Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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Appellants Coleman Homes, LLC, West Highlands, LLC, West Highlands Subdivision Homeowner’s Association, Inc., and West Highlands Land, LLC appealed a district court order entered in favor of the City of Middleton, Idaho. Appellants entered into two agreements with the City regarding impact fees and public access space for the West Highlands Ranch Subdivision (the “Project”) located in Middleton. Soon thereafter, Appellants asserted the agreements were invalid and unenforceable. In response, the City sought a judgment from the district court declaring the agreements valid and enforceable. The parties eventually stipulated to the validity of the agreements. Both sides filed motions for summary judgment asking the district court to interpret the agreements. The district court ultimately ordered Appellants to designate 12.8 acres of land within the Project as public access space and ruled that Appellants were obligated to provide a financial guarantee, if necessary. Based on the summary judgment order, the district court found the City to be the prevailing party and awarded the City attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-120(3). Appellants appealed the district court’s prevailing party determination. The City cross-appealed the district court’s fee award and ruling that Appellants were obligated to provide a financial guarantee, if necessary. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the prevailing party determination, and ordered a clerical error with respect to naming the party obligated to provide a financial guarantee. View "Middleton v. Coleman Homes" on Justia Law

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The City of Idaho Falls (“Idaho Falls”) appealed an order dismissing its breach of contract and waste claims against H-K Contractors, Inc. (“H-K”). In 2005, H-K entered into a written contract requiring it to convey a parcel of property to Idaho Falls. The contract required that H-K initially grant Idaho Falls a storm drainage easement “over and across” the parcel. H-K was also required to convey fee title to the parcel at a future date, in no event later than March 1, 2010. H-K failed to convey the property to Idaho Falls as required. In 2016, Idaho Falls sent a letter to H-K requesting conveyance of title. H-K responded by refusing to convey title to the property, claiming that in 2009 a city official had orally informed H-K that Idaho Falls was no longer interested in the property. Based on that alleged representation, H-K decided to invest in the property to make it profitable. Idaho Falls filed a complaint against H-K for breach of contract and waste. H-K moved to dismiss the complaint based on the limitation found in Idaho Code section 5-216, alleging Idaho Falls’ claims were time barred because they were not brought within the five-year statute of limitations governing contract actions. Idaho Falls countered that the statute of limitations did not apply to it as a subdivision of the State of Idaho. On January 3, 2017, the district court dismissed Idaho Falls’ complaint as time barred. Idaho Falls timely appealed, claiming the district court erred in enforcing the five-year limitation set forth in section 5-216. The Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment, finding it erred when it determined the term “state” in Idaho Code section 5- 216 did not include Idaho’s municipalities. Because Idaho Falls was the “state,” the district court erred when it found its contract claims against H-K were not “for the benefit of the state.” View "City of Idaho Falls v. H-K Contractors" on Justia Law

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Scott and Anne Davison appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of DeBest Plumbing (DeBest). In 2012, the Davisons hired Gould Custom Builders, Inc. (Gould) to perform an extensive remodel of their vacation home in Idaho. Gould hired DeBest as the plumbing subcontractor. A bathtub installed by DeBest developed a leak that caused significant damage before it was noticed and repaired. The Davisons sought damages based upon the contract between Gould and DeBest and for negligence. The district court granted DeBest’s motion for summary judgment on the contract claims because the Davisons were not in privity of contract with DeBest. Later, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of DeBest on the negligence claim, finding that the Davisons had failed to comply with the requirements of the Notice and Opportunity to Repair Act (NORA), Idaho Code sections 6-2501–2504. On appeal, the Davisons argued they satisfied the requirements of NORA because DeBest received actual notice of the claim and sent a representative to inspect the damage. Finding that the Davidsons satisfied the requirements of NORA when they gave DeBest actual notice, and DeBest had an opportunity to inspect the defect, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in granting DeBest's motion for summary judgment on the Davidsons' negligence claim. The Supreme Court reversed as to negligence, but affirmed the district court in all other respects. View "Davison v. DeBest Plumbing" on Justia Law

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The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Marian Baker, Trustee of the Marian B. Baker Trust (“Baker”), for an easement over a logging road (“Alexanna Lane”) that crossed the property of KAL, LLC (“KAL”). Initially there were claims involving John and Vickie Stadler (the “Stadlers”), and Jose Melendreras and Jacqueline Diaz-Melendreras (the “Melendrerases”). However, the appeal here involved only the claims between Baker and KAL. In February of 2015 Baker filed a complaint to quiet title against KAL, the Stadlers and the Melendrerases to extinguish an easement on the Baker Property. The Stadlers answered Baker’s complaint and asserted claims against Baker and the Melendrerases to quiet title and for common law trespass. The Stadlers noted that access to the Baker Property was intended to run through the Melendreras Property, not through the KAL Property or the Stadler Property. Baker filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to Count I and Count II of the Stadlers’ counterclaim, asserting that she was entitled to use Alexanna Lane to access her property because: (1) a statutory easement was created pursuant to Idaho Code section 55-603; (2) the 1999 deed intended to create and describe the easement; (3) an implied easement existed; (4) an easement by necessity existed because there was no other access to a public road; and (5) there was an easement by prescription. The Stadlers opposed Baker’s motion for summary judgment, asserting that there was no easement created that allowed Baker to access Alexanna Lane. Amidst these disputes KAL filed an answer and counterclaim to Baker’s complaint, asserting that Baker had no legal right to travel across the KAL Property; KAL maintained the 1999 deed was ambiguous, and the language did not reserve an easement that ultimately Baker claimed she held. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s determination of the meaning of the easement language in the deed, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "Baker v. KAL, LLC" on Justia Law

