Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the determination that time of entry into a lot rental agreement does not render the renters dissimilar under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 32L(2), holding that the requirement that renters pay ninety-six dollars per month in additional rent for essentially the same lots was a violation of the statute.Defendants, the new owners of a manufactured home community, charged those who had rented their lots after Defendants purchased the community ninety-six dollars per month more for lot rent than those who had rented their lots before the change in ownership, despite the lots being essentially the same. A group of people brought suit, and a class was certified. A housing court judge determined that Defendants violated section 32L(2). The Supreme Court affirmed but reversed and remanded the case for reconsideration of a different judge's class certification decisions, holding that the judge erred in requiring class members to opt in. The Court further held that the judge who conducted a trial on damages considered improper factors, and therefore, the subclassifications for damages calculations also required reconsideration. View "Blake v. Hometown America Communities, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court responded to a certified question posed by a judge in a federal district court concerning the application of the six-year statute of repose in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 2B to claims regarding alleged defects in the design and construction of the common areas of a multi-building, multi-phase condominium.The Supreme Judicial Court answered (1) regardless of how many phases of the development there may be or how many buildings are within each phase, where a condominium development is comprised of multiple buildings each building constitutes a discrete improvement for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 2B such that the opening of each individual building to its intended use or the substantial completion of the individual building and the taking of possession for occupancy by the owner triggers the statute of repose under section 2B with respect to the common areas and limited common areas of that building; and (2) where a particular improvement is integral to, and intended to serve, multiple buildings the statute of repose begins to run when that discrete improvement is substantially complete and open to its intended use. View "D'Allessandro v. Lennar Hingham Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the land court judge dismissing the Town of Sudbury's complaint seeking to prevent the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) from entering into an option agreement with Eversource Energy for an easement to install an electric transmission line underneath nine miles of a disused right of way (ROW), approximately 4.3 miles of which extend through the town, holding that the Town could not prevail on either of its claims.Here, the Town asked the Supreme Court to extend the common-law doctrine of prior public use and to determine that the doctrine barred the diversion of public land devoted to one public use to an inconsistent private use. The Supreme Judicial Court declined to adopt the Town's proposed reworking of the doctrine, holding that the Land Court judge did not err in dismissing the Town's complaint because (1) Eversource's proposed use of the MBTA ROW to construct and operate underground transmission lines is not a public use; and (2) the Town has not demonstrated that the benefits of expanding the prior public use doctrine to encompass subsequent inconsistent private uses outweigh the value of adhering to this Court's longstanding common-law formulation. View "Town of Sudbury v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Land Court judge ruling that the statutory scheme set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, 52 did not permit assignees of tax title accounts to include their own subsequent tax payments in the amount required for redemption, holding that the judge did not err.In 2011, City took tax title to Owners' property. Owners did not pay their real estate taxes in 2012 through 2015. In 2016, City assigned Appellant its tax title to the property. Appellant initiated proceedings to foreclose Owners' right to redeem the property. Owners exercised their right of redemption. In 2018, Appellant asked the Land Court to find that the redemption amount include the taxes owed to City at the time Appellant was assigned the tax title account, the taxes that Appellant had paid on the property from 2016 through 2018, and statutory interest on the unpaid real estate taxes and the taxes paid by Appellant. The judge concluded that tax payments made by section 52 assignees subsequent to the assignment of the tax title account could not be included in the redemption amount. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that section 52 assignees of tax title accounts may not include their own subsequent tax payments, and interest thereon, in their redemption demands. View "Tallage Lincoln, LLC v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the Land Court dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint challenging a dimensional zoning requirement, holding that Plaintiffs were not persons aggrieved for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 17 and, therefore, lacked standing to challenge the decision of the zoning board of appeals.Plaintiffs' neighbors received a foundation permit to construct a single-family resident on property directly across the street from Plaintiffs' home. After the zoning board of appeals of Sherborn upheld the issuance of the permit Plaintiffs filed this complaint in the Land Court. The Land Court dismissed complaint for lack of standing, concluding that Plaintiffs were not aggrieved by the board's