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    The Lawletter Blog

    Alistair D. Edwards

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    PROPERTY: Short-Term Rentals, Such as VRBO and Airbnb, and Use Restrictions

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Fri, Apr 8, 2022 @ 10:04 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 47 No 2

    Alistair Edwards—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group 

                It is not unusual for homes in a subdivision to be subject to restrictive covenants limiting the owners’ use of their property to residential purposes and/or prohibiting the use of the property for commercial, trade, or business purposes. This sort of restriction can also be found in instruments such as declarations governing condominium or townhouse communities. With the increasing popularity of programs such as VRBO and Airbnb, numerous courts have recently dealt with the issue of whether these so-called short-term rentals violate these sort of use restrictions. So far, the courts, strictly construing the covenants, have been fairly hesitant to find a violation.

                For example, recently in Lake Serene Property Owners Association v. Esplin, No. 2020-CA-00689-SCT, 2022 WL 713417 (Miss. Mar. 10, 2022), the Mississippi Supreme Court held that a homeowner's use of his property for short-term rentals was a “residential use” and, thus, did not violate the restrictive covenants governing the subdivision and limiting use to residential use.

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    Topics: property law, Alistair D. Edwards, short-term residential rentals, restrictive covenants

    PROPERTY: Landlord’s Due Process Rights Not Violated by COVID-19 Moratorium on Evictions

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Thu, Nov 11, 2021 @ 11:11 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 46 No 6

    Alistair Edwards—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                As a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, various states and municipalities around the country have imposed moratoriums on evictions and prohibited landlords for a certain period of time from filing eviction complaints for possession of real property. For example, on March 17, 2020, the Council of the District of Columbia enacted a variety of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect District residents. Included among these measures was a moratorium on evictions "during a period of time for which the Mayor has declared a public health emergency."

                In District of Columbia v. Towers, 21-CV-34, 2021 WL 4617981 (D.C. Oct. 7, 2021), the District of Colombia's highest court considered whether this moratorium violated the landlords' due process right to access the courts. The case came to the appellate court after the District's lower court (the Superior Court) held that the moratorium on eviction filings for the duration of the public health emergency was unconstitutional. Specifically, the lower court held that the moratorium infringed on property owners' fundamental right of access to the courts because "[a] landlord's interest in summary resolution of its claims against a tenant has a constitutional basis." The District of Columbia appealed the lower court’s decision.

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    Topics: property law, Alistair D. Edwards, no violation of property rights, moratorium on evictions, property owner's access to courts

    PROPERTY: Court Requires Cemetery to Remove a Decedent Mistakenly Buried in Plaintiff's Gravesite

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 @ 11:03 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 45 No 2

    Alistair Edwards—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         It is not uncommon for an individual to purchase a specific cemetery gravesite or gravesites many years in advance with the plan for family members to all be buried in the same area. That was the exact plan of the plaintiff, Kathy Salyer. In 1982, after the death of her first husband, Salyer purchased four contiguous gravesites in the cemetery comprising lot 14. Later that year, Salyer purchased an additional gravesite (Gravesite 15) contiguous to lot 14. Salyer possessed a Certificate of Ownership for each purchase. Salyer intended to bury her mother in Gravesite 15 and to have herself buried in the empty site between her first and second husbands. Despite Salyer's plan, she discovered in 2014 that a stranger, Mr. Johnson, had been buried in Gravesite 15. The cemetery acknowledged that it had made a mistake and had sold Gravesite 15 twice, first to Salyer and then to Mr. Johnson's family. Salyer's purchase of Gravesite 15 had not been entered in the cemetery's records, causing the cemetery's sale agent to sell the site twice.

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    Topics: property law, Alistair D. Edwards, gravesites, real estate transaction, Indiana law

    PROPERTY: Barking Dogs Results in Competing Nuisance Claims Between Neighbors

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Thu, Aug 1, 2019 @ 11:08 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 5

    Alistair Edwards—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Dogs barking incessantly can result in a nuisance lawsuit between neighbors. For example, in Allen v. Powers, 64 Misc. 3d 171, 97 N.Y.S.3d 837 (City Ct. 2019), the plaintiff sued her neighbors claiming that their two German Shepherds barked incessantly and the dogs' constant barking at all hours interfered with the plaintiff’s right to quiet use and enjoyment of her property. This was a classic private nuisance claim.

