Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The property owners, participants in the “Section 8” federal rental assistance program (42 U.S.C. 1437f(a)), sued the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority for allegedly breaching the contracts that governed payments to the owners under the program, by failing to approve automatic rent increases for certain years, by requiring the owners to submit comparability studies in order to receive increases, and by arbitrarily reducing the increases for non-turnover units by one percent. Because Wisconsin Housing receives all of its Section 8 funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Authority filed a third-party breach of contract claim against HUD. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Wisconsin Housing and dismissed the claims against HUD as moot. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the owners’ Section 8 contracts were renewed after the challenged requirements became part of the program. “The doctrine of disproportionate forfeiture simply does not apply,” and Wisconsin Housing did not breach any contracts by requiring rent comparability studies in certain circumstances or by applying a one percent reduction for non-turnover units. View "Evergreen Square of Cudahy v. Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority" on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases, the debtors obtained Federal Housing Administration-insured residential mortgage loans and subsequently defaulted due to financial hardship. The law firms represented the loan servicing agents in filing Illinois foreclosure complaints, using the statutory complaint template (Illinois’ Mortgage Foreclosure Law, 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/15-1504(a)), which includes the language: “Names of defendants claimed to be personally liable for deficiency, if any[,]” and, “[a] personal judgment for a deficiency, if sought.” The firms included both allegations, and identified debtors to be personally liable for any deficiency. The debtors filed suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, alleging that the FHA does not authorize deficiency judgments where borrowers suffered a financial hardship. They submitted a letter from the FHA responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, stating: There have been zero foreclosed FHA loans in Illinois in which the pursuit of a deficiency judgment was authorized. FHA is not currently pursuing deficiency judgments.” The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Debtors did not identify any law, regulation, or FHA policy requiring a mortgagee to obtain authorization from the FHA prior to including the two allegations at issue in their state-foreclosure complaint. View "Zuniga v. Pierce & Associates" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs’ Indianapolis home had a mortgage serviced by J.P. Morgan Chase. In 2011 plaintiffs accused Chase of paying the wrong homeowner’s insurer using $1,422 from their escrow account. They had switched insurers without telling Chase. When Chase learned of the change, it promptly paid the new insurer and informed plaintiffs that their old insurer would send a refund. Chase told them to forward the refund to replenish the depleted escrow. When the refund came, plaintiffs kept the money. Chase adjusted their mortgage payment to make up the shortfall. When plaintiffs refused to pay the higher amount, the mortgage went into default. Instead of curing, they requested information under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2601–2617, which requires the bank to correct account errors and disclose account information. They demanded that Chase reimburse their escrow. Chase sent a complete account history. Plaintiffs divorced, ending their 25-year marriage. They sued Chase, claiming that its response was inadequate under RESPA and caused more than $300,000 in damages—including the loss of their marriage— and claiming breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Chase. Chase’s response complied with its RESPA duties. To the extent that any requested information was missing, plaintiffs suffered no actual damages. Nor did Chase breach the duty of good faith and fair dealing, assuming that Indiana would recognize the implied covenant in this context. View "Perron v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Mrs. Edelson filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. She and her husband, who did not join her petition or file his own, held their Chicago home as “tenants by the entirety,” until seven months before the petition, when they conveyed it to the husband’s living trust. The conveyance states that “the beneficial interest” in the trust is held by the Edelsons, “husband and wife, as tenant[s] by the entirety.” The bankruptcy petition named Loventhal, Mrs. Edelson’s former husband, as an unsecured creditor for $92,000. Mrs. Edelson proposed a payment plan that would give Loventhal $16,000 over five years and designated the residence as exempt. Loventhal argued that the transfer to the husband’s trust eliminated the tenancy by the entirety. The bankruptcy judge, district court, and Seventh Circuit rejected his argument, citing 11 U.S.C. 522(b)(3)(B): “any interest in property in which the debtor had, immediately before the commencement of the case, an interest as a tenant by the entirety” is exempted “to the extent that such interest … is exempt from process under applicable nonbankruptcy law,” and Illinois law, which exempts tenancies by the entirety from process to satisfy judgment “against only one of the tenants.” While the trust instrument includes provisions inconsistent with tenancy by the entirety, the Joint Tenancy Act forbids any construction that would sever the tenancy by the entirety. View "Loventhal v. Edelson" on Justia Law

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In 2007, the Diedrichs executed a mortgage note. Ocwen began foreclosure proceedings in 2010. The Diedrichs entered into a loan modification agreement in 2011. After the Diedrichs began making payments pursuant to that agreement, they became concerned about whether their escrow account was being correctly administered and whether they were being charged improper fees. On February 22, 2013, the Diedrichs sent Ocwen a letter, requesting standard information about their account including the names of employees working on their account, the history of payments from their escrow account, and a statement of interest rates, as permitted by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2605(e)(1)(B). On March 7, Ocwen responded with a form letter, setting forth Ocwen policies regarding information requests; another later, dated March 30, stated that Ocwen would take another 15 days, as permitted by RESPA, to review the inquiry. On April 22, Ocwen sent a letter stating that it could not identify a problem with the account and asking the Diedrichs to identify which month and report they disputed, explain the dispute, and send evidence. The Diedrichs sued, alleging violations of RESPA. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Ocwen’s responses were insufficient and violated RESPA, but that the allegations of damages were “conclusory and vague.” View "Diedrich v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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For 60 years, a butcher shop operated on property in Black Earth that is zoned for commercial use, as a legal nonconforming use. In 2001, BEM purchased the property. After 2009, the volume and frequency of slaughter increased. By 2011, neighbors were complaining about increased traffic, trucks blocking the road, livestock noise, foul odors, improper storage of animal parts, and the presence of offal, blood, and animal waste in the streets. Steers escaped from the facility three times and had to be shot dead on Village streets. In 2013, the Village held several public meetings, and, because citations had no effect on BEM’s behavior, ordered BEM to propose an acceptable plan for relocating its slaughter activities. BEM did not relocate. After several delays, the Village threatened litigation. As a result of that threat, the USDA refused to guarantee a bank loan to BEM. BEM lost its financing, closed, and sued the Village and board members. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Even if the threat of litigation could, itself, constitute a due process violation and were a sufficiently direct cause of BEM’s alleged deprivations, there is no evidence that the process accorded to BEM was inadequate. Procedural due process generally requires only “notice and an opportunity to be heard.” View "Black Earth Meat Mkt., LLC v. Village of Black Earth" on Justia Law

