, the court concluded that all that PBT has shown is that the Town Council treated dissimilar properties differently. The court concluded that such treatment does not implicate the Equal Protection Clause. Furthermore, even if they were similar, PBT fails to identify any evidence that an objectively reasonable governmental decisionmaker would consider the similarity it proffers.The court also affirmed the Town's motion to dismiss the owners' state law claims. The court explained that the district court was correct to dismiss the state law takings claims asserted in Count III, but erred in dismissing the state law claim alleging an unconstitutional tax. However, the unconstitutional tax claim was properly before the district court only based on supplemental jurisdiction. Because the federal claims were properly dismissed, the district court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over this state law claim on remand. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion to reconsider. View "PBT Real Estate, LLC v. Town of Palm Beach" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit certified the following questions of law to the Alabama Supreme Court under Alabama Rule of Appellate Procedure 18: (1) Can property owned by a solid waste disposal authority "belong[] to" a county or municipality for purposes of section 6-10-10? (2) If so, what factors should courts consider when making such a determination? (3) If section 6-10-10 can apply to property owned by a solid waste disposal authority, is such property "used for county or municipal purposes" when the authority has not used the property but is holding it for a future use? (4) Does Alabama continue to recognize a common law exemption from execution for property used for public purposes as described in Gardner v. Mobile & N.W.R. Co., 15 So. 271 (Ala. 1894)? (5) If so, does that exemption apply to public corporations like the Authority, and what standards should courts employ in applying this common law exemption? View "WM Mobile Bay Environmental Center, Inc. v. The City of Mobile Solid Waste Authority" on Justia Law

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Sabal Trail brought a condemnation action to acquire permanent and temporary easements that would allow it to build and operate a portion of the pipeline on property owned by Sunderman Groves. The jury awarded Sunderman Groves $309,500 as compensation for the easements, and the district court entered a final judgment providing that as part of the compensation award, Sunderman Groves was entitled to recover its attorney's fees and costs in an amount to be set by the court.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Sunderman Groves to testify about the value of the property and the court lacked jurisdiction to review whether Sunderman Groves was entitled to attorney's fees and costs. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and dismissed in part. View "Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC v. 3.921 Acres of Land in Lake County Florida" on Justia Law