Property Law Developments

Rights of first refusal do not violate the rule against perpetuities if they must be exercised during the holder's lifetime

New York retains a version of the traditional rule against perpetuities. Like most states, it has classified options to purchase and rights of first refusal as "executory interests" subject to the rule against perpetuities. They therefore must vest (if at all) within 21 years of their creation, or within 21 years of the death of a named person in the conveyance or during the lifetime of a named person. The latter was the case in...

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Damages awarded tenant when landlord threatens to engage in illegal self-help eviction

The Maryland Supreme Court held that residential tenants can sue for damages if the landlord posts a notice telling them that they are being evicted. This constitutes a form of "nonjudicial self-help eviction" prohibited by state law, which requires landlords to use court eviction procedures to recover possession of the premises. State law would have allowed self...

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Two customers of hotel awarded $475,000 each for denial of equal services under West Virginia state public accommodation law

Erik Taylor and James Turner sought long term rentals at a hotel to work on a local pipeline project in West Virginia. When Taylor called the hotel to inquire about long term apartment rooms, he was told they were available, only to be told the opposite by manager Cindy Kay Adams when he arrived. She falsely told him that there was a waiting list for those rooms...

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Not a regulatory taking and no compensation due when a town acquires an easement by prescription

The Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts held that a town can acquire an easement by prescription and that, if it does, no just compensation is due because no regulatory taking has occurred. Rather, the landower failed to object by suing for trespass or to give permission so the statute of limitations for ejecting the intrusion passed and the owner's right to exclude was limited by statute and the doctrine of easement by prescription. The town did not "take" the property; the owner lost property rights by failing to take steps required by law to preserve those rights.... Read more about Not a regulatory taking and no compensation due when a town acquires an easement by prescription

Commercial lease disclaimer of liability for negligence held to be enforceable

A California appeals court has found a disclaimer of liability for negligence in a commercial lease to be enforceable and not to violate public policy even though a state statute made them invalid as to cases involving fraud, willful injuries, gross negligence, or violations of law. Garcia v. D/AQ Corp., 271 Cal. Rptr. 3d 861 (Ct. App. 2020). This case did not fit in...

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Physical partition denied when the sale value significantly exceeds the value of the separate parcels despite a co-owners attachments to the land

The Nebraska Supreme Court held that partition by sale is preferred to physical partition if the fair market value of the land as a whole exceeds the market value of separate parcels even if a co-owner objects to the sale because of sentimental attachments to the land. FTR Farms, Inc. v. Rist Farms, Inc., 942 N.W.2d 204 (Neb. 2020). A somewhat similar case came out the...

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Tenant not entitled to damages under the implied warranty of habitability for injuries from slipping on an icy driveway

The Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts held, in Goreham v. Martins, 147 N.E.3d 478 (Mass. 2020), that a landlord is not liable for injuries to a tenant who slips on ice in the driveway under the implied warranty of habitability because such claims are, in effect, strict liability claims and injuries to the body in the context of landlord-...

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