Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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Municipal ordinances banning coal combustion residuals from landfills were preempted by Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board’s approval of the disposal. AES Puerto Rico, a coal-fired power plant owner, claimed that two municipal (Humacao and Peñuelas) ordinances banning the approved handling of "coal combustion residuals" (CCRs) were preempted by federal and Commonwealth law and violated various provisions of the federal and Puerto Rico constitutions. The Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) had authorized disposal of coal ash at the El Coquí and Peñuelas Valley landfills within those municipalities. The district court granted summary judgment for the municipalities on AES's federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction over the Commonwealth claims. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the local ordinances may not be enforced to the extent they directly conflict with Commonwealth law as promulgated by the EQB. View "AES Puerto Rico, L.P. v. Trujillo-Panisse" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs took out a loan to buy a property in Massachusetts. Plaintiffs executed a mortgage naming the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) as the mortgagee and executed a promissory note to Chevy Chase Bank, FSB. Plaintiffs later fell behind on their mortgage. U.S. Bank, which was assigned the mortgage and came into physical possession of the note, conducted a foreclosure sale of the property and purchased the property. Plaintiffs filed suit against U.S. Bank, MERS and other defendants, alleging, inter alia, a claim for a declaratory judgment that the foreclosure was invalid. The district court disposed of the complaint by (1) granting Defendants’ partial motion to dismiss several counts for failure to state a claim; (2) granting summary judgment to U.S. Bank on its counterclaim for possession; and (3) granting summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiffs’ remaining claims and to U.S. Bank on its counterclaim for deficiency. The First Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the entry of judgment in favor of U.S. Bank on its deficiency claim was in error because U.S. Bank did not comply with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 244, 17B; and (2) the judgment of the district court was otherwise without prejudicial error. View "Galvin v. U.S. Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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In 2005, the Rhode Island Supreme Court found that title to the Regatta Club in Newport and the parcel of land on which it was constructed belonged to a group of condominium associations. Thereafter, the operator of the Regatta Club (Operator) voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Two of the title-holding associations (together, Associations) filed proofs of claim seeking relief for the Operator’s alleged trespass on their property between 1998 and 2005. The First Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s finding that the Associations had impliedly consented to the Operator’s use and occupancy of the Regatta Club and remanded on the issue of whether there was an implied obligation that the Operator pay the Associations for its use and occupancy of the Club. On remand, the bankruptcy court found (1) there was no such implied-in-fact contract between the parties, and (2) the Associations were not entitled to relief under a theory of unjust enrichment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) no implied-in-fact contract existed between the parties; and (2) the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that inequity would not result if the Operator did not pay the Associations for the use and occupancy of the Regatta Club during the claim period. View "Goat Island South Condominium Ass’n v. IDC Clambakes, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Appellants went bankrupt, Appellees foreclosed on their home. Appellants each received an IRS Form 1099-A in the mail at the end of the tax year stating that the foreclosure might have tax consequences. The mortgage debt, however, was discharged during Appellants’ Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. Appellants sued Appellees, claiming that the Forms were a coercive attempt to collect on the mortgage debt, which Appellees had no right to collect. The bankruptcy court found the Forms gave Appellants “no objective basis” to believe Appellees were trying to collect the discharged mortgage debt. The district court affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the evidence in the record showed that the Forms were not objectively coercive. View "Bates v. CitiMortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

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The underlying dispute in this case concerned a mortgage purported granted by Andrew and Maureen DeMore to the predecessor in interest to HSBC Bank, USA, N.A. on a parcel of property owned by the DeMores. This appeal came by way of bankruptcy court after each of the DeMores filed separate voluntary petitions for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. Donald Lassman, as trustee for the DeMores’ bankruptcy cases, filed adversary actions against HSBC to avoid the mortgage, arguing that the mortgage on the DeMores’ property was voidable under Massachusetts state law because the certificate of acknowledgment was “materially defective.” Specifically, Lassman asserted that the certificate failed to make clear that the DeMores executed the mortgage as their free act and deed. The Bankruptcy Court granted summary judgment to Lassman. The district court reversed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the certificate of acknowledgment was not materially defective because it made clear that the DeMores had executed the mortgage as their free act and deed. View "HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. Lassman" on Justia Law

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Edythe Dyer executed a promissory note to Dreamhouse Mortgage Corporation and granted a mortgage on her property in Boston, Massachusetts to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS). MERS assigned the mortgage to U.S. Bank. Wells Fargo was U.S. Bank’s servicer of the loan. U.S. Bank later notified Dyer that it intended to foreclose on the property by utilizing the statutory power of sale provided for in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183, 21. Dyer filed suit naming U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo as defendants, arguing, inter alia, that U.S. Bank was not a proper party to utilize the statutory power of sale. The case was removed to federal court, where the parties consented to a proceeding before a magistrate judge. The magistrate judge granted Defendants’ motion for judgment of the pleadings and dismissed all of Dyer’s claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) U.S. Bank was authorized to exercise the statutory power of sale; and (2) the magistrate judge correctly dismissed Dyer’s Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A claim against Wells Fargo. View "Dyer v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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At issue in this dispute was a piece of real estate, called Long Wharf, that juts into Boston Harbor. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) wished to develop the Long Wharf pavilion, which stands at the northern side of the Wharf, for commercial purposes, but the National Park Service (NPS) refused to grant the BRA permission to do so on the ground that the land remain open for recreational use. The BRA sued NPS and the Secretary of the Interior under the Land and Water Conservation Funds Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the decision of the NPS was supported by substantial evidence and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "Boston Redevelopment Auth. v. Nat'l Park Serv." on Justia Law

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When Plaintiff observed that a company named 110, Inc. was operating a substance abuse treatment facility next door to his residence, he argued that the Town of Wenham’s unilateral, non-public approval of 110, Inc.’s use was unlawful. Plaintiff filed a complaint in state court, alleging four causes of action. The Town removed the case to federal court. The district court subsequently granted the Town’s motion to dismiss some of Plaintiff’s claims. The court concluded that the complaint failed to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for the deprivation of property without due process and that Plaintiff’s declaratory judgment claim had been rendered moot. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s federal claim, holding that Plaintiff was not deprived of any constitutionally protected property interest without due process of law; (2) vacated the district court’s determination that one state law claim was moot; and (3) otherwise affirmed the remand of the remaining state law claim to state court. View "Miller v. Town of Wenham, Mass." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a citizen enforcement action under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act against Defendants, the owner of a neighboring parcel of land and the business operating on it, alleging that contaminated stormwater runoff from the property was being discharged into United States waters, contaminating Plaintiffs’ property, and that Defendants lacked a valid Rhode Island Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. After a trial, the district court concluded that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of proof. Thereafter, the trial court granted Defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in excluding from evidence a portion of certain expert witness testimony as a result of Plaintiffs’ tardiness in filing the witness’s revised expert report; (2) the district court did not err in granting judgment for Defendants; and (3) the district court’s award of attorney’s fees was not a clear error of judgment. View "Paolino v. JF Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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After seeking a mortgage modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program Plaintiff filed a complaint against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Homeward Residential Inc., claiming breach of contract, unfair debt collection under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, and derivative equitable relief. A federal district court dismissed Plaintiff’s action in its entirety. The First Circuit vacated and remanded, holding that Plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently alleged that Defendants failed to offer her a mortgage modification in a timely manner and that Plaintiff had sufficiently pled damages for her Chapter 93A claim. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s breach of contract and Chapter 93A claims failed, and therefore, her derivative claim for equitable relief failed as well. View "Young v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law