Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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Appellants Keith Aaron and Weston Street Trust appealed a trial court’s summary judgment upholding a Notice of Violation (NOV) concerning the Trust’s property on grounds it was occupied by more than four unrelated adults in violation of applicable zoning restrictions. The property at issue was an individual unit (unit #1) within a three-unit building (the property) located in the City of Burlington’s Residential Low Density Zoning District (RL District). In the context of cross motions for summary judgment, the Trust did not deny that more than four unrelated adults lived in unit #1, and did not contest that the applicable zoning ordinance prohibited such a use in the RL District. The Trust argued that the violation was unenforceable because it first occurred more than fifteen years ago or, in the alternative, that this enforcement action was barred by claim preclusion. The Environmental Division granted summary judgment to the City, upholding the NOV. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the City was not precluded from enforcing the zoning violation on account of 24 V.S.A. 4454 because a valid municipal ordinance established that if an unlawful use is discontinued for more than sixty days, resumption of the unlawful use constituted a new violation, and the Supreme Court rejected the Trust’s alternate argument that its use was a lawful preexisting nonconforming use based on the preclusive effect of permitting proceedings in 1972 and 1994. View "In re 15-17 Weston Street NOV" on Justia Law

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Defendant Town of Windham (Town) appealed a superior court order denying its motion to dismiss the tax abatement appeal of plaintiff Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. (Shaw’s), for lack of standing. The Town also appealed the superior court's order granting Shaw’s requested tax abatement. The owner of the property at issue leased 1.5 acres of a 34.21-acre parcel in Windham established as Current Use. The lease, in relevant part, required Shaw’s to pay the Owner its pro rata share of the real estate taxes assessed on the entire parcel, and the Owner was required to pay the taxes to the Town. If the Owner received a tax abatement, Shaw’s was entitled to its pro rata share of the abatement. In 2017, Shaw’s was directed by the Owner to pay the property taxes directly to the Town, and it did. Shaw’s unsuccessfully applied to the Town’s selectboard for a tax abatement and subsequently appealed to the superior court. The Town moved to dismiss, arguing that Shaw’s lacked standing to request a tax abatement on property it did not own. Finding the superior court did not err in finding Shaw's had standing to seek the abatement, or err in granting the abatement, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's orders. View "Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) condemned an access point from Bangerter Highway to the West Point Shopping Center. At the time of the condemnation, the shopping center was owned by FPA West Point, LLC. FPA leased buildings in the shopping center to a number of businesses, including K MART Corporation (Kmart). Both FPA and Kmart entered the condemnation proceedings, asserting rights to just compensation. The first appeal (Utah Department of Transportation v. FPA West Point, LLC) addressed valuation methods in the context of a condemnation award determination. In that case, the Utah Supreme Court held that courts must use the aggregate-of-interests approach (which determines the value of properties with divided ownership interests by assessing the value of each property interest separately) in deciding the amount of a condemnation award. In this appeal the issue presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether the district court erred by granting a condemnation award to Kmart, a lessee, even though Kmart’s lease contained a clause terminating its leasehold interest in the event of a condemnation. The Court held that it did: because the termination clause extinguished all of Kmart’s compensable property interests, Kmart was not entitled to compensation. Accordingly, the district court’s grant of a condemnation award to Kmart was reversed. View "UDOT v. Kmart Corp." on Justia Law

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Before San Francisco Ordinance 286-13 was adopted in 2013, the Planning Code generally prohibited the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of “nonconforming units,” which are legal residential housing units that exceed the currently-permitted density for the zoning district in which they are located. The 2013 amendment permits the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of nonconforming residential units in zoning districts where residential use is principally permitted, if the changes do not extend beyond the “building envelope” as it existed on January 1, 2013. A waiting period of five to 10 years applies for changes to units where a tenant has been evicted employing Administrative Code grounds for evicting a non-faulting tenant, including section 37.9(a)(13), which allows an owner to evict tenants to remove residential units from the rental market in accordance with the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act prohibits local governments from “compel[ling] the owner of any residential real property to offer, or to continue to offer accommodations in the property for rent or lease.” Gov. Code 7060(a). The trial court upheld the amendment. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the ordinance is preempted by the Ellis Act because it requires an owner who exercises Ellis Act rights to wait years before being eligible for a permit to make alterations. View "Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Thorncreek, a Park Forest townhouse complex, applied to the Village for a permit to use a vacant townhouse as a business office but began to conduct its business from the townhouse without a permit. The Village cited it for zoning violations and operating without the required permit. The Village later filed suit to halt the zoning and operating violations and to redress certain building-code violations. Thorncreek counterclaimed against the Village and 10 officials, claiming civil-rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986 and the Illinois Civil Rights Act. Two Thorncreek "areas" went into foreclosure. Thorncreek blamed the Village’s regulatory overreach in denying a business license, interfering with business operations, refusing to grant a conditional use permit, failing to issue a certificate of occupancy, and unequally enforcing a building-code provision requiring electrical upgrades, based on irrational animus against Clapper, the owner, and racial bias against its black residents. A jury found the Village and Village Manager Mick liable for a class-of-one equal-protection violation; found Mick and Kerestes, the director of community development, liable for conspiracy (section 1985(3)); otherwise rejected the claims, and awarded $2,014,000 in compensatory damages. Because the jury rejected the race-based equal-protection claim, the judge struck the verdict against Kerestes. The judge awarded $430,999.25 in fees and $44,844.33 in costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the judgment against Mick, the admission of evidence concerning Clapper’s wealth, and the admission of Thorncreek’s financial records. View "Thorncreek Apartments I, LLC v. Village of Park Forest" on Justia Law

