Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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At issue was whether municipal parkland may be protected by Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution where the land was not taken by eminent domain and where there is no restriction recorded in the registry of deeds that limits its use to conservation or recreational purposes. The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative, provided the land has been dedicated as a public park. Further, a municipality dedicates land as a public park where there is a clear and unequivocal intent to dedicate the land permanently as a public park and where the public accepts such use by actually using the land as a public park. Given this conclusion, the park in this case was dedicated by the city as a public park such that the transfer of its use from a park to a school would require legislative approval under the prior public use doctrine and, thus, under article 97. View "Smith v. City of Westfield" on Justia Law

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Neither the grant in an irrevocable trust of a right of occupancy and use in a primary residence to an applicant nor the retention of a life estate by the applicant in the applicant’s primary residence makes the equity in the home owned by the trust a countable asset for the purpose of determining Medicaid eligibility for long-term care benefits under the Federal Medicaid Act. At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court in these two cases was whether applicants were eligible for long-term care benefits under the Act Act where they created an irrevocable trust and deeded their home - their primary asset - to the trust but retained the right to use and reside in the home for the rest of their life. The Director of the Massachusetts Office of Medicaid (MassHealth) found that the applicants were not eligible for long-term care benefits. The superior court upheld MassHealth’s determinations. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgments in both cases because MassHealth found that the equity in both homes was a “countable” asset whose value exceeded the asset eligibility limitation under the Act. View "Daley v. Secretary of Executive Office of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The decision in Pinti v. Emigrant Mortgage Co. applies in any case where the issue was timely and fairly asserted in the trial court or on appeal before July 17, 2015. In Pinti, the Supreme Judicial Court held that a foreclosure by statutory power of sale is invalid unless the notice of default strictly complies with paragraph 22 of the standard mortgage. The court concluded that this decision should be given prospective effect only but left open the question of whether the holding should be applied to any case pending in the trial court or on appeal. In reaching that question in this case, the court concluded that Defendants timely and fairly raised this issue in the housing court before July 17, 2015. The court affirmed the judge’s ruling declaring the foreclosure sale in this case void because the notice of default did not strictly comply with the requirements in paragraph 22 of the mortgage. View "Federal National Mortgage Ass’n v. Marroquin" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed from the denial of his petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 after the Housing Court entered judgment in Respondent’s favor in a summary process action. Petitioner filed a motion to waive the appeal bond, which was allowed. Respondent appealed. A single justice held a hearing on the matter and remanded the matter to the Housing Court for a determination of the amount of use and occupancy installment payments Petitioner should make to Respondent while his appeal was pending. Petitioner appealed, but a single justice determined that there was no right of appeal under the circumstances. Petitioner then filed a document that the single justice treated as a Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition and denied. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice acted within her discretion in denying the petition under the circumstances. View "Pare v. Harmony House, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2012, the assessor for the city of Attleboro determined that Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette Inc. (Shrine) owed property taxes in the amount of $92,292.98. The Shrine filed an application for abatement, which the city’s board of assessors denied. The Shrine appealed, arguing its property was exempt under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 59, 5, Eleventh (Clause Eleventh), the exemption for “houses of religious worship.” The Appellate Tax Board divided the Shrine’s property into eight distinct portions, determined that the first four portions of the property were exempt under Clause Eleventh, that the fifth portion was only partially exempt, and that the last three were fully taxable. The Shrine appealed these latter four determinations. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the board erred when it found that the Shrine’s welcome center and maintenance building were not exempt under Clause Eleventh; and (2) the former convent that the Shrine leased to a nonprofit organization for use as a safe house for battered women and the wildlife sanctuary that was exclusively managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society in accordance with a conservation easement were not exempt under Clause Eleventh. View "Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette Inc. v. Board of Assessors of Attleboro" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Deutsche Bank, seeking a declaratory judgment that the bank's foreclosure of the mortgage on plaintiff's home was invalid and seeking to quiet title to the property. The superior court granted the bank's motion to dismiss. The court concluded, as did the trial court judge, that a foreclosing mortgagee's failure to comply with G. L. c. 244, § 15A, by failing to send the postforeclosure notices required by the statute, does not render the foreclosure void. In this case, where the provision in question does not set forth preforeclosure requirements that are a part of the foreclosure process, the Bank's failure to comply with section 15A's postforeclosure notice provisions did not render the foreclosure void. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Turra v. Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas" on Justia Law

