Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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In this real estate purchase transaction the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal’s judgment reversing the trial court’s denial of an award of attorney fees. Here Seller brought a breach of contract action against Buyers for failing to purchase the subject property. The trial court concluded that Buyers were not liable under the purchase agreement because it had been superseded by the parties’ option agreement that granted Buyers the exclusive right, but not the obligation, to purchase the property. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether Buyers were entitled to attorney fees under the attorney fees provision in the option agreement. The Supreme Court held (1) Buyers’ assertion of the option agreement as an affirmative defense did not trigger the attorney fees provision in that agreement; but (2) under the circumstances of this case Buyers were nevertheless entitled to attorney fees under the attorney fees provision in the option agreement. View "Mountain Air Enterprises, LLC v. Sundowner Towers, LLC" on Justia Law

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Homeowners who sought and were granted a permit from the California Coastal Commission to build a new seawall and repair their beach access stairway, subject to several mitigation conditions, forfeited their challenge objecting to two conditions because they accepted the benefits that the permit conferred. When winter storms damaged the seawall protecting their blufftop properties, Plaintiffs sought a new permit to demolish the old structure, construct a new seawall across their properties, and rebuild the stairway. The Commission approved a coastal development permit allowing seawall demolition and reconstruction subject to several conditions. Plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate challenging certain conditions. While the litigation proceeded, Plaintiffs obtained the permit and built the seawall. The trial court issued a writ directing the Commission to remove the challenged conditions. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs forfeited their objections by constructing the project. View "Lynch v. California Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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Charges that constitute compensation for the use of government property are not subject to Proposition 218’s voter approval requirements. To constitute compensation for a property interest, however, the amount of the charge must bear a reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest, and to the extent the charge exceeds any reasonable value of the interest, it is a tax and requires voter approval. Plaintiffs contended that a one percent charge that was separately stated on electricity bills issued by Southern California Edison (SCE) was not compensation for the privilege of using property owned by the City of Santa Barbara but was instead a tax imposed without voter approval, in violation of Proposition 218. The City argued that this separate charge was the fee paid by SCE to the City for the privilege of using City property in connection with the delivery of electricity. The Supreme Court held that the complaint and stipulated facts adequately alleged the basis for a claim that the surcharge bore no reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest and was therefore a tax requiring voter approval under Proposition 218. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law

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The County of Los Angeles can impose a documentary transfer tax on a written instrument that transfers beneficial ownership of real property from one person to two others if the document reflects an actual transfer of legal beneficial ownership made for consideration. This action arose from a series of transactions among trusts maintained for the benefit of Averbook family members. At issue on appeal was the transfer of a particular building. In 2011, the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder demanded payment of the county’s documentary transfer tax, explaining that the transfer tax was due because the Building had undergone a change in ownership. Plaintiff filed this refund action, arguing that no tax was due. The trial court denied the claim. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Plaintiff’s refund claim was properly rejected because transfer of a beneficial interest in the Building was a sale, accompanied by consideration and effected by a document of transfer. View "926 North Ardmore Avenue, LLC v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Cal. Civ. Code 1009(b), which limits the circumstances in which courts may find implied dedication of private coastal property, applies to property used by the public for nonrecreational vehicle access, as well as property used for recreational purposes. Plaintiffs filed this action seeking a declaration that their neighbors, private owners of noncoastal property, had acquiesced to the dedication of two roadways, which crossed the neighbors’ land, as public roadways. The trial court agreed, concluding that the neighbors or their predecessors had impliedly offered to dedicate the roadways to public use. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that section 1009, subdivision (b) bars all public use, not just recreational use, from developing into an implied public dedication. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 1009, subdivision (b) contains no implicit exception for nonrecreational use of roadways. View "Scher v. Burke" on Justia Law

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An individual’s standing to sue under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 526a does not require the payment of a property tax, as an allegation that the plaintiff has paid an assessed tax to the defendant locality is sufficient under section 526a. The trial court filed a stipulated order and judgment of dismissal dismissing for lack of standing Plaintiff’s complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the manner in which the City of San Rafael and County of Marin enforced Cal. Veh. Code 14602.6. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that an individual plaintiff must be liable to pay a property tax within the relevant locality, or have paid a property tax during the previous year, to have standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeal erred when it held that payment of a property tax was required under section 526a. View "Weatherford v. City of San Rafael" on Justia Law

