Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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At dispute in this case was a mining road built on Flagstaff Mountain over a century ago. Stichting Mayflower Mountain Fonds and Stichting Mayflower Recreation Fonds (collectively, Mayflower) asserted a right to use the road as a public highway and under a common law prescriptive easement claim. Mayflower later moved to amend its complaint seeking to add an appurtenant easement claim. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, dismissed Mayflower’s public road and prescriptive easement claims, and denied Mayflower’s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Mayflower’s public roads claim failed because Mayflower did not establish a genuine issue of material fact on the public use necessary to show that the road had become a public road; (2) the common law prescriptive easement claim failed because the evidence and arguments presented by Mayflower on appeal were never presented to the district court in the proceedings below; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mayflower’s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. View "Stichting Mayflower Mountain Fonds v. United Park City Mines Co." on Justia Law

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Friends of Great Salt Lake (Friends) challenged the decision of the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands (Division) granting a mining lease covering a small portion of the Great Salt Lake. Friends made three simultaneous attempts to halt the lease in requests and petitions submitted to the Division or to the Utah Department of Natural Resources (Department). The Division and Department issued a single agency order denying all three. Friends appealed and sought leave to amend its complaint to raise additional constitutional and statutory arguments. The district court affirmed the rejection of Friends’ requests and petitions, denied in part Friends’ attempt to amend its complaint, and subsequently dismissed Friends’ remaining arguments on summary judgment. Friends appealed and, alternatively, sought extraordinary relief. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed in large part and denied Friends’ request for extraordinary relief; and (2) reversed to a limited extent, holding that the Division was required to engage in “site-specific planning” under the applicable provisions of the Utah Administrative Code. Remanded to allow the Department to decide on the appropriate remedy for the failure to perform such planning. View "Friends of Great Salt Lake v. Utah Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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In 1997, Paul Haik argued before the federal district court that Salt Lake City and Alta’s refusal to extend adequate municipal water services to his undeveloped land in the Albion Basin Subdivision was a violation of equal protection and amounted to an unconstitutional taking. The federal court ruled against Haik. In 2012, Haik filed another federal lawsuit alleging different legal claims but, for the most part, the same facts. In the lawsuit, Haik again sought a determination that Salt Lake City was required to supply him with enough water to develop his property in Albion Basin. The federal court again ruled against Haik. Thereafter, Salt Lake City sued Haik in state court seeking, inter alia, to adjudicate Haik’s and others’ interests in water rights in Little Cottonwood Creek. Haik counterclaimed, adducing exactly the same facts as he put before the federal district court in 2012. The district court dismissed the counterclaims on the grounds that they were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Although Haik did not raise each and every claim in the federal court that he sought to raise here, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, on the operative facts before the Court, it was impossible for Haik to overcome the hurdle of claim preclusion. View "Salt Lake City Corp. v. Haik" on Justia Law

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Utah Code 57-1-21 requires the trustee of a nonjudicial foreclosure sale to maintain a physical office location within the state. In this case, Samuel Adamson refinanced his home through a deed of trust and then defaulted on the loan. ReconTrust sold property in a nonjudicial foreclosure sale to BAC Home Loans Services, LP. Distressed Asset eventually purchased the property. When Distressed Asset filed an unlawful detainer action against the Adamsons, the Adamsons argued that the trustee’s sale was defective because ReconTrust violated section 57-1-21. The district court dismissed the unlawful detainer action, concluding that the failure to satisfy section 57-1-21 rendered the trustee sale void ab initio. Here, the Supreme Court clarified the differences between void, voidable, and valid trustee’s deeds under Utah law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in dismissing the action because, under the circumstances of this case, the violation of the statute did not result in a void or voidable trustee’s deed. Remanded. View "Bank of America v. Adamson" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Uintah County conducted a tax sale but failed to provide the record mineral interest owners notice of the sale. More than a decade later, the individuals who were the record owners of the mineral interest prior to the tax sale and the purchaser of the tax title disputed who lawfully owned the mineral reserve. The district court granted summary judgment to the record mineral interest owners. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Utah Code 78B-2-206 was triggered by the County’s tax sale, which was conducted in violation of the Due Process Clause, the Court cannot apply that limitations statute to bar the record mineral interest owners’ suit; and (2) because a failure to provide notice to an interested party of a tax sale also serves as a jurisdictional defect, the County failed to obtain jurisdiction over the mineral interest, thereby preventing that property interest from passing at the tax sale. View "Jordan v. Jensen" on Justia Law