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In 1971, the City of Quincy, as trustee of the Adams Temple and School Fund (Adams Fund), sought a decree authorizing it to execute a proposed fifty-year lease of a building and parking lot of the Adams Academy that it had negotiated with the Quincy Historical Society (Society). In 1972, a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court decreed that the City was authorized to execute the proposed lease. In 2014, the successor trustee of the Adams Fund (Plaintiff) filed a complaint seeking rescission of the lease and money damages, arguing that the City violated its fiduciary duty to the Woodward School for Girls, Inc., the sole income beneficiary of the Adams Fund, by executing the lease. Defendants, the City and the Society, moved for summary judgment, arguing that they were entitled to judgment under res judicata. The single justice allowed Defendants’ motion. Plaintiff appealed, contending that he should not be precluded by res judicata from obtaining relief because neither he nor the Woodward School was a party to the 1972 equity proceeding. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was precluded by res judicata from prevailing on his challenge to the execution of the lease. View "DeGiacomo v. City of Quincy" on Justia Law

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Defendant owned and managed a nature preserve on Martha’s Vineyard compromised of parcels of land owned by Defendant. In 2010, Defendant created a hiking trail through the preserve that crossed over Plaintiffs’ property via an easement. The trail proceeded across three parcels of Defendant’s land for whose benefit the easement was created and then entered a fourth parcel owned by Defendant that was not intended to benefit from the easement. Plaintiffs filed an action to prevent Defendant from using the easement as part of the hiking trial, arguing that the bright-line rule in Murphy v. Mart Realty of Brockton, Inc. disallows any use of an easement to benefit land to which the easement is not appurtenant. On that basis, a land court judge granted partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. Defendant appealed, arguing that the bright-line rule in Murphy is overly rigid and suggested, instead, that the Court adopt a fact-intensive inquiry considering whether the use of an easement to benefit other parcels would increase unfairly the burden on the easement. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed and thus declined to adopt Defendant’s suggestion, holding that the benefits of preserving the bright-line rule set forth in Murphy outweigh any costs associated with its rigidity. View "Taylor v. Martha's Vineyard Land Bank Comm’n" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was the defendant in a summary process action in the Housing Court. In 1993, the Appeals Court affirmed. In the years since then, Petitioner repeatedly sought to challenge the foreclosure that led to the summary process action, without success. In 2015, Petitioner filed a motion seeking to vacate the Appeals Court’s 1993 decision. The Appeals Court denied relief. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 in the county court. A single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner failed to prosecute her appeal, and therefore, her appeal could be dismissed on this basis alone; and (2) Petitioner’s claims failed on the merits. View "Eresian v. Merrill Lynch Credit Corp." on Justia Law

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Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 148, 26I, the residential sprinkler provision, mandates the installation of automatic sprinklers in certain buildings. Plaintiff, the owner of two vacant apartment buildings that he intended to return to occupancy, argued that the rehabilitation he undertook to the buildings did not trigger the requirement that sprinklers be installed. The City of Holyoke’s fire chief ordered that automatic sprinkler systems be installed in each building. McLaurin then filed these complaints seeking relief in the nature of certiorari and declaratory, arguing that the orders were arbitrary and capricious. A judge of the Housing Court affirmed the chief’s orders. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment affirming the fire chief’s decision, holding that the Housing Court judge was not in a position to ascertain whether the decision was legally erroneous or arbitrary and capricious. Remanded to the fire chief for further proceedings. View "MacLaurin v. City of Holyoke" on Justia Law