Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Richard Hayes developed a subdivision called Mountain View Estates on land jointly owned by him and his wife, Nadine Hayes, in the Town of Manchester. The subdivision grew to include forty residential homes, a school building, and a chiropractic clinic on forty-four lots. From the sale of the first lot in about 1981 until his death in 2004, Richard Hayes paid for maintenance and plowing of the roads that ran through the subdivision and maintained the subdivision’s sewer system and the portion of the water system that he and his wife still owned, without charge to the homeowners. Following the Hayes’ deaths in 2004, a probate proceeding was opened and the Hayes’ adult children, Jeffrey Hayes and Deborah Hayes McGraw, were appointed coadministrators of their estates. The co-administrators sent a letter to the homeowners in the subdivision stating that effective immediately, the homeowners would be responsible for maintaining and plowing the subdivision’s roads. The homeowners refused to assume responsibility for the road maintenance. The homeowners intervened in the probate proceedings of the Hayes’ estates to protect their rights regarding the subdivision. The estates appealed the trial court’s decision that the estates were obligated, based on an agreement between the developers and the homeowners, to continue to maintain and repair the roads and water and sewer systems until the town accepted the dedication of the infrastructure. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the court’s findings and conclusions, and remanded the matter to the trial court for remand to the probate division for further proceedings. View "Hayes v. Mountain View Estates Homeowners Association" on Justia Law

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In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Richard Hayes developed a subdivision called Mountain View Estates on land jointly owned by him and his wife, Nadine Hayes, in the Town of Manchester. The subdivision grew to include forty residential homes, a school building, and a chiropractic clinic on forty-four lots. From the sale of the first lot in about 1981 until his death in 2004, Richard Hayes paid for maintenance and plowing of the roads that ran through the subdivision and maintained the subdivision’s sewer system and the portion of the water system that he and his wife still owned, without charge to the homeowners. Following the Hayes’ deaths in 2004, a probate proceeding was opened and the Hayes’ adult children, Jeffrey Hayes and Deborah Hayes McGraw, were appointed coadministrators of their estates. The co-administrators sent a letter to the homeowners in the subdivision stating that effective immediately, the homeowners would be responsible for maintaining and plowing the subdivision’s roads. The homeowners refused to assume responsibility for the road maintenance. The homeowners intervened in the probate proceedings of the Hayes’ estates to protect their rights regarding the subdivision. The estates appealed the trial court’s decision that the estates were obligated, based on an agreement between the developers and the homeowners, to continue to maintain and repair the roads and water and sewer systems until the town accepted the dedication of the infrastructure. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the court’s findings and conclusions, and remanded the matter to the trial court for remand to the probate division for further proceedings. View "Hayes v. Mountain View Estates Homeowners Association" on Justia Law

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Appellant Sulaiman Jadallah sought reversal of a decision that: (1) denied his request to vacate a settlement agreement between himself, appellee Gabriel Handy, and appellee Sidon Pantry, LLC under Vermont Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b); and (2) granted summary judgment in favor of appellee Town of Fairfax and appellee Stacy Wells. In 1994, appellant began operating a restaurant situated on a parcel of real property that he owned. Nine years later in 2003, Handy loaned appellant money. To secure the loan, appellant executed a quitclaim deed for the real property to Handy, which the parties agreed Handy could record should appellant fail to repay Handy. Appellant repaid the loan and thus, Handy did not record the Deed. In 2007, appellant again borrowed money from Handy. Handy agreed to loan appellant money pursuant to terms laid out in a promissory note, which appellant signed. The loan was secured by a second quitclaim deed for the real property to Handy (2007 Deed). The promissory note and the 2007 Deed were signed by appellant and Handy and notarized by Wells. The Deed and note provided that, if appellant failed to make timely repayment of the loan, Handy would again record the 2007 Deed, which would transfer title of the property to Sidon Pantry, Handy’s company. Appellant was incarcerated for an unrelated legal matter and failed to make payments to Handy. He also failed to pay the State of Vermont for rooms and meals taxes. As a result, Handy recorded the 2007 Deed and Wells signed the attestation stamp. Handy filed the Vermont Property Transfer Tax Return (VPTTR) and paid the relevant transfer taxes and back room and meals taxes thereafter. When appellant was released from prison in mid-April 2008, Handy told appellant that he had recorded the quitclaim deed. In April 2008, a mortgagee of the property sent appellant a letter informing him that an unauthorized transfer of the property had occurred in violation with the mortgage’s provisions. In 2010, Handy cleared title to the property by paying off the two mortgages encumbering the property. In 2014, appellant purported to grant an easement in the property to his son. The easement deed referenced the 2007 Deed as a “fraudulent deed” that did not actually convey the property to Handy and his company. Appellant thereafter sued, naming Handy, his business, and the Town and Wells as parties. The trial court dismissed the settled claims; but the case against the Town and Wells continued. Appellant moved for relief from judgment, arguing Handy and his attorney allegedly engaged in fraud when drafting and obtaining appellant’s signature on the settlement documents. The trial court denied appellant’s motion for relief. Finding no reversible error in the denial of relief, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Jadallah v. Town of Fairfax" on Justia Law

