Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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This dispute involved two water rights claims filed by the City of Helena for the waters of Tenmile Creek, which passes through Rimini. Andy Skinner owned junior water rights on Tenmile Creek. Both Skinner and the Community of Rimini objected to Helena’s water right claims. On remand, the water judge adopted the Water Master’s finding that the City had abandoned 7.35 cubic feet per second (cfs) of its water rights claims but that the City did not intend to abandon the 7.35 cfs. The water court also found that the City abandoned 0.60 cfs in the Rimini Pipeline. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Mont. Code Ann. 85-2-227(4), as applied to the City’s water rights claim, is not impermissibly retroactive; (2) the water court did not err in reinstating 7.35 cfs of Helena’s Tenmile Creek water rights; (3) the water court erred in determining that the City had abandoned 0.60 cfs of its Tenmile Creek water rights; and (4) the water court did not err in imposing specific place of use restrictions on Helena’s decreed Tenmile Creek water rights. View "City of Helena v. Community of Rimini" on Justia Law

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Landowners appealed from an order of the district court granting summary judgment to the City of Lewistown and allowing the City to annex portion of the Landowners’ properties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) concluding that the City followed the statutory annexation requirements of Title 7, chapter 2, part 43, Mont. Code Ann.; (2) concluding that the City had correctly determined that there were less than a majority of valid protests; (3) concluding that the Landowners were not denied equal protection of the law by the City’s decision of what properties to annex; and (4) concluding that the Landowners lacked standing to enforce a contract between the City and a subdivision developer. View "St. John v. Lewistown" on Justia Law

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The Montana Supreme Court reversed the district court's order of a refund to Mountain Water and assessment of property taxes against the City of Missoula. The court held that section 70-30-315, MCA, selects a different date for purposes of designating the person who shall be assessed the property taxes in condemnation situations, requiring the condemnor to be assessed earlier in time than the general tax statutes would normally require, thus effectuating a unique proration of taxes as between condemnation parties. The statute simply established a tax proration date that is more favorable to condemnees than under general law, and provided no additional or alternate process to accompany this simple adjustment. In this case, Mountain Water retains responsibility for actual payment of the property taxes for the period it possesses the property, until the taking occurs. View "Mountain Water v. Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Martha Guthrie, Richard Guthrie, and Richard Guthrie, as custodian for Taylor Guthrie (collectively, Guthrie), took out a loan for the purchase of real property. Capital One eventually took over as successor to the mortgage. In 2010, Capital initiated a foreclosure action against Guthrie. Capital moved for summary judgment seeking the right to foreclose on the property. Ultimately, the trial judge granted Capital’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that Guthrie had failed to put any material fact in dispute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the retired district court judge had jurisdiction over the proceedings; (2) the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment to Capital One on the equitable estoppel claim; and (3) the district court properly relied on an affidavit when it granted Capital One’s summary judgment motion. View "Capital One, NA v. Guthrie" on Justia Law

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After securing two loans with deeds of trust on the same property, Appellants paid off the smaller loan. A title agent filed a deed of reconveyance containing a scrivener’s error that mistakenly released Appellants’ interest in their property from the larger lien. Although the error was later corrected, Appellants argued that U.S. Bank, the beneficiary to the larger loan, did not have a valid, perfected lien prior to commencement of Appellants’ Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. The district court granted U.S. Bank’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the lien at issue survived Appellants’ bankruptcy proceedings because the lien was unaffected by the scrivener’s error contained within the deed of reconveyance. View "Reeves v. US Bank National Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Property Owners in this case collectively owned numerous properties on or near Whitefish Lake in the Houston Lakeshore Area. The City of Whitefish had annexed several tracts and a section of road in the Houston Lakeshore Area. In 2005, the City passed a resolution annexing Whitefish Lake to its low water mark. In 2014, the City passed a resolution acknowledging the City’s decision to advance the Houston Lakeshore Area to the first priority area for annexation. Property Owners filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that the City has no statutory authority combine separate tracts for purposes of annexation and that the Houston Lakeshore Area is not “wholly surrounded” by the City for purposes of annexation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a city may annex multiple tracts or parcels under Montana Code Annotated Title 7, chapter 2, part 45; and (2) the district court correctly determined that the Houston Lakeshore Area was wholly surrounded for purposes of annexation. View "Houston Lakeshore Tract Owners v. City of Whitefish" on Justia Law

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After the loan secured by Susan Alexander’s property went into default, Bank of America, N.A. (BANA) initiated foreclosure proceedings. The property was sold to BANA after a trustee’s sale. When Alexander refused BANA’s demand to vacate the property BANA filed a complaint for unlawful detainer against Alexander. Alexander asserted counterclaims for breach of contract, breach of an oral agreement, and frivolous litigation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of BANA, concluding that the foreclosure sale was valid and that Alexander was unlawfully holding possession of the property. The court also concluded that Alexander’s counterclaims were either barred by the statute of limitations or statute of frauds and that there was a lack of supporting evidence for her claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) BANA was entitled to summary judgment and a writ of assistance based on unlawful detainer; (2) Alexander failed to state a claim of fraud; (3) Alexander’s claims of breach of written or oral contract and breach of oral agreement were barred by the statute of limitations and statute of frauds; and (4) Alexander did not properly allege or offer supporting evidence for her claim of unjust enrichment. View "Bank of America, N.A. v. Alexander" on Justia Law

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Sheri Lee hired Morgan Pierce, PLLP to represent her in a bankruptcy proceeding. Morgan Pierce subsequently filed notice of an attorney’s lien against five pieces of Lee’s real property for legal services rendered. Joseph Mulroy and Lee then entered into an agreement for two of the pieces of property against which Morgan Pierce’s lien was recorded. Thereafter, Mulroy filed a petition for interpleader and declaratory relief asking the district court to determine the validity of Morgan Pierce’s attorney’s lien. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Mulroy and awarded his costs and fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in holding that the agreement entered into between Morgan Pierce and Lee did not create a lien by consent. View "Mulroy v. Morgan Pierce, PLLP" on Justia Law

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In Montana’s ongoing water rights claims adjudication proceedings, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) filed six water right claims related to one natural pothole and five reservoirs. The water sources were located wholly or partially on federal land. The BLM claimed the right to use each source for stock watering by its grazing permittees and for wildlife. Certain objectors (Objectors) raised objections to each claim, arguing that the BLM did not perfect any water rights. The Water Master recommended summary judgment in favor of the BLM on each claim. The Water Court granted partial summary judgment to the BLM and remanded a portion of the pothole claim to the Master for further proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Water Court correctly found that the BLM properly perfected state law water rights in the reservoirs; and (2) The Water Court did not err in granting partial summary judgment on the pothole claim. View "Bureau of Land Management - Barthelmess" on Justia Law

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623 Partners, LLC obtained a judgment against R. Larry Hunter and Larry Hunter Development Co. (collectively Larry). In its effort to satisfy the judgment, 623 Partners alleged that properly originally owned by Hunter Development was fraudulently transferred to Larry Todd Hunter, Larry’s son. The district court concluded that the properly was fraudulently transferred in order to avoid subjecting the property to 623 Partners’ writ of attachment and that Todd was liable to 623 Partners for the proceeds he received from the sale of a parcel of the property. The Supreme Court affirmed. On remand, Todd argued that he was entitled to an offset from the judgment amount based on the value of the improvements that he made to the property and that the property was exempt from execution or forced sale because he had claimed it as his homestead. The district court rejected Todd’s assertions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining that Todd was not entitled to an offset and correctly concluded that Todd did not qualify for a homestead exemption. View "623 Partners, LLC v. Hunter" on Justia Law