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When an assessment on nonexempt property is challenged on the ground that the taxpayer does not own the property involved, the taxpayer must seek an assessment reduction through the assessment appeal process before the county board of equalization or a county assessment appeals board or obtain a stipulation under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 5142(b) that such proceedings are unnecessary in order to maintain a postpayment superior court action under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 5140 that seeks reduction of the tax. The Supreme Court overruled Parr-Richmond Industrial Corp. v. Boyd 43 Cal.2d 157 (1954) to the extent that the decision provides otherwise. Because this holding operates only prospectively, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal in this action where Plaintiffs brought timely assessment appeal proceedings under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 1603 (a). The court of appeal held that “where, as here, the taxpayer claims [an] assessment is void because the taxpayer does not own the [assessed] property, the taxpayer is not required to apply for an assessment reduction under section 1603, subdivision (a) to exhaust its administrative remedies.” View "Williams & Fickett v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

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This California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) dispute centered on whether an environmental impact report (EIR) must identify areas that might qualify as environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA) under the California Coastal Act and account for those areas in its analysis of mitigation measures and project alternatives. The City of Newport Beach approved a project for the development of a parcel known as Banning Beach. Banning Ranch Conservancy (BRC) sought a writ of mandate to set aside the approval, alleging (1) the EIR was inadequate, and (2) the City violated a general plan provision by failing to work with the California Coastal Commission to identify wetlands and habitats. The trial court found the EIR sufficient but concluded that the general plan required the City to cooperate with the Coastal Commission before approving the project. The Court of Appeal (1) agreed that the EIR complied with CEQA requirements; but (2) reversed on the general plan issue. The Supreme Court reversed and granted BRC relief on its CEQA claim, holding (1) CEQA requires an EIR to identify areas that might qualify as ESHA under the Coastal Act; and (2) the City’s failure to discuss ESHA requirements and impacts was neither insubstantial nor merely technical. View "Banning Ranch Conservancy v. City of Newport Beach" on Justia Law

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Seller retained Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Company to list a luxury residence for sale. Buyer, also represented by Coldwell Banker, made an offer to purchase the property, and both parties agreed that Coldwell Banker, acting through its associate licensee, would function as a dual agent in the transaction. After the sale was complete, Buyer filed suit alleging breach of fiduciary duty by Coldwell Banker and by the associate licensee because of a significant discrepancy between the square footage of the residence as represented in the marketing materials for the property and as set out in its building permit. The trial court granted nonsuit on the cause of action against the associate licensee, ruling that the associate licensee had no fiduciary duty to Buyer. A jury subsequently found in favor of Coldwell Banker. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the breach of fiduciary duty claim against the associate licensee and Coldwell Banker. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Coldwell Banker owed to Buyer a duty to learn nd disclose information regarding the discrepancy between the square footage of the residence as advertised and as reflected in publicly recorded documents; and (2) the associate licensee owed Buyer an equivalent duty of disclosure under Cal. Civ. Code. 2079.13(b). View "Horiike v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Co." on Justia Law

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This dispute concerned a 1.66-acre strip of Defendants’ land that the City of Perris condemned in order to build a road. The City offered to pay Defendants the agricultural value of the strip, relying on City of Porterville v. Young. The trial court agreed with the City, concluding that Porterville applied in this case and that Defendants were entitled to a stipulated agricultural value of $44,000 for the taking. In so deciding, the trial judge concluded that the City’s dedication requirement was lawful under Nollan v. California Coastal Commission and Dolan v. City of Tigard. The Court of Appeal remanded the case to revisit the legality of the dedication requirement, concluding that the lawfulness of the dedication and requirement under Nollan and Dolan should have been decided by a jury, not a judge. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the constitutionality of a dedication requirement under Nollan and Dolan is a question for a court, rather than a jury; and (2) the project effect rule generally applies, and the Porterville doctrine does not apply, to situations when it is probable at the time a dedication requirement is put in place that the property designated for public use will be included in the project for which the condemnation is sought. Remanded. View "City of Perris v. Stamper" on Justia Law