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Respondents Francis and Barbara Supeno, and Barbara Ernst, appealed an order of the Environmental Division imposing a penalty of $27,213 for water and wastewater permit violations. Respondents Francis Supeno and Barbara Supeno were siblings and jointly owned property in Addison. Barbara Supeno and Barbara Ernst lived adjacent to the property. In 2009, the siblings obtained a wastewater system and potable water supply permit, which authorized the replacement of a seasonal cottage with a year-round, one bedroom residence. The permit included the construction of an on-site well and wastewater disposal system. The water supply for the property was provided through a public water system. In 2014 the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) received a complaint of an alleged violation of the wastewater permit. ANR also became aware that the property was advertised as a two-bedroom, two-bathroom rental. An ANR enforcement officer went to the property and Barbara Supeno denied ANR access to the house. The Environmental Division granted ANR’s petition for an access order and ANR received access to the property. During the visit, the enforcement officer observed two water lines entering the basement; the officer also observed the permitted bedroom on the second floor and an additional non-permitted bedroom in the basement. Based on the officer’s observations, an emergency administrative order (EAO) was issued, wherein: (1) respondents failed to obtain a permit before modifying the rental home to add a second bedroom; (2) respondents spliced into the public water supply line serving the adjacent property and connected it to the rental property without obtaining a permit; and (3) respondents created an unapproved cross-connection at the rental property, which allowed it to switch between the well water and the public water system and created a risk that potentially polluted water could contaminate the public water supply. The EAO eventually became an Administrative Order (AO), imposing the penalty at issue here. Respondents argued that their due process rights were violated, the penalty assessment was precluded by res judicata, and the amount of the penalty was excessive. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Environmental Division. View "Agency of Natural Resources v. Supeno" on Justia Law

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Following a decision from a three-justice panel of the Vermont Supreme Court issued June 26, 2017 involving these parties and this litigation and affirming a final judgment order, the civil division attempted to conduct further hearings as if the matter had been remanded. The Poons challenged continuation of the litigation by the trial court, asserting that, in the absence of an express remand from the Vermont Supreme Court, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to conduct further hearings. The trial court denied the motion and the Poons were granted permission by the Supreme Court to appeal the denial on an interlocutory basis. The Supreme Court reversed, finding the Poons were correct that the trial court was without jurisdiction to consider this case further and the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should have been granted. The judgment rendered June 26th by the Supreme Court did not include a remand, and was final. To remove uncertainty in the event of a future suit between these parties, the Court addressed the Poons’ additional contention that res judicata (also known as claim preclusion), barred the trial court from further consideration of any trespass claim for damages or injunctive relief as a result of the final judgment previously rendered. The final judgment in this case barred relitigation of an alleged trespass by the Poons that was or could have been litigated in this action. “A subsequent suit seeking an injunction or damages from trespass may not be barred, however, if it is based on facts that could not have been addressed in the first litigation because this would amount to a new cause of action.” View "Moyers v. Poon" on Justia Law

