Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The church converted a single-family residence in a Markham residential district into its house of worship. For more than 15 years, the congregation gathered at the house for worship services, choir rehearsals, and Bible studies. As the church grew, it remodeled the house,w which brought the church into contact with the city’s administration through permit applications and property inspections. The city denied a conditional use permit and sought a state court injunctions. The church challenged the zoning code under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000cc (RLUIPA), and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The district court ordered the church to apply for variances, which the city granted, along with a conditional use permit. The court then granted the city summary judgment, ruling the church’s claims were not ripe when filed and rendered moot. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district court focused on the church not applying for parking variances before the lawsuit; that issue is related only tangentially to the church’s claims, which concern zoning use classifications. The ripeness of the church’s claims does not hinge on pursuit of parking variances that will not resolve them. Nor can a conditional use permit moot the church’s claim that such a permit is not needed. The key question is whether operating a church on the property is a permitted or conditional use. View "Church of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ v. Markham" on Justia Law

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Websites like Airbnb serve as intermediaries, providing homeowners a forum for advertising short-term rentals of their homes and helping prospective renters find rooms and houses for temporary stays. Chicago’s 2016 Shared Housing Ordinance requires interested hosts to acquire a business license; its standards include geographic eligibility requirements, restrictions on how many units within a larger building can be rented, and a list of buildings where such rentals are prohibited. Approved hosts are subject to health, safety, and reporting requirements, including supplying clean linens and sanitized cooking utensils, disposing of waste and leftover food, and reporting illegal activity known to have occurred within a rented unit. Keep Chicago Livable and six individuals challenged the Ordinance. The Seventh Circuit remanded for a determination of standing, stating that it was not clear that any plaintiff had pleaded or established sufficient injury to confer subject matter jurisdiction to proceed to the merits. The individual owners did not allege with particularity how the Ordinance (and not some other factor) is hampering any of their home-sharing activities; the out-of-town renters did not convey with sufficient clarity whether they still wish to visit Chicago and, if so, how the Ordinance is inhibiting them. All Keep Chicago Livable contends is that the alleged uncertainty around the Ordinance’s constitutionality burdens its education and advocacy mission; it does not allege that it engages in activity regulated by the Ordinance. View "Keep Chicago Livable v. Chicago" on Justia Law

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Ronkowski own 120 acres of undeveloped land in Bayfield County, Wisconsin. Since acquiring the property in 1972, Ronkowski has accessed it via an unpaved road that crosses over neighboring land, including land owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Ronkowski brought suit under the Quiet Title Act seeking recognition of an easement to access their property by way of the unpaved road. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Ronkowski had not established entitlement to an easement. Ronkowski did not make the required showing for an easement by necessity or an easement by implication because the existing forest service road provided them an alternate route by which to reach their property. Ronkowski could not demonstrate that the easement was necessary to access the property; even if traveling by way of forest road would be “inconvenient, difficult or require a high clearance vehicle,” there was no evidence that it is impossible. View "Ronkowski v. United States" on Justia Law

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Waushara County wanted to improve a rural highway. A dispute erupted about who owned land on which DeCoster had erected a fence. State court litigation settled for a $7,900 payment to DeCoster, who then sought more than $110,000 in attorneys’ fees and other expenses. The court of appeals affirmed an award of about $31,000, ruling that any outlay after the $7,900 offer was unreasonable. DeCoster then sued in federal court, seeking an award under 42 U.S.C. 4651–55, the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act, which conditions federal grants for highway projects on states’ providing assurance that they will compensate affected landowners for reasonable attorney, appraisal, and engineering fees. The district court ruled that the Act does not provide a private right of action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, without deciding the merits. DeCoster had to present his claim in the state suit. Wisconsin employs the doctrine of claim preclusion under which all legal theories, pertaining to a single transaction, that could have been presented in the initial suit, are barred if not so presented. It does not matter whether the “transaction” is identified as the (arguable) taking of DeCoster’s land or his litigation expenses; the federal suit rests on a transaction that was before the state court. In addition, both Wis. Stat. 32.28 and the Act call for reimbursement of “reasonable” litigation expenses. Wisconsin’s judiciary determined that an award exceeding $31,561 would be unreasonable. View "DeCoster v. Waushara County Highway Department" on Justia Law