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In 1910, the district court issued the Little Cottonwood Morse Decree establishing water rights for the Little Cottonwood Creek. In 2013, parties bound by the contractual provisions contained in the Morse Decree filed a postjudgment motion in the case that resulted in the decree asking the district court to modify the decree. The district court denied the motion, concluding that it lacked the authority to reopen the century-old case to modify the final judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a postjudgment motion was an inappropriate procedural vehicle to modify the Morse Decree. View "Little Cottonwood Tanner Ditch Co. v. Sandy City" on Justia Law

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This putative class action was filed by a group of property owners who paid certain impact fees imposed by the Washington County Water Conservancy District (District) within a specific time period. Plaintiffs challenged the legality of the impact fees, arguing that the fees were in violation of the Impact Fees Act and amounted to a taking under the state and federal constitutions. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the District and then, pursuant to a stipulation of the parties, certified the case for an immediate appeal under Utah R. Civ. P. 54(b). The Supreme Court dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, holding (1) the case was not properly certified under Rule 54(b); and (2) the Court declines to exercise its discretion to grant interlocutory review. Remanded. View "Washington Townhomes, LLC v. Washington County Water Conservancy Dist." on Justia Law

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Gloria and Thomas Shakespeare, GLOCO, LC, and Atlas Tower, LLC (collectively, Shakespeares) applied for permission from the Board of Trustees of the Fort Pierce Industrial Park Phases II, III & IV Owners Association (Association) to construct a cell phone tower on a lot located along River Road in the Fort Pierce Industrial Park (industrial park). The Association denied the application. When the Shakespeares proceeded to construct the cell phone tower, the Association brought suit, alleging that the Shakespeares breached the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) of the industrial park. After a bench trial, the district court held that the Board did not have the right to limit the number of cell phone towers in the industrial park. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court erred in strictly construing the CC&Rs in favor of the free and unrestricted use of property rather than applying neutral principles of contract construction; and (2) the Board had sufficient authority under the CC&Rs to deny the Shakespeares’ application. View "Fort Pierce Ind. Park Phases II, III & IV Owners Ass’n v. Shakespeare" on Justia Law

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Petitioner owns a vacant parcel adjoining respondent's parcel. Petitioner had failed to visit or inspect his property for a twenty-six year period and, during that time, respondent had occupied her parcel such that it encroached into petitioner's vacant parcel. Petitioner sought to quiet title as to the disputed stripe created by fence encroachment. Respondent claimed title under the doctrine of boundary by acquiescence. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondent. The court held that the occupation element in the court's boundary by acquiescence doctrine does not require a claimant to prove occupancy on both sides of a visible line. Instead, a claimant must show occupation up to a visible line on his or her property only. Because respondent occupied her property up to the fence for over twenty years, she satisfied the occupation element. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Anderson v. Fautin" on Justia Law

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Salt Lake City Corp. used its power of eminent domain to condemn land owned by Evans Development Group, LLC in order to exchange the property for another piece of property owned by Rocky Mountain Power. The City filed a complaint asserting several public uses and public purposes for the condemnation. Evans moved for summary judgment, arguing that the City lacked statutory authority to condemn its property because the condemnation was not for a public use as required by Utah Code 78B-6-501. The City filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment as to the issue of public use. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that although a property exchange may not be completely prohibited by the relevant eminent domain statutes, it may not be accomplished in the manner attempted in this case. View "Salt Lake City Corp. v. Evans Dev. Group, LLC" on Justia Law