Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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A trustee's acts in recording a notice of default, a notice of sale, and a trustee's deed upon sale in the course of a nonjudicial foreclosure are privileged under Civil Code section 47. The Court of Appeal held that plaintiff did not state a cause of action for slander of title based on the recording of those documents. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's order sustaining a demurrer to plaintiff's slander of title claim without leave to amend. View "Schep v. Capital One" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Aristea Hupp (Aristea) appealed after the trial court granted defendants Solera Oak Valley Greens Association and City of Beaumont Animal Control Officer Jack Huntsman’s ex parte application to dismiss Aristea’s first amended complaint (FAC) as a vexatious litigant. Aristea argued: (1) the trial court’s order granting Solera’s ex parte application to dismiss deprived her of her due process rights to notice and an opportunity to be heard; (2) Solera waived its vexatious litigant defense by not raising it in its first responsive pleading; and (3) under the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (Davis-Stirling Act), she was authorized to seek recovery of damages sustained by her son, Paul Hupp (Paul), from violations of Solera’s Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). In 2014, Paul was declared a vexatious litigant. In 2015, Aristea and Paul filed a complaint against Solera over enforcing a community rule regarding muzzling of Pit Bulls on properties within the Solera community. The Hupps walked their dogs through the community without a muzzle. The Hupps argued the rule was only applied to the Hupps, and that Solera could not single out any one breed. After review, the Court of Appeal affirmed dismissal as to all claims alleged in the FAC which were brought by or for the benefit of Paul, on the ground he has been declared a vexatious litigant. Because Aristea had not been declared a vexatious litigant, the judgment of dismissal was reversed as to all claims in the FAC that were solely personal to Aristea. View "Hupp v. Solera Oak Valley Greens Assn." on Justia Law

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The Cobbs borrowed $10,229,250 from Citizens Business Bank. The note was secured by a deed of trust on a parcel of commercial real property in Rancho Cucamonga. Years later, the Cobbs obtained a second loan from Citizens Business Bank, which was secured by a second deed of trust on the same property. Black Sky Capital purchased both notes from Citizens Business Bank. After the Cobbs defaulted on the senior loan, Black Sky opted to conduct a trustee’s sale under the senior deed of trust. It acquired the property after the Cobbs defaulted on the junior loan. Black Sky filed the suit seeking to recover the amount still owed on the junior note. The Cobbs moved for summary judgment, pertinent here, relying on section 580d. They contended that the monetary judgment would be a deficiency judgment, which is prohibited by section 580d. The trial court granted the Cobbs’ motion and entered judgment for them. Black Sky appealed, contending that the caselaw used as grounds for the Cobbs' motion and trial court's judgment erroneously expanded section 580d, based on an incorrect reading of Roseleaf Corp. v. Chierighino (1963) 59 Cal.2d 35 (Roseleaf). Black Sky contended that section 580d, by its express terms, did not apply here. It maintained that it was a “sold-out junior” lienholder within the meaning of Roseleaf, and that it had the right to seek a judgment for the balance owed on the junior note. The Court of Appeal agreed that section 580d did not apply under the circumstances of this case. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment. View "Black Sky Capital v. Cobb" on Justia Law

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Garnes’s Richmond home was damaged by a kitchen fire. She had a fire insurance policy, with a limit of $425,000 from FAIR Plan Association, California’s insurer of last resort. Gaines claimed she should receive the amount it will cost her to repair the house, less an amount for depreciation, the net amount of which was agreed to be $320,549. FAIR argued the Policy and the Insurance Code allowed it to pay the lesser of that amount or the fair market value of the house, which at the time of the fire was $75,000. After examining Insurance Code, the court of appeals agreed with Garnes. Section 2051 provides that under an open fire insurance policy that pays “actual cash value,” as does the Gaines Policy, the actual cash value recovery is determined in one of two ways. For a “partial loss to the structure,” the measure is “the amount it would cost the insured to repair, rebuild, or replace the thing lost or injured less a fair and reasonable deduction for physical depreciation” or “the policy limit, whichever is less.” Construed in accord with its plain meaning, this provision, coupled with sections 2070 and 2071, sets a minimum standard of coverage that requires FAIR to indemnify Garnes for the actual cost of the repair to her home, minus depreciation, even if that amount exceeds the home's fair market value. View "California FAIR Plan Association v. Garnes" on Justia Law

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The property was sold at a 1998 foreclosure sale. The Santa Cruz Superior Court ordered that United take possession from Michael Ioane. Michael’s wife, Shelly, filed for bankruptcy. The two filed an adversary proceeding against United, alleging that the foreclosure sale was invalid. The bankruptcy court granted United summary judgment. The Ioanes's subsequent separate federal suit against United, alleging “paramount interest” in the property, was dismissed as “frivolous.” The court imposed the sanction of pre-filing review. The property was deeded to Thompson. The Ioanes filed a quiet title action in Superior Court, which granted Thompson judgment on the pleadings and awarded Thompson costs, but did not purport to quiet title in Thompson’s favor. The court of appeals affirmed. The Ioanes subsequently recorded several documents regarding the property, including purporting to transfer title from the Ioanes children to Tavake. Thompson sued all of the Ioanes, seeking quiet title, cancellation of written instruments, and declaratory relief. Daughter Briana filed a cross-complaint asserting conversion and malicious prosecution; on summary judgment, the court rejected her claims, entered a vexatious litigant prefiling order against Michael and Shelly, quieted title in Thompson, and ordered cancellation of recorded documents. The court of appeal reversed summary judgment and the vexatious litigants order, affirming as to Briana’s cross-complaint. Thompson did not establish his right to title through United. View "Thompson v. Ioane" on Justia Law

