Property Law Developments

City takes property when it constructs a public park and invites the public to cross private property to access the park

A city created a public park next to private property and then used physical signs, maps on Web sites, and other methods to suggest to the public that they were free to cross that private property to get to the beach. Those acts were sufficient to constitute a taking of property without just compensation. The city effectively took a public easement from the private owner....

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Nuisance victim awarded cost of restoration damages without any need to prove diminution in value of the property

When an oil tanker overturned in a traffic circle, spilled 9,000 gallons of oil and kerosene into a culvert, property owners who were affected were allowed to sue for the cost of restoring their properties because of the physical harm to them without any need to show that the contamination diminished the market value of their land....

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City has no sovereign immunity from suit by its tenants when it leases land in a "proprietary capacity"

Although cities enjoy sovereign immunity from suit when they act in a sovereign capacity, they can be sued by tenants of land they have leased when they act in a “proprietary” capacity. Wasson Interests, Ltd. V. City of Jacksonville, 2018 Tex. LEXIS 999 (Tex. 2018). Cities act in a governmental capacity (and are immune from suit) when...

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No easement relocation without easement owner's consent when it would diminish the easement's utility

Applying the rule in M.P.M. Builders, LLLC v. Dwyer, 809 N.E.2d 1053 (Mass. 2004) and the Restatement (Third) of Property (Servitudes) §4.8(3) (2000), a court has held that a servient estate owner may not relocatee an easement without the consent of the easement owner when it would diminish the utility of the easement.Randon v. Kiley-Ladd, 2018 Mass. LCR LEXIS 152, 2018 WL 3567179 (Mass. Land Ct. 2018). The court... Read more about No easement relocation without easement owner's consent when it would diminish the easement's utility

Town can alter zoning law retroactively to prohibit Airbnb use

The Massachusetts Land Court has ruled that a town may amend its zoning ordinance to prohibit Airbnb use and that retroactive application of the new law to those who established Airbnb use before it was passed is lawful. The owner had no right to have the prior Airbnb use "grandfathered in" as a prior nonconforming use under state statutes. Styller v. Aylward, 2018 Mass. LCR LEXIS 194 (Mass. Land Ct. 2018). Read more about Town can alter zoning law retroactively to prohibit Airbnb use

Claim of discrimination in public accommodation against Arab-American customers upheld based on race, ethnicity & national origin

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has found a violation of the state's public accommodatoin law on the basis of race, national origin, and ethnicity when a manager of a Subway store stated to an Arab-American family: "“I’m the manager of Subway.  You are banned from our store.  We don’t need people like you.  Why don’t you go back to your  f**king country and learn how to speak English.  We don’t serve foreigners like you.  God Bless.”... Read more about Claim of discrimination in public accommodation against Arab-American customers upheld based on race, ethnicity & national origin

Tenancy by the entirety interests can be sold to satisfy debts of one spouse

A bankruptcy court in Massachusetts has ruled that state tenancy by the entirety law is preempted by  the Bankruptcy Code, §363(h)–(j), interpreting federal law to authorize the forced sale of tenancy by the entirety property over the objections of the non-debtor spouse to satisfy the debts of the debtor spouse. Desmond v. Green, 2018 Bankr. LEXIS 3136 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2018).

Adverse possessor must identify and provide evidence of the boundaries of the land that is being adversely possessed

An owner cannot claim part of the neighbor’s land by adverse possession without clear evidence of where the border is. In Coscina v. DiPetrillo, 186 A.3d 590 (R.I. 2018), the adverse possessor claimed occupation of parts of her neighbor’s land but court documents repeatedly changed the location of the claimed line between the properties. Not only must the adverse possessor establish where the line is that encompasses the property acquired by adverse possession but must show sufficient evidence to... Read more about Adverse possessor must identify and provide evidence of the boundaries of the land that is being adversely possessed

Tenant can be evicted for allowing adult son to live with her

 

A court has held that a tenant can be evicted for allowing her adult son to live with her when his name was not on the lease along with hers, making him an unlawful occupant. Atlantic Tambone Mgmt. v. Mejia, 2017 WL 4181374 (Mass. Dist. Ct. App. Div. 2017). The reason for the eviction also rested on the fact that the son had stolen a... Read more about Tenant can be evicted for allowing adult son to live with her

Town acquires prescriptive easement allowing public to use a road and abutting parcel

When a road and abutting triangle of land was used the public and maintained by the town, the town acquired a prescriptive easement for continued use of the road by the public. Athanasiou v. Board of Selectmen of Westhampton,82 N.E. 3d 436 (Mass. App. Ct. 2017). The town's highway superintendent maintained the area, plowed, sanded...

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