Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and remanded in part the district court’s denial of Bryan Sandrock’s motion to set aside a default and a subsequent default judgment entered against him. The clerk of the district court entered Sandrock’s default after Sandrock failed to answer a complaint within the designated time. Sandrock, through counsel, filed a motion to set aside default and default judgment based upon an alleged fraud upon the court committed by the other party and counsel’s own failure to pay sufficient attention to the matter. The court denied the motion, concluding that the “good cause” standard set forth in Mont. R. Civ. P. 55(c) was not satisfied and that Sandrock’s brief did not support his argument of a fraud upon the court. Sandrock appealed the denial of his motion to set aside default judgment and the district court’s calculation of damages. While it affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to set aside default and default judgment, the Supreme Court remanded the matter for a recalculation of damages and identification of evidence supporting the recalculation, as the court was unable to discern how the various sources used by the district court established the amount of damages awarded. View "DeTienne v. Sandrock" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court in this family dispute regarding once commonly held property that was subdivided and jointly used, then fenced. Plaintiffs, Ashlee Ganoung and Amber Mason, owned the southern half to he property (Ganoung and Mason property) and Defendants owned the northern half of the property (Stiles property). The Supreme Court held (1) the district court correctly determined the location and scope of the Stiles express easement over the Ganoung and Mason property, but the court erred by limiting the easement to only one, rather than two, roadways; (2) the district court did not err by requiring the Stiles to pay for fencing a new road should the Stiles choose to relocate their easement; and (3) the district court did not err in failing to determine the location, width, and scope of the Ganoung and Mason easement across the Stiles property. View "Ganoung v. Stiles" on Justia Law

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The properties at issue were owned by Cole until 1954, when Cole sold an acre to Evjene’s grandparents. The Tripp Survey was recorded, but its description “does not close.” The Tripp Survey relied on the Tobacco River and a road to set the western, southern, and eastern boundaries. A fence constructed in 1950 may have anticipated the northern boundary. Evjene’s grandparents built a house. In 1988, Sacrisons acquired their property, to the north and west of the Evjene property. In 2005, Evjene replaced the 1950 fence and built a new house. Evjene commissioned the Cordi Survey, which relied upon monuments cited in the Tripp Survey, and the fence, but determined the western boundary ran through Evjene’s home, and that the correct boundary of Evjene’s property partially encroached into Sacrisons’ property. Evjene entered a boundary agreement with other neighbors, stipulating that the boundary line was the fence. Sacrisons did not agree and commissioned “the Block Survey,” which determined the boundary of the Sacrisons’ property partially overlapped Evjene’s property and placed a boundary line through Evjene’s house. Sacrisons sought declaratory judgment and quiet title. Evjene submitted an affidavit detailing his family’s statements about the fence. The district court entered summary judgment, holding that the fence should be declared an artificial monument denoting the boundary. The Montana Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that there were material questions of fact. Evjene’s affidavit constituted hearsay. To rely on a fence as the correct dividing line, the fence must be supported by testimony or parol evidence indicating the fence was built on the correct original line. View "Sacrison v. Evjene" on Justia Law

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Because Defendant did not comply with the statutes, rules and regulations governing Block Management Area (BMA) hunting, he did not have permission to hunt and harvest game at Skytop Ranch BMA, thus violating Mont. Code Ann. 87-6-415(1). Defendant was convicted of hunting without landowner permission in violation of section 87-6-415(1). The conviction stemmed from Defendant’s act of harvesting a cow elk without first obtaining permission to hunt at Skytop Ranch BMA. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to dismiss, arguing that by participating in The Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ Block Management Program, Skytop Ranch statutorily gave its permission for the public to hunt on its property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that by violating the use restrictions for private property enrolled in the Block Management Program, Defendant violated section 87-6-415(1). View "State v. McGregor" on Justia 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