decision within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws 40A, 17. The Appeals Court reversed. The Supreme Judicial Court ordered dismissal of the complaint, holding that the Land Court judge did not err in deciding that Plaintiffs were not aggrieved by the board's decision and therefore lacked standing to pursue the appeal. View "Murchison v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Sherborn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Housing Court ordering Defendant to pay $4,000 in use and occupancy to the Bank during the course of his appeal from a judgment in favor of the Bank in a summary process action, holding that the postforeclosure defendant whose appeal bond is waived may be ordered to pay use and occupancy to the plaintiff.After foreclosing on Defendant's property, the Bank obtained judgment in a summary process action against Defendant. Defendant appealed and moved to waive the appeal bond. The judge waived the bond but ordered Defendant to pay monthly use and occupancy to the Bank while the appeal was pending. The Appeals Court vacated the portion of the order requiring use and occupancy payments. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the bond for a defendant appealing from an adverse judgment in a postforeclosure summary process action may be waived if he is indigent and pursuing nonfrivolous arguments on appeal; (2) the postforeclosure defendant whose bond is waived may be ordered to pay use and occupancy to the plaintiff; and (3) the amount Defendant was ordered to pay as use and occupancy in this case reflected a fair balancing of interests. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. King" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court denying Plaintiffs' complaint for relief in the nature of mandamus and for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice correctly denied relief on all of Plaintiffs' claims.Each plaintiff is or was a defendant in a post-foreclosure summary process action. After an adverse judgment, each plaintiff was required to post an appeal bond or to make periodic use and occupancy payments during the pendency of each plaintiff's summary process appeal. The appellate division affirmed the bond or use and occupancy order in each case. Plaintiffs then collectively filed this complaint for relief in the nature of mandamus and for extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking relief from the bond and use and occupancy orders. The single justice denied all substantive relief sought. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not demonstrate the absence of an adequate and effective alternative remedy. View "Bigelow v. Massachusetts Courts Promulgator of Official Forms" on Justia Law

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In this action where the trial court allowed Defendant's special motion to dismiss, the Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant was entitled to appellate attorney's fees under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 184, 15(c).Plaintiffs and Defendant executed a written offer to purchase certain property. When discussions related to the purchase and sale agreement were unsuccessful Defendant notified Plaintiffs that it could not make the deal work. Plaintiffs commenced this action alleging breach of contract and other claims. Plaintiffs also applied for a memorandum of lis pendens, which was approved. Defendant filed a motion to dissolve the lis pendens and a special motion to dismiss the action. A judge denied the motion to dissolve the lis pendens but allowed the special motion to dismiss. The Appeals Court affirmed the judgment of dismissal but denied Defendant's request for appellate attorney's fees and costs. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part, holding that Defendant was entitled to an award of appellate attorney's fees and costs. View "DeCicco v. 180 Grant Street, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiffs' action seeking compensation for what it alleged was a taking, by the Town of Sturbridge, of certain property, holding that the superior court judge correctly concluded that Plaintiffs did not establish a taking or any right to compensation or damages.Plaintiffs, trustees of a trust, commenced an action against the Town seeking declarations concerning the Town's right to discharge water onto trust property. A judge declared that the Town had obtained a prescriptive easement on the property to discharge storm water through a town culvert onto and across the property. Plaintiffs then brought this action seeking compensation, arguing that the easement amounted to a taking for which it was entitled to compensation. A judge allowed the Town's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs had no basis on which to claim a taking because the Town acquired the right to discharge storm water onto the property via the prescriptive easement. View "Gentili v. Town of Sturbridge" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's putative class action suit alleging that the City of Gardner and its private water supply contractors were negligent and grossly negligent and created a nuisance in knowingly supplying corrosive water to the City's residents, holding that the superior court judge erred in dismissing the complaint for lack of timely presentment.In allowing the City's motion to dismiss the judge concluded that Plaintiff failed to make timely presentment as required by the Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 4. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the dismissal, holding (1) the Act covers all claims brought against a city, even claims arising from the city's sale of water to its residents; and (2) the trial judge erred in dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for lack of timely presentment. View "Magliacane v. City of Gardner" on Justia Law