Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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Timothy and Belva Thorpe bought an Illinois house as joint tenants in 1987. They lived in that home until after Belva filed for divorce in October 2012. Timothy filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2013. A month later, an Illinois divorce court awarded Belva the marital home. At the moment Belva filed for divorce, section 503(e) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act granted Timothy and Belva contingent rights in the entire house. The bankruptcy estate acquired Timothy’s half-interest in the marital home at the moment he declared bankruptcy. The district court held that Timothy’s estate took his half-interest subject to Belva’s contingency so that the divorce court’s award divested the estate of any right to the house. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the trustee’s argument based on the second sentence of section 503(e), which provides that contingent interests in marital property “shall not encumber that property so as to restrict its transfer, assignment or conveyance.” The plain statutory text demonstrates that the bankruptcy estate took Timothy’s half-interest in the marital home subject to Belva’s contingent interest. View "Reinbold v. Thorpe" on Justia Law

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A “pickle line” processes hot rolled steel coil through acid tanks to remove impurities. In 2006, Toll purchased a used pickle line, in need of repair. Kastalon had previously serviced the machine. In 2008, Kastalon agreed to move and store the machine, at no cost, until Toll could order reconditioning. Both parties believed that Toll would move the equipment within months; they did not discuss a specific timeframe. For two years, Kastalon stored the equipment indoors. Toll negotiated with various companies, to run or sell the equipment, but was not in communication with Kastalon. Kastalon eventually greased and wrapped the equipment before moving it to outside storage under tarps. Toll employees with whom Kastalon had communicated were laid off. Kastalon thought that Toll had gone out of business and that the equipment had been abandoned. Kastalon had the equipment scrapped, without inspecting it, and received $6,380.80. In June 2011, Toll requested a price for reconditioning and learned that they had been scrapped. Toll obtained quotes for replacement: the lowest was about $416,655. Toll sued. The Seventh Circuit reversed, in part, summary judgment entered in favor of Kastalon. A reasonable jury could conclude that Toll’s prolonged silence, alone, did not constitute unambiguous evidence of intent to abandon. The court did not consider whether Kastalon had an extra-contractual duty not to dispose of the equipment or Kastalon’s evidence that the loss was not due to Kastalon’s failure to exercise reasonable care. Affirming rejection of a contract claim, the court stated the parties’ oral agreement was not sufficiently definite as to duration. View "Toll Processing Services, LLC v. Kastalon, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) are federally-chartered, privately-owned corporations, created by Congress to bolster the housing market. In 2008, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) was appointed as conservator for both. Both purchase mortgages from third-party lenders, bundle them and sell mortgage-backed securities. When a borrower defaults, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac forecloses and takes title to the property securing the loan, for sale to a private buyer. In 2013-2014, the buyers purchased Chicago property from Fannie Mae. Chicago imposes a Real Property Transfer Tax on the purchaser. The supplemental “CTA portion” of the transfer tax is paid by the transferor, unless the transferor is legally exempt, in which case the transferee is held responsible. The Illinois Department of Finance ruled that each buyer was liable for the tax. The district court held that the tax was preempted by the federal exemption statutes. The Seventh Circuit reversed. In 2013, the Seventh Circuit held that state and local taxing authorities could not charge Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or FHFA with transfer taxes because such taxes are preempted by federal laws exempting these entities from all taxation, but that reasoning does not apply when the tax is imposed on the purchaser. View "Federal National Mortgage Association v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which implements the Fair Housing Act, offers insurance to mortgage lenders to decrease the risk borne by private industry and encourage lending. HUD maintains the viability of this scheme by prohibiting individuals with criminal records from owning or being employed by, a mortgage company. The government sued Luce under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729, and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act, 12 U.S.C. 1833a, alleging that Luce falsely asserted that he had no criminal history so that his company could participate in the FHA’s insurance program. The district court granted the government summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed. While rejecting arguments that the certifications were not material and that lingering issues of material fact precluded summary judgment, the court concluded that the Supreme Court’s 2016 “Escobar” decision required reconsideration of the traditional “but-for” FCA causation standard. Proximate cause is the appropriate test. Whether, under the proximate cause standard, the government can establish that Luce’s falsehood was the proximate cause of its harm, was not adequately addressed. View "United States v. Luce" on Justia Law

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Chessie is a railroad authorized to operate one mile of track in Melrose Park, Illinois. It has apparently been many years since trains have run on that track. Krinos owns and operates an adjacent industrial facility. A spur and side track run over Krinos’s property; Chessie says it has easements to use those tracks. Chessie alleges that Krinos constructed a sewer line and did drainage work, burying parts of its tracks and creating a slope directing runoff that damaged other parts. After Chessie notified Krinos, Krinos removed the dirt from one track and did additional damage. Chessie filed suit, alleging trespass, negligence, and violation of 49 U.S.C. 10903. Section 10903 requires rail carriers to receive permission from the Surface Transportation Board before abandoning parts of their lines. Krinos counterclaimed, alleging that Chessie did not have easements to use the spur and side tracks and seeking a declaratory judgment, quiet title, and ejectment. The district court agreed that section 10903 did not create a private right of action and granted Krinos summary judgment. Chessie did not show that it had easements over Krinos’s property, and an independent contractor, not Krinos, caused the alleged intrusion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Section 10903 does not create an implied right of action. Chessie was not entitled to change its negligence theory after discovery. View "Chessie Logistics Co., LLC v. Krinos Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff owned and lived on a 400-acre estate and horse farm in Barrington Hills, Illinois, leasing the horse farm, “Horizon Farms,” to their company, Royalty Farms, LLC, which managed the farm’s operations. Their mortgage was foreclosed in 2013. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County bought the property at the foreclosure sale. Royalty Farms was not a party to the foreclosure proceeding, but the court entered a Dispossession Order, directing Plaintiff to vacate the property. The Forest Preserve District apparently tolerated the continued presence of several horses while plaintiff continued visiting the property daily to care for them. After nine months Plaintiff was arrested and prosecuted for criminal trespass. She was acquitted because the judge could not conclusively determine that she had been told not to enter the property. A year later she filed suit, claiming false arrest and malicious prosecution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Regardless of whether Plaintiff entered the property as an employee of Royalty Farms, there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for criminal trespass; she acknowledged receiving an emailed warning and defying it and she was aware of the court order. View "Squires-Cannon v. Forest Preserve District of Cook County" on Justia Law

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The Sisters own Blue Island buildings: a convent, a church, and a boarding school that closed long ago. The buildings were used as a public high school until 2009. Affordable wanted to use the buildings as a recovery home, providing lodging, meals, job training, religious outreach, and other services to adult men fighting drug or alcohol addiction. The Sisters agreed; the few remaining nuns would continue to occupy the convent and the Sisters would obtain rental income. Occupancy would prevent vandalism. With the mayor’s approval, Affordable moved 14 staff members into the buildings. The city required installation of a sprinkler system in the sleeping rooms. Affordable had already moved in 73 men without the required special‐use permit. Affordable filed suit. The court denied a preliminary injunction. The residents vacated. Four subsequently suffered fatal overdoses. Affordable obtained a recovery house license from the Illinois Department of Human Services, which does not require sprinklers in buildings fewer than four stories high. The court granted Affordable partial summary judgment on preemption grounds but rejected claims under the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would have been entitled Affordable to damages and attorneys’ fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Affordable did not argue that the sprinkler requirement would have substantially burdened its religious exercise even if it had complied. Affordable was not excluded from Blue Island or even required to install a sprinkler system. View "Affordable Recovery Housing v. City of Blue Island" on Justia 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