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The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. 2605 (RESPA), requires that a loan servicer, no later than 30 days after receiving a borrower's “qualified written request” for information, take one of three specific actions and provides a private right of action for actual damages resulting from violations. Wis. Stat. 224.77 prohibits mortgage brokers from violating "any federal or state statute.” Terrence purchased his house in 2006 with a Deutsche Bank mortgage, serviced by Wells Fargo. His wife, Dixie, used an inheritance to help buy the house but was never named on the title, mortgage, or promissory note. Despite a forbearance plan and two loan modifications, Terrance defaulted. Deutsche Bank filed a second foreclosure action. In 2012, the Wisconsin court entered a foreclosure judgment. Terrance filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, resulting in an automatic stay. In 2015, the parties entered into a third modification. Terrance again failed to make payments and converted to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, triggering another stay. In 2016 the bankruptcy court entered a discharge. The sheriff’s sale was rescheduled. In August 2016, Terrance sent Wells Fargo a letter, asking 22 wide-ranging questions about his account. Wells Fargo confirmed receipt immediately, indicating that it would respond on September 30. Two days before the RESPA deadline for response, the owners moved to reopen the foreclosure case and obtained another stay. They also filed a federal suit under RESPA and state law. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. Dixie lacked standing. Terrance failed to show that he suffered out-of-pocket expenses as a result of any alleged RESPA violation. View "Moore v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Shellpoint in an action alleging that Shellpoint discriminated against plaintiffs based on race when it prohibited them from assuming the loan of a home that they had purchased. The court held that no reasonable jury could find that Shellpoint discriminated against plaintiffs based on their race where their only evidence was vague and speculative. Furthermore, the requirement that plaintiffs satisfy the outstanding loan payment was consistent with the loan agreement, which conditions assumption on Shellpoint's determination that its security would not be impaired. The court also held that plaintiffs did not point to evidence countering the Shellpoint representative's statement that they never produced a complete application. View "Sims v. New Penn Financial LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2006, plaintiffs purchased a 400-acre Barrington horse farm with Amcore financing. In 2009, Amcore filed for foreclosure in Illinois state court. Amcore failed and the FDIC became its receiver. BMO bought Amcore’s loan assets at a discount from the FDIC and took over the foreclosure action. To cut its losses on the loan, BMO assigned the note to the Forest Preserve for $14 million. The Forest Preserve made the (winning) credit bid of about $14.5 million at the foreclosure sale. The foreclosure court entered a deficiency judgment of $6 million. The Illinois Appellate Court later reversed the foreclosure judgments. There is apparently no current judgment in that action. The original owners have filed five lawsuits, in addition to raising affirmative defenses and counterclaims in the foreclosure action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their suit that alleged unconstitutional takings, fraud, and derivative claims for conspiracy and aiding and abetting. The court rejected arguments that the Forest Preserve violated the takings clause by passing an ordinance converting the estate into a forest preserve; by buying the mortgage and taking over the foreclosure action; and by physically entering the estate and installing Forest Preserve signs at the estate entrances. Derivative conspiracy and aiding-and-abetting claims fall with the three theories. View "Squires-Cannon v. Forest Preserve District of Cook County" on Justia Law

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In 2006 Conway contracted to sell land in Broadview to Donahue, who assigned the contract to Chicago Joe’s Tea Room, LLC. Chicago Joe’s sole manager applied for the required special-use permit. Broadview denied the application in 2007. The land sale contract never closed and the planned strip club never opened. The LLC and Conway filed suit in 2007 alleging that Broadview violated the First Amendment. Broadview amended its ordinances multiple times during the lawsuit. One amendment led District Judge Gottschall, to conclude that Broadview’s amendment to its adult-use setback ordinance was “aimed solely at Chicago Joe’s.” After the case was transferred to Judge Lee, the parties litigated renewed summary judgment motions. Judge Lee granted Broadview summary judgment on Chicago Joe’s declaratory judgment and injunction claims, but denied summary judgment on the damages claim. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the claim for injunctive relief that established interlocutory appellate jurisdiction is actually moot, and affirmed its dismissal. At every stage of the process, Chicago Joe’s has proposed a use of property prohibited by then-current local law, so it has no vested rights. Since 2007, Chicago Joe’s has proposed to use the property in a way prohibited by Illinois statute, without challenging that statute. View "Chicago Joe's Tea Room, LLC v. Village of Broadview" on Justia Law

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In 1995, Orchard purchased the Warmke Parcel, 13 acres of wetlands, for residential development. Orchard requested a determination from the Army Corps of Engineers that the wetlands were not jurisdictional “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251(a). Before 2015, the Corps defined waters of the United States to include waters “subject to the ebb and flow of the tide,” “rivers” that could be used for interstate recreation or commerce, “tributaries” of such waters, and “wetlands adjacent to” other waters of the United States, including tributaries. The Warmke wetlands are surrounded by residential development. The closest navigable water, Little Calumet River, is 11 miles away. In between the Warmke wetlands and Little Calumet River are man‐made ditches, sewer pipes, and Midlothian Creek—a tributary of the Little Calumet River. The Warmke wetlands drain, via sewer pipes, to Midlothian Creek. While the Warmke issue was pending, the Supreme Court decided that a wetland’s adjacency to a tributary of a navigable‐in‐fact water is alone insufficient to make the wetland a water of the United States, “the Corps’ jurisdiction over [such] wetlands depends upon the existence of a significant nexus between the wetlands in question and navigable waters in the traditional sense.” The Seventh Circuit reversed the Corps’ claim of jurisdiction, finding that the Corps has not provided substantial evidence of a significant nexus to navigable‐in‐fact waters. View "Orchard Hill Building Co. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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Geraci owns and lives in a unit at Union Square. After an incident in a Union Square’s elevator, involving another individual and several dogs, Geraci sought psychological treatment and was diagnosed with post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Geraci’s accommodation request was denied by Union Square. Geraci sued, alleging failure to accommodate her handicap and retaliation by the association, citing the Fair Housing Act (FHA, 42 U.S.C. 3617), because Union Square’s Board published litigation updates and held an open forum to update owners about the status of the lawsuit. Over Geraci’s objection, Union Square presented testimony of the psychiatrist who had previously conducted a court-ordered FRCP 35 examination; the testimony contradicted the diagnosis of Geraci’s treating psychologist, diagnosing her with three separate mental conditions, none of which were PTSD. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Union Square. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Geraci fails to point to any conduct that a person of normal fortitude would view as coercive, intimidating, threatening, or interfering with the exercise of her protected right under the FHA and the court did not abuse its discretion in allowing testimony by the psychiatrist. View "Geraci v. Union Square Condominium Association" on Justia Law