Property Law Developments

Airbnb use held to be consistent with covenant restricting property to residential use

Courts have divided on the question of whether short-term rentals violate restrictive covenants limiting land to residential purposes. The Texas Supreme Court just joined the majority that hold that use of property for Airbnb and similar short term rentals is residential use consistent with the covenant. Tarr v. Timberwood Park Owners Ass'n, 2018 Tex. LEXIS 442 (Tex 2018). But see ... Read more about Airbnb use held to be consistent with covenant restricting property to residential use

Condo owner may be liable for wrongful death of neighbor when he rented his unit to his brother knowing he was a dangerous sex offender

A court has held that a landlord may be liable for wrongful death of a neighboring condo owner if he rents his unit to his brother, knowing he is a sex offender who often stops using needed medication and is capable of violent outburst when he did not use his medication, fails to warn the neighbors of his presence, and the landlord's brother kills a neighboring owner.  Steele v. Kings Way Condominium Trust, 2018 Mass. Super. LEXIS 103 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2018).

No claim against neighbor for damage caused by overhanging healthy tree

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has reaffirmed the "Massachusetts rule" that owners cannot sue their neighbors for any damage caused by an overhanging healthy tree. Shiel v. Rowell, 101 N.E.3d 290 (Mass. 2018). The remedy is for the owner to trim the branches that encroach on his property before they cause damage. In upholding the established rule, the court rejected the "Hawaii rule" which imposes liability on the owner of the tree if it causes harm to neighboring property. See Whitesell v. Houlton,... Read more about No claim against neighbor for damage caused by overhanging healthy tree

Nonuse insufficient to show an easement was abandoned and it is not extinguished by prescription when a locked gate did not make it impossible for the easement owner to use the right of way

A locked gate did not extinguish the right to use an express easement when the fence was intended to keep out the public and did not prevent the easement owner from accessing the right of way. Twenty Bartlett, LLC v. Sgarano, 2018 Mass. Super. LEXIS 104 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2018). Only if an action renders use of an easement "practically impossible" can it start the statute of limitations running for a prescriptive easement that will extinguish the...

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Possibility of reverter or right of entry cut off after 30 years

Massachusetts law sets a thirty year limit to possibilities of reverter following a fee simple determinable or rights of entry following a free simple subject to condition subsequent. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 184A, §7. This contrasts with the 90 year limit for executory interests. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B, § 2-901. The 30 year limitation was recently applied in ... Read more about Possibility of reverter or right of entry cut off after 30 years

Section 8 (housing voucher) tenants cannot be evicted without cause even if their lease term has expired and the landlord has opted out of the housing assistance program

The Third Circuit has ruled that the federal statute, 42 U.S.C. §1437f(t)(1)(B), that gives Section 8 (housing voucher) tenants the right to "remain in their housing developments, even after their landlord has opted out of the federal housing assistance program," gives them the right to stay unless just cause can be shown to evict have the right to remain even if the lease term has expired. Hayes v. Harvey, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 24848 (3d... Read more about Section 8 (housing voucher) tenants cannot be evicted without cause even if their lease term has expired and the landlord has opted out of the housing assistance program

Seventh Circuit holds that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation

Extending a former precedent concerning employment discrimination, Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, 853 F.3d 339 (7th Cir. 2017), a three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit has held that discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. Wetzel v. Glen St. Andrew... Read more about Seventh Circuit holds that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation

Commercial landlord can mitigate damages by selling the property rather than reletting it

When the tenant breached the lease, the landlord had a duty to mitigate damages. That usually means making reasonable efforts to find a replacement tenant. However, the Nebraska Supreme Court has held that a commerical landlord fulfilled the duty to mitigate damages by seeking to sell the property rather than re-rent it. Hand Cut Steaks Acquisitions, Inc. v. Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon of Nebraska, Inc., 905 N.W.2d 644 (Neb. 2018). The landlord's rejection of offers to rent the property did not violate his duty to mitigate damages given his reasonable efforts to sell the property. That... Read more about Commercial landlord can mitigate damages by selling the property rather than reletting it

Lease cannot transfer landlord's right to receive rents to his daughter after his death because it is a testamentary transfer that does not comply with the formalities needed to create a will

The MIssissippi Supreme Court held that a lease provision cannot transfer the landlord's power to receive rents to his daughter after his death because that effectuates a testamentary transfer that must comply with the statute of wills to be valid, including all formalities such as two witnesses. Estate of Greer v. Ball, 218 So. 3d 1136 (Miss. 2017). Read more about Lease cannot transfer landlord's right to receive rents to his daughter after his death because it is a testamentary transfer that does not comply with the formalities needed to create a will

Tree may be removed by owner of property where it first grew even if it grew to encroach on neighboring land and the neighboring owner does not want it removed

The Colorado Supreme Court has held that an owner may remove a tree on her own land even if it has grown over the borderline onto neighboring land even if the neighboring owner objects to removal of the tree. Love v. Klosky,2018 CO 20, 413 P.3d 1267 (Colo. 2018). In contrast, a border tree that was planted on the border itself becomes the...

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