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Following a decision from a three-justice panel of the Vermont Supreme Court issued June 26, 2017 involving these parties and this litigation and affirming a final judgment order, the civil division attempted to conduct further hearings as if the matter had been remanded. The Poons challenged continuation of the litigation by the trial court, asserting that, in the absence of an express remand from the Vermont Supreme Court, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to conduct further hearings. The trial court denied the motion and the Poons were granted permission by the Supreme Court to appeal the denial on an interlocutory basis. The Supreme Court reversed, finding the Poons were correct that the trial court was without jurisdiction to consider this case further and the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should have been granted. The judgment rendered June 26th by the Supreme Court did not include a remand, and was final. To remove uncertainty in the event of a future suit between these parties, the Court addressed the Poons’ additional contention that res judicata (also known as claim preclusion), barred the trial court from further consideration of any trespass claim for damages or injunctive relief as a result of the final judgment previously rendered. The final judgment in this case barred relitigation of an alleged trespass by the Poons that was or could have been litigated in this action. “A subsequent suit seeking an injunction or damages from trespass may not be barred, however, if it is based on facts that could not have been addressed in the first litigation because this would amount to a new cause of action.” View "Moyers v. Poon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff built a home on leased property owned by the Town of Vernon. The property is part of glebe land1 first leased by the Town in the early nineteenth century. The instant claim is premised upon an alleged covenant of quiet enjoyment in an 1838 deed in which the Town leased the land for the lessee “to farm occupy” and “to hold said granted premises with all the privileges and appurtenances.” Plaintiff obtained his interest in the leased land through a quitclaim deed from his wife in 2013. Plaintiff and his wife had received their interest in the property from a company controlled by plaintiff and a friend. A superior court granted the Town's motion for summary judgment with respect to a claim Plaintiff made that the Town breached a covenant of quiet enjoyment implied in the lease by not providing him access to the property. The superior court found that the pertinent section of "Stebbins Road" had never been officially laid out as a public road and that, therefore, plaintiff never obtained an abutting right of access over the road that would have survived the Town’s later discontinuance of the road. The Vermont Supreme Court determined that the Town had not been joined to earlier litigation in this matter, making resolution of this case by summary judgment improper; the earlier litigation also alleged the Town had not laid out Stebbins Road properly. "Joinder [was] required 'if the action might detrimentally affect a party's or the absentee's ability to protect his property or to prosecute or defend any subsequent litigation in which the absentee might become involved.'" View "Daiello v. Town of Vernon" on Justia Law

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Applicant Chris Khamnei appealed a superior court decision affirming the Burlington Public Works Commission’s denial of his request for permits to complete plumbing work in a building he owned because he failed to identify the name of a licensed professional plumber who would perform the work. On appeal, applicant argued the applicable statute and accompanying regulations allowed property owners to perform this type of work without a plumbing license. Finding no reversible error in the Commission's decision, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Khamnei v. Burlington Public Works Commission" on Justia Law

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This case involved a long-standing dispute between a condominium unit owner, Roy H.A. Watson III, and the organization that managed his condominium, the Village at Northshore I Association (Association). The legal issues centered around the application of two laws, the Condominium Ownership Act (COA) and the Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA), to the Association’s governing documents. The central disagreement between the parties involved a Declaration (governing document) and how it allocated ownership interest in the physical structures that made up Northshore, including privately owned areas and commonly owned areas, and the Declaration’s amendment process. The trial court ruled in favor of the Association and granted it declaratory judgment on all thirteen issues that were before the Vermont Supreme Court on appeal. As to nine of the thirteen issues, the Supreme Court affirm the trial court’s judgment in favor of the Association. As to two issues, the Court reversed and enter declaratory judgment in favor of Watson. As to one issue, we affirm the trial court’s decision in favor of the Association in part and reverse and enter declaratory judgment in Watson's favor in part. As to the remaining issue, the case was remanded to the trial court for additional factfinding. View "Watson v. Village at Northshore I Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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Senior mortgagee Provident Funding Associates, L.P. appealed the trial court’s order dismissing junior mortgagee E-Loans, Inc. as a defendant from the senior's fourth foreclosure action against mortgagors Arnold and Peggy Campney. The trial court determined that E-Loans was entitled to dismissal as an equitable remedy because Provident had imposed unnecessary costs on E-Loans by repeatedly filing foreclosure actions against defendants and failing to prosecute them to completion. The court’s order had the effect of reordering the priority of mortgages, making Provident's interest second in priority to that of E-Loans. The issue raised to the Vermont Supreme Court in this matter was whether the trial court appropriately invoked equitable authority to dismiss E-Loans as a defendant as a penalty for Provident's conduct in the prior foreclosure actions. The Supreme Court found the trial court was "justifiably frustrated" with Provident's litigation behavior: this was the fourth foreclosure action Provident had filed against defendants in less than four years. The second and third actions were dismissed due to Provident's documented failure to follow procedural rules and court orders. E-Loans suffered the inconvenience and expense of having to hire an attorney to respond to each new action. The Court concluded, however, the record here did not show that E-Loans would be prejudiced by sanctions short of dismissal. "[Provident's] litigation behavior could have been sanctioned, and the harm to junior mortgagee redressed, with a less extreme sanction such as attorney’s fees." The Court therefore reversed and remanded for the trial court to consider monetary sanctions (such as attorney's fees) as an alternative sanction. View "Provident Funding Associates, L.P. v. Campney" on Justia Law