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Thorncreek, a Park Forest townhouse complex, applied to the Village for a permit to use a vacant townhouse as a business office but began to conduct its business from the townhouse without a permit. The Village cited it for zoning violations and operating without the required permit. The Village later filed suit to halt the zoning and operating violations and to redress certain building-code violations. Thorncreek counterclaimed against the Village and 10 officials, claiming civil-rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986 and the Illinois Civil Rights Act. Two Thorncreek "areas" went into foreclosure. Thorncreek blamed the Village’s regulatory overreach in denying a business license, interfering with business operations, refusing to grant a conditional use permit, failing to issue a certificate of occupancy, and unequally enforcing a building-code provision requiring electrical upgrades, based on irrational animus against Clapper, the owner, and racial bias against its black residents. A jury found the Village and Village Manager Mick liable for a class-of-one equal-protection violation; found Mick and Kerestes, the director of community development, liable for conspiracy (section 1985(3)); otherwise rejected the claims, and awarded $2,014,000 in compensatory damages. Because the jury rejected the race-based equal-protection claim, the judge struck the verdict against Kerestes. The judge awarded $430,999.25 in fees and $44,844.33 in costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the judgment against Mick, the admission of evidence concerning Clapper’s wealth, and the admission of Thorncreek’s financial records. View "Thorncreek Apartments I, LLC v. Village of Park Forest" on Justia Law

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Notestine, a nonprofit corporation with 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) status as a charitable institution, owns the 11-unit residential rental property developed as low-income housing under 12 U.S.C. 1701q. Construction costs were $1.5 million. The federal capital advance was $1.3 million. The “project rental assistance” contract requires tenants to be at least 62 years old and have income under 50 percent of the area median. Rent is tied to tenant income at $407 per month, including utilities, with any overage payable to HUD. Tenants pay up to 30 percent of their adjusted gross income on rent, with HUD subsidizing any difference. Capital Advance Program Use and Regulatory Agreements were recorded on title, in effect at least 40 years from 2013, unless released by HUD. An auditor valued the property at $811,120 for 2013, a Logan County reappraisal year. Notestine sought a reduction, arguing that the building's value was $165,000, based on actual rent and expenses. The Board of Tax Appeals adopted the opinion of Notestine’s appraiser, who valued the property at $75,000. The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed. Although market rents and expenses constitute a “rule” when valuing low-income government housing generally, that rule is presumptive, not conclusive. In this case, the rents are minimal, and federal subsidization is strictly controlled by HUD-imposed restrictions on the accumulation of surpluses. There is no evidence that any adjustment from contract rent to market rent would eliminate the “affirmative value” of government subsidies. View "Notestine Manor, Inc. v. Logan County Board of Revision" on Justia Law

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The Stuttering Foundation, Inc. (“Foundation”) leased office space in a commercial development in Glynn County owned by Lucas Properties Holdings III, LLC (“Lucas”). In 2015, Lucas filed an application for rezoning of the property to construct an addition to the rear of one of the existing buildings in the development, the building in which the Foundation leased its office. It also sought approval of a site plan for the proposed construction. Both were approved in March 2016. For various reasons, the Foundation opposed the new development and filed a petition for judicial review of the rezoning application and Site Plan, or in the alternative, for mandamus reversing the County’s approval. Both the County and Lucas filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on its merits. The trial court entered an order granting the County’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Foundation lacked standing to raise its objections to the rezoning. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the Foundation demonstrated no right to contest the rezoning decision. Lucas’s motion to dismiss was a nullity and therefore vacated. View "The Stuttering Foundation of America, Inc. v. Glynn County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs (landlords), challenged San Francisco Planning Code 317(e)(4) as conflicting with the Ellis Act of 1985, Government Code section 7060, which protects property owners’ right to exit the residential rental business. The ordinance was enacted in 2013 in response to a growing concern by the Board of Supervisors (and others) about the shortage of affordable local housing and rental properties. Under section 317(e)(4), certain residential property owners (those undertaking no-fault evictions) including “Ellis Act evictions” were subject to a 10-year waiting period after withdrawing a rental unit from the market before qualifying to apply for approval to merge the withdrawn unit into one or more other units. The trial court found that the ordinance impermissibly penalized property owners for exercising their rights under the Ellis Act and was facially void on preemption grounds. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the plaintiffs lacked standing. Section 317(e)(4) is preempted by the Ellis Act to the extent it requires a landlord effectuating a no-fault eviction to wait 10 years before applying for a permit to undertake a residential merger on the property. View "San Francisco Apartment Ass'n v. City & Cnty.. of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Berkeley issued a use permit for construction of a building with 51 residential rental units and ground floor commercial space. Permit condition 10 provides: “Before submission for building permit, the applicant shall submit floor plans and schedules … showing the location of each inclusionary unit and the sales or rental prices…. and that the unit rent or sales price complies with Chapter 23C.12” (Inclusionary Housing Ordinance). The Ordinance was designed to comply with Government Code section 65580, requiring a general plan to contain a housing element stating how the local agency will accommodate its share of regional need for affordable housing. The ordinance requires that 20 percent of all newly constructed residential units be reserved for households with below-median incomes and rented at below-market prices. The development took more than seven years. The city sought a declaration that the condition was valid, conceding that the ordinance has been preempted by the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (Civ. Code, 1954.50), but arguing that it may enforce the condition, the validity of which was not previously challenged. The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of the city. View "City of Berkeley v. 1080 Delaware, LLC" on Justia Law