                However, the interesting twist in that case was that the defendant dog owners counterclaimed, contending that the plaintiff had repeatedly called the municipal authorities with specious complaints. As alleged in the counterclaim, the plaintiff’s efforts were an attempt to make the defendants move or have their landlord evict them. The plaintiff responded, asking the court to dismiss the counterclaim for failure to state a cause of action. The plaintiff argued that the counterclaim sounded like a claim for harassment, and New York does not recognize such a cause of action. In refusing to dismiss the counterclaim, however, the court treated the counterclaim as a private nuisance claim.

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    Topics: property law, Alistair D. Edwards, nuisance claim, barking dogs, counterclaim for harassment

    BUSINESS LAW: Is Predictive Dialer an Autodialer Subject to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act?

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Fri, Jan 18, 2019 @ 09:01 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 1

     

    Alistair Edwards—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     

                The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA” or the “Act”) makes it unlawful “to make any call . . . using any automatic telephone dialing system . . . to any telephone number assigned to a . . . cellular telephone service.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii).

     

                In Maes v. Charter Communication, No. 18-cv-124-jdp, 2018 WL 5619199 (W.D. Wis. Oct. 30, 2018), the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin recently considered whether a predictive dialer constituted an autodialer (an automatic dialing system) under the TCPA. In that case, the telemarketer called the plaintiff using a predictive dialer, a piece of equipment used in call centers to automatically dial phone numbers and connect representatives to customers that answer the phone.

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    Topics: Alistair D. Edwards, Telephone Consumer Protection Act, autodialer, cellular service, telemarketing

    PROPERTY: Do Short-Term Vacation Rentals Violate Covenant Prohibiting Commercial Activity or Use?

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Mon, Oct 1, 2018 @ 11:10 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 43 No 5

    Alistair Edwards—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Short-term vacation rentals have become increasingly popular and easier to obtain with the advent of websites such as Airbnb. Now, an owner can simply use such a website to attract potential renters and lease the property to vacationers on a very short-term basis. Some of these rentals can be as short as a one- or two-day rental. However, owners of residential properties that are subject to restrictive covenants are often prohibited from using their properties for commercial activities, uses, or purposes. Does this include renting the property to vacationers on a short-term basis?

            Recently, in Forshee v. Neuschwander, 2018 WI 62, 914 N.W.2d 643 (Wyo. 2018), the Wisconsin Supreme Court considered this exact issue.

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    Topics: property, short-term vacation rental, commercial activity use, restrictive covenant

    PROPERTY:  Construction of Structure Blocking a Neighbor’s View Not a Nuisance

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Thu, Feb 22, 2018 @ 13:02 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 43 No 1

    Alistair Edwards, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         The general rule is that a landowner has no common law right to an unobstructed view over an adjoining property. Thus, if a neighbor erects a structure on his property that blocks another neighbor’s view from his property, this likely does not constitute an actionable nuisance or give the neighbor any other type of claim. Absent an express easement or covenant, this right to an unobstructed view generally does not exist. "In the absence of statute, generally, a landowner may, by building on his or her own land, deprive the adjoining owner of the light, air, and view of which the owner was the recipient before the structure was erected without inflicting a legal injury by such obstruction." 2 C.J.S. Adjoining Landowners § 28 (Westlaw database updated December 2017). 

           For example, in Ceynar v. Barth, 2017 ND 286, 904 N.W.2d 469, the North Dakota Supreme Court recently considered a nuisance action brought by a homeowner against his neighbor (and the homeowner’s association) after the neighbor constructed a pool house on his property which obstructed the neighbor’s view. The pool house blocked the homeowner’s view of a golf course and very likely reduced the market value of the home. In affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant neighbor, the court relied mainly on California precedent and stated that "[j]ust as traditional American property law fails to protect access to light over neighboring land, in the absence of an express easement or covenant, advantageous views are unprotected." Id. ¶ 26, 904 N.W.2d at 476. The court further explained:  "Because the Ceynars [plaintiffs] have no cognizable right to an unobstructed view from their property, Barth's [defendant] construction of the pool house as a matter of law did not unreasonably interfere with the Ceynars' use and enjoyment of their property." Id. ¶ 28, 904 N.W.2d at 478; see also Wolford v. Thomas, 190 Cal. App. 3d 347, 356, 235 Cal. Rptr. 422, 427 (1987) ("[A] building or structure does not constitute a nuisance merely because it obstructs the passage of light and air to the adjoining property or obstructs the view from the neighboring property, provided such building or structure does not otherwise constitute a nuisance.").