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A 49-count indictment charged 51 Outlaws Motorcycle Club members with racketeering, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, extortion, running an illegal gambling business, witness tampering, and firearms offenses; 19 were charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute. The indictment included a forfeiture notice. The FBI executed search warrants on Indiana clubhouses and residences and seized items bearing the Outlaws insignia. The FBI sought forfeiture of patches, shirts, hats, belt buckles, signs, mirrors, flags, calendars, and pictures, which were use to deter other groups from infringing on Outlaw territory. In plea agreements, 18 Outlaws agreed to forfeiture. The court received Carlson’s letter, which it interpreted as a motion to intervene under 18 U.S.C. 1963(l)(2). Carlson asserted that he was entitled to direct notice, having been elected by the collective membership to manage Outlaws' indicia and memorabilia, which were owned by the collective membership, not by individuals. The government had provided notice to each defendant and had posted notice on the of government forfeiture website. The district court denied Carlson’s motions, finding that Carlson had not shown that the government was aware of Carlson or his alleged interest, nor demonstrated a property interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing Indiana law: “[o]wnership cannot be conferred by a wave of a magic semantic wand.” The asserted collective ownership mechanism was “designed solely ‘to insulate from forfeiture.” View "United States v. Bowser" on Justia Law

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In order to receive federal housing funds (42 U.S.C. 2000d; the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601; and “42 U.S.C. 608(e)(5), 5304(b)(2), and 12705(b)(15)), the City of Chicago must certify that it is in compliance with federal requirements related to reducing the city’s admitted racial segregation. Hanna filed a qui tam suit, alleging that the city violated the False Claims Act because its policies, particularly “aldermanic privilege” and strategic zoning of relatively wealthy neighborhoods, have actually increased segregation, making its certifications false. Under “aldermanic privilege,” the City grants each alderman the “full authority to determine whether and where affordable, multifamily rental housing will be built and renovated in the ward.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Hanna did not allege the circumstances of the purported fraud with sufficient particularity to satisfy Federal Rule of Procedure 9(b). Hanna apparently had no insider information. He did not allege the “time, place, … and the method by which the misrepresentation was communicated” to him. Hanna’s complaint gave no information about which regulatory provisions Hanna thinks the city violated; it does not draw a link between the statutes Hanna cited and any particular alleged false certification. View "Hanna v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the Zoretics rented a Castilian Court condominium. Their landlord stopped paying condominium assessments and lost possession to Castilian in 2008. Castilian obtained an eviction order. The Cook County Sheriff evicted the family in January 2009. Later that day, Castilian’s agent allowed them to reenter the unit, agreeing they would sign a new lease. Zoretic never signed the lease or paid rent. After receiving no response to two letters, Castilian’s lawyers obtained a new date stamp (April 2009) from the Clerk on the September 2008 order and placed the order with the Sheriff. On June 5, deputies knocked, announced their presence, got no answer, opened the door, and entered the unit with guns drawn. They found Zoretic, put down their weapons, conducted a protective sweep, and escorted Zoretic out of the unit. Days later, Zoretic sued and was awarded possession until Castilian obtained a lawful eviction order. The family returned, continued not paying rent, and were evicted in March 2012. Zoretic sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed as to Fourth Amendment claims against the deputies, but affirmed as to claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress against the owners. Zoretic failed to create a material factual dispute about whether the owners were extreme and outrageous in pursuing eviction. View "Zoretic v. Darge" on Justia Law

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Pike County's Sny Island Levee Drainage District was organized in 1880 to protect from Mississippi River flooding and runoff. The Kansas City Southern and the Norfolk Southern operate main line railways over the District's flood plain. Illinois law permits the District to assess properties within its territory in order to maintain the levees. A new method, ​adopted in 2009, purported to calculate assessments based on the benefits the District conferred on each property, rather than based on acreage. After the Seventh Circuit enjoined use of the methodology, the District discontinued collecting annual assessments and implemented a one-time additional assessment, 70 ILCS 605/5. The District filed an assessment roll based on new benefit calculations, identifying the tax on KC as $91,084.59 and on Norfolk as $102,976.18, if paid in one installment..The Railroads again filed suit, alleging that the District used a formula that discriminated against them in violation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act, 49 U.S.C. 11501. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of the District. The court rejected an argument that the comparison class against which their assessment should be measured is all other District properties, instead of the narrower class of commercial and industrial properties used by the district court. There was no clear error in the court’s assessment of a “battle of the experts.” View "Kansas City S. Ry. v. Sny Island Levee Drainage Dist" on Justia Law