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Property owners Carolyn Kutzke and Karen Kapp applied to the City of San Diego (City) for a vesting tentative parcel map and related permits to allow them to subdivide two adjacent lots totaling 1.45 acres (property) into four lots, retain an existing residence on one lot, and build a new residence on each of the remaining lots (project). The local community planning board recommended denial of the project; however, the planning commission approved it and certified a mitigated negative declaration for it. A citizen appealed the planning commission's decision to the City council. The City council granted the appeal and reversed the planning commission's decision, finding the project's mitigated negative declaration was inadequate, particularly as to the project's potential impacts on geology, land use, and public safety; the project was inconsistent with the applicable community plan; and requested deviations from applicable development regulations were inappropriate for the project's location and would not result in a more desirable project. The owners petitioned the Court of Appeal for mandamus relief from the superior court order reversing the City’s decision. The Court of Appeal reversed the superior court, finding substantial evidence to support the City’s findings. View "Kutzke v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Substantively, in three somewhat interconnected claims, Joe and Yvette Hardesty (collectively, Hardesty) attacked State Mining and Geology Board (Board) findings, contending the trial court misunderstood the legal force of his 19th century federal mining patents. He asserted he had a vested right to surface mine after the passage of SMARA without the need to prove he was surface mining on SMARA’s operative date of January 1, 1976. He argued the Board and trial court misapplied the law of nonconforming uses in finding Hardesty had no vested right, and separately misapplied the law in finding that his predecessors abandoned any right to mine. These contentions turned on legal disputes about the SMARA grandfather clause and the force of federal mining patents. Procedurally, Hardesty alleged the Board’s findings did not “bridge the gap” between the raw evidence and the administrative findings. Hardesty also challenged the fairness of the administrative process itself, alleging that purported ex parte communications by the Board’s executive director, Stephen Testa, tainted the proceedings. The Court of Appeal reviewed the facts, and found they undermined Hardesty’s claims: the fact that mines were worked on the property years ago does not necessarily mean any surface or other mining existed when SMARA took effect, such that any right to surface mine was grandfathered. However, the Court agreed with the trial court’s conclusions that, on this record, neither of these procedural claims proved persuasive. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment denying the mandamus petition. View "Hardesty v. State Mining & Geology Board" on Justia Law

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The trial court properly considered evidence showing the development of a gas storage market that relied exclusively on surface acres as the valuation metric. This appeal arose out of a condemnation action in which Fred Southam and Southam & Son (collectively, Southam) sought to introduce evidence of the value of their land for an underground natural gas storage project based on reservoir volume. The trial court’s in limine ruling excluded Southam’s valuation approach based on evidence all independently operated gas storage projects in California compensate landowners based on surface acres contributed to the project. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly considered evidence showing the development of an independently operated gas storage market that relied exclusively on surface acres as the valuation metric. Further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding a volume-based valuation approach based on Southam’s failure to present any evidence this vaulation approach had ever been used in the market for natural gas storage leases. Southam did not establish his entitlement to cross examine an expert before that expert may give a declaration in support of a pretrial motion. The remainder of Southam’s arguments were deemed forfeited for failure to develop the argument, to cite any legal authority, or to provide any citation to the appellate record. View "Central Valley Gas Storage v. Southam" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that the trial court may grant an equitable easement without there being a preexisting use by the landowner seeking the easement. Plaintiff filed suit seeking to establish easements for access to his landlocked parcel of land. In this case, plaintiff pointed to nothing in the record that would compel a trier of fact to find he carried his burden of proving a prescriptive easement; plaintiff did not have an easement appurtenant to the patent; substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that if plaintiff ever had an easement over one of the parcels, it was extinguished by adverse possession; the trial court could reasonably conclude the balance of the hardships did not justify imposition of an easement over the Valiulis parcel; the trial court did not abuse its discretion by not choosing a historical trail as the route for the easement; and the trial court properly exercised its discretion in not awarding plaintiff's costs. Finally, although there is no doubt that the Meltons extinguished any easement over the trail by adverse possession, that does not mean an easement by necessity over the Asquith parcel had been extinguished by adverse possession. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Hinrichs v. Melton" on Justia Law

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Overgrown weeds and rubbish on vacant lots constituted a public nuisance that required abatement despite owner’s assertion that the conditions on his properties, including high growing blackberry bushes, broom plants, other weedy vegetation, abundant trash and illegally dumped material, were not a nuisance, but “natural landscaping” that provided habitat for birds and other wildlife. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court in upholding Crescent City’s findings of nuisance and levy of abatement costs. About 12 dump truck loads and over 1000 pounds of trash were removed from the properties, some of it from homeless encampments. View "Clary v. City of Crescent City" on Justia Law