Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the district court to quiet title in certain property to Zinvest, LLC, holding that the Department of Revenue’s defective property tax assessment voided the tax lien sale that resulted in Zinvest acquiring the Gallatin County’s interest. Gunnersfield Enterprises Inc. purchased five condominium units and an adjoining vacant lot in 2008. The deed was properly recorded, and a realty transfer certificate was submitted to the Department of Revenue, but the Department did not correctly update its ownership records for the vacant lot. While Gunnersfield paid the tax assessments for the condominium units yearly, the County Treasurer continued to send the tax bills for the vacant lot to the previous owner. The Treasurer eventually sold the lot for delinquent taxes and assigned its tax lien interest in the property to Zinvest. After Zinvest acquired a tax deed on the property Gunnersfield objected. The district court granted summary judgment for Zinvest and issued a final judgment quieting title to Zinvest. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of judgment quieting title in Gunnersfield, holding that the tax assessment on the vacant lot was void, and therefore, the subsequent tax lien sale and issuance of a tax deed were also void. View "Zinvest v. Gunnersfield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the water court that largely adopted the water master’s report dividing the four water rights for irrigation from Nevada Creek between James and Linda Quigley and Richard Beck based on a ratio of the irrigated acres owned by each party. The court held (1) the water court did not err in its interpretation of the 1909 Geary v. Raymond decree as decreeing water rights for irrigation to all of Finn Ranch, which was since divided into adjoining ranches owned by the Quigley and Beck; and (2) the water court did not err in applying the clear error standard to the water master’s findings of fact. View "Quigley v. Beck" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the portion of Plaintiffs’ motion motion for partial summary judgment seeking an order compelling Defendants to immediately remove trespassing encroachments on Plaintiffs’ property an to restore the property to its prior condition subject to Plaintiffs’ right to do so at Defendants’ expense if they failed to timely act. The court further affirmed the district court’s underlying grant of summary judgment declaring Defendants’ shop building and underground septic system to be trespassing encroachments on Plaintiffs’ property. Specifically, the court held that, at this stage in the proceedings, the district court’s interlocutory denial of preliminary or final mandatory injunctive relief was neither irreconcilable with its summary judgment declaring a trespass nor a manifest abuse of discretion. View "Davis v. Westphal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Water Compact, holding that Mont. Const. art. II, section 18 did not require the Montana Legislature to approve the Compact or its administrative provisions. The Compact, negotiated between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, provided a unified system for the administration of water rights and the resolution of disputes on the reservation. The Compact was approved by the Montana Legislature in 2015. The Flathead Board of Joint Control brought suit against the State seeking to invalidate the Compact. The district court ruled (1) the challenged section of the Compact did not contravene Article II, Section 18 because it did not enact any new immunities from suit; but (2) the challenged section of the administrative provision provided new immunity to the State and, therefore, was covered by Article II, Section 18, and because the provision did not pass by a two-thirds majority of each house, it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) none of the Compact’s provisions grant any state governmental agency new immunities from a potential lawsuit; and (2) the Legislature’s majority vote to approve and adopt the contract was consistent with subject provisions of the Montana Constitution. View "Flathead Joint Board of Control v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting HSBC Bank USA’s two motions for summary judgment and motion to exclude Richard Anderson’s expert in this judicial foreclosure action against Anderson and Limegrove Overseas, Ltd. Specifically, the court held that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in excluding Anderson’s expert witness; (2) did not err when it concluded that Montana law governs HSBC’s underlying foreclosure and that New York law governs any defenses and counterclaims; (3) did not err in granting HSBC summary judgment to foreclose; and (4) did not err in granting HSBC summary judgment on Anderson’s counterclaims. View "HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Water Court’s order regarding Danreuther Ranches Water Right Claims. Specifically, the court held (1) the Water Court did not err in its orders regarding Danreuther Claim Nos. 41O 156802-00, a right to water stock directly from the Teton River; 41O 156804-00, which represents a claim to the right to divert water from the Teton River for irrigation; and 41O 156805-00, a right to irrigate on certain property north of the Teton River; but (2) the Water Court erred in its orders regarding Danreuther Claim No. 41O 156804-00, the right to irrigate from the Teton River based on certain appropriations. View "Danreuther Ranches v. Farmers Cooperative Canal Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the water court’s denial of Scott Ranch LLC’s petition for adjudication of existing water rights appurtenant to Indian allotment lands it acquired that were previously held in trust by the United States for the benefit of a member of the Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe. After that member died and the lands were converted to fee status, Scott Ranch filed its petition. In denying the petition, the water court ruled that the lands were part of the Tribal Water Right established by the Crow Water Rights Compact and did not require a separate adjudication. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the water court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate Scott Ranch’s claims and erroneously proceeded to address the merits of the petition. View "Scott Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court ruling that while Herman Fox had existing and historical ditch and water rights across Billings Hotel & Convention Center’s (BHCC) property, as well as an established secondary easement, BHCC was not unreasonably infringing on Fox’s easement rights. The court held that the district court (1) did not err when it determined that BHCC did not unreasonably interfere with Fox’s secondary ditch easement by planting and maintaining trees and shrubs along the ditch; (2) did not err by imposing a duty on BHCC to clean and maintain the ditch located on its property; and (3) did not err by awarding BHCC reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. View "Fox v. BHCC II, Inc." on Justia Law

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Todd Carlson, who began construction on a detached garage on his property in a subdivision without first obtaining a zoning compliance permit, requested a variance from the Yellowstone County Board of Adjustment. The board denied the variance request, noting that Carlson had not done his due diligence and had carelessly disregarded zoning regulations. The district court upheld the Board’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly declined to second-guess the Board’s discretionary determinations and did not abuse its discretion in affirming the Board’s denial of Carlson’s variance request. View "Carlson v. Yellowstone County Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the partial summary judgment entered by the district court in favor of Defendant in this boundary dispute involving three adjacent properties. Plaintiffs initiated this action for declaratory judgment and quiet title against Defendant. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiffs’ claims, directed that a decree of quiet title be entered, and certified the order as final. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment, and therefore, Defendant was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Sacrison v. Evjene" on Justia Law