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    Topics: actionable nuisance, homeowner's association, lawful structure, adjoining landowners

    PROPERTY: Realtor's Written Contract with a Co-Owner Binding on the Other Owners

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Thu, May 4, 2017 @ 12:05 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 42 No 3

    Alistair Edwards, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                A real estate owner's contract with a realtor may be required to be in writing and signed by the owner in order to satisfy the statute of frauds. As in many States, that is certainly the rule in California. As the California Supreme Court stated nearly 30 years ago, "[a] broker's real estate commissions agreement is invalid . . . unless the agreement or some note or memorandum thereof, is in writing and subscribed by the party to be charged or by the party's agent." Phillippe v. Shapell Indus., 43 Cal. 3d 1247, 1258, 743 P.2d 1279, 1283 (1987) (internal quotation marks omitted).

                But, what happens when there is more than one owner of the property (co-owners) and only one of the owners signs the broker's contract? Is that contract biding on the nonsigning co-owner? Recently, in Jacobs v. Locatelli, 8 Cal. App. 5th 317, 213 Cal. Rptr. 3d 514 (2017), the court wrestled with this exact issue.

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    Topics: written and signed requirements, real estate contract, signing co-owner binds other owners

    PROPERTY/MORTGAGES: Implied Duty of Good Faith: Impact of Loan Modification Request

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 @ 15:01 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 41 No 11

    Alistair Edwards, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         It is not unusual for a borrower (mortgagor) who is facing foreclosure to attempt to obtain a loan modification from the lender (or the servicer acting for the lender). However, even if the borrower requests a loan modification, this does not automatically put the foreclosure process on hold. Nor does the lender (mortgagee) automatically violate some sort of duty owed to the borrower by proceeding with the foreclosure even though a loan modification has been requested.

          For example, in Afridi v. Residential Credit Solutions, Inc., No. CV 15-13632-NMG, 2016 WL 3017382 (D. Mass. May 24, 2016), the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts recently held that the lender (or the servicer acting for the lender) did not breach its implied duty of good faith by proceeding with a foreclosure sale while the borrower was attempting to obtain a loan modification. In that case, the servicer sought to foreclose, and in order to avoid that outcome, the borrower applied for a mortgage modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program ("HAMP"). The servicer initially denied the application as incomplete. The servicer ultimately provided a list of the missing documents and the borrower updated his application. However, the servicer scheduled a foreclosure sale without first rendering a decision on the borrower’s modification application. The servicer ultimately denied the application.

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    Topics: mortgages, property, loan modification, foreclosure proceeding not put on hold, no breach of implied duty of good faith

    MORTGAGES: Mortgagor Entitled to Truth-in-Lending Disclosures Even if Not Personally Liable on Loan

    Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 11:03 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 41, No 3

    Alistair Edwards, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         The Truth in Lending Act ("TILA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1601 et seq., requires a mortgage lender (a mortgagee) to provide certain disclosures to the borrower (mortgagor). If these disclosures are not made, the borrower may have the right to rescind. Under TILA, when a loan is secured by the borrower's principal dwelling, the borrower may rescind the loan agreement if the lender fails to deliver certain forms or to disclose important terms accurately. TILA requires creditors to provide borrowers with clear and accurate disclosures of terms dealing with things like finance charges, annual percentage rates of interest, and the borrower's rights. Failure by the lender to deliver these disclosures may permit a borrower to rescind the loan transaction.

          However, is a person who is not personally liable on the loan but who is the owner of the dwelling that is used to secure the loan entitled to the TILA disclosures and the right to rescind? Recently, in Lakeview Loan Servicing, LLC v. Pendleton, 2015 IL App (1st) 143114, ___ N.E.3d ___ (not yet released for publication), the Appellate Court of Illinois considered this exact issue.

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    Topics: TILA, Regulation Z, mortgages, Alistair D. Edwards, disclosure to owner of dwelling if not mortgagor, Lakeview Loan Servicing v. Pendleton

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