Property Law Developments

State court affirmation of public rights below the high tide line do not take property without compensation in violation of the 14th amendment

After the Indiana Supreme Court held that private property rights end at the high tide land, giving the public the right to use the wet sand area between the low and high tide lines, see Gunderson v. State, 90 N.E.3d 1171 (Ind. 2018), an owner sued state officials to have that judicial ruling declared to be a taking of property rights without just compensation. But the Seventh Circuit held that the state courts were competent to determine whether...

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Does an “as is” clause in a contract of sale immunize the land seller from a fraud claim?

Continuing the conflicts among state courts on this question, a Florida court chose a “yes” answer to the question of whether a seller can get away with fraud if the land sales contract contains an “as is” clause or a “merger clause” making the express terms of the written agreement the only legitimate source of obligations between the parties. ...

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Parcel is landlocked after 90 year easement ends

Most courts granted an easement by necessity when an owner severs its land and leaves a parcel without access to a public road. The easement allows passage over land that had been connected to the landlocked parcel before it became landlocked. The courts differ on whether this is a mandatory rule of law (owners are not allowed to create land to which there is no access) or a default rule based on the implied intent of the parties, in which case the...

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Tenants have mostly lost “frustration of purpose” claims when they could not pay rent during Covid-19 lockdowns

In accord with most courts, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that a restaurant lease was not void for “frustration of purpose” when the restaurant tenant could not make rent payments because of a gubernatorial order for restaurants to shut down during the early stages of the Covid-19 disaster. AGW Sono Partners, LLC v. Downtown Soho, LLC, 273 A....

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Neighbor cannot compel city to enforce zoning ordinance

The Florida Supreme Court has held that cities cannot be compelled to enforce zoning laws. In City of West Palm Beach v. Haver, 2021 Fla. LEXIS 1572 (Fla. 2021), a neighbor sought a court order to force the city to enforce a zoning prohibition on a group home. The court ruled that it would exceed the legitimate role of the courts to order city officials to comply with local zoning laws when the decision in question is one that has traditionally been discretionary on the part of public officials... Read more about Neighbor cannot compel city to enforce zoning ordinance

Foreclosure sale cannot be set aside even though the foreclosure price was only nine percent (9%) of fair market value

In a demonstration of the broken nature of our foreclosure system, the Alaska Supreme Court held in Thomas v. Joseph P. Casteel Trust, 496 P.3d 403 (Alaska 2021), that a foreclosure was lawful even though the buyer at foreclosure paid a mere nine percent (9%) of the fair market value of the property. Only if there were procedural irregularities could the foreclosure be set aside. This type of case makes the owner’s equity vanish into thin air and is inconsistent with the historical policies... Read more about Foreclosure sale cannot be set aside even though the foreclosure price was only nine percent (9%) of fair market value

Washington Supreme Court holds racial covenants in public records must be retained but can be marked void

Construing a state statute, Wash. Stat. §49.60.227, the Washington Supreme Court held that racial covenants cannot be completely excised from public records. The court determined that the statute allowed a court order to be filed with the recorded title voiding the covenant but did not authorize excising the covenant from the public records entirely. This result occurred despite the fact that the statute provided that courts should “strik[e] the void provisions from the public records.” Wash. Stat. §49.60.227(1)(b). The statute did provide that the original record “shall be separately... Read more about Washington Supreme Court holds racial covenants in public records must be retained but can be marked void