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The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Marian Baker, Trustee of the Marian B. Baker Trust (“Baker”), for an easement over a logging road (“Alexanna Lane”) that crossed the property of KAL, LLC (“KAL”). Initially there were claims involving John and Vickie Stadler (the “Stadlers”), and Jose Melendreras and Jacqueline Diaz-Melendreras (the “Melendrerases”). However, the appeal here involved only the claims between Baker and KAL. In February of 2015 Baker filed a complaint to quiet title against KAL, the Stadlers and the Melendrerases to extinguish an easement on the Baker Property. The Stadlers answered Baker’s complaint and asserted claims against Baker and the Melendrerases to quiet title and for common law trespass. The Stadlers noted that access to the Baker Property was intended to run through the Melendreras Property, not through the KAL Property or the Stadler Property. Baker filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to Count I and Count II of the Stadlers’ counterclaim, asserting that she was entitled to use Alexanna Lane to access her property because: (1) a statutory easement was created pursuant to Idaho Code section 55-603; (2) the 1999 deed intended to create and describe the easement; (3) an implied easement existed; (4) an easement by necessity existed because there was no other access to a public road; and (5) there was an easement by prescription. The Stadlers opposed Baker’s motion for summary judgment, asserting that there was no easement created that allowed Baker to access Alexanna Lane. Amidst these disputes KAL filed an answer and counterclaim to Baker’s complaint, asserting that Baker had no legal right to travel across the KAL Property; KAL maintained the 1999 deed was ambiguous, and the language did not reserve an easement that ultimately Baker claimed she held. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s determination of the meaning of the easement language in the deed, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "Baker v. KAL, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellants Glen and Cheryl Nielson (the “Nielsons”), challenged a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Respondents Robert and Michele Talbot (the “Talbots”) and Paul and Saundra Parker (the “Parkers”). The Parkers and Talbots were neighbors. The Parkers sold their property to the Nielsons by warranty deed. Shortly after purchasing the property, the Nielsons filed a complaint against the Talbots arguing that, according to the legal description in the warranty deed, the Talbots’ shed, carport, and driveway extended over the property line and onto the Nielsons’ property. The Nielsons also filed a complaint against the Parkers arguing that the Parkers were obligated to defend the title of the property that they had sold. The two cases were consolidated and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Talbots and the Parkers. Finding only that the district court erred by dismissing the Nielsons’ claim for breach of warranty, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The Court remanded the case so that the district court could enter a "proper judgment" that sufficiently described the altered property line. View "Nielson v. Talbot" on Justia Law

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Edgar and Laurie Cook owned 200 acres of property in Bonner County, Idaho. The Property included Bloom Lake, a cabin, and a campground. The Cooks allowed people to use the lake and campground without charging a fee, but they solicited voluntary donations to help with the Property’s upkeep. Approximately twenty years ago, Michael Chisholm asked the Cooks if he could stay in the cabin in exchange for maintaining the Property. They agreed, and Chisholm began caring for the Property. In 2015, Joseph Stanczak and his girlfriend were camping at the Property. Chisholm invited them into the cabin, and a dispute later arose between Chisholm and Stanczak. Chisholm shot Stanczak twice with a .45 caliber handgun, then left the scene. Authorities later apprehended Chisholm and charged him with Aggravated Battery and Use of a Deadly Weapon in Commission of a Felony. Chisholm entered an Alford plea, by which he pleaded guilty without admitting guilt as to all the elements of the crimes. He was sentenced to prison. At issue in this was was the interpretation of the insuring clause of a bodily injury liability provision in a property insurance contract. The insurer, Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho, determined it had no duty to defend or indemnify the Cooks because the shooting was not a covered act under the policy. Farm Bureau filed a declaratory judgment action seeking judicial confirmation of its determination. Farm Bureau then filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting that the district court find as a matter of law that the intentional shooting was not an “occurrence.” The district court granted Farm Bureau’s motion. Finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of Farm Bureau. View "Farm Bureau Ins v. Cook" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court’s review centered on whether and to what extent an uphill landowner could send irrigation wastewater across a downhill landowner’s property. This case began when Lemhi County filed suit against the owners of both ranches seeking to relieve flooding along one of its roads. Phillip Moulton owned and operated a ranch that was on higher ground than the adjacent ranch that Verdell Olson operated. Surface and irrigation water that began on Moulton’s ranch made its way to the Lemhi River through various channels. The one at issue in this case was a steep draw that sent water across a county road and through the downhill ranch that Olson operated. Lemhi County reached a settlement with Olson, and the remaining issue for the district court was whether an easement or a natural servitude permitted Moulton to send water down the draw. The district court held that both an easement and natural servitude permit Moulton to send up to 3.25 cubic feet per second of water down the draw. Olson appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court to the extent it provided for an easement and natural servitude, but remanded for specification of the location of the drainage basin on Olson’s property. View "Olson v. Moulton" on Justia Law

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Ricky and Kimberly Holden appealed an order granting a water right to their neighbors Jackie and Teresa Weece. . In 1999, the Holdens constructed a well on a portion of their property (Lot 17) and obtained a licensed water right. In 2000, the Holdens built a residence on another portion of their property (Lot 16) which included a sewage disposal system connected to the well. In 2001 the Holdens sold Lot 16 to a friend, Loree Saunders. As an accommodation for the sale, the Holdens and Saunders entered into a joint well use agreement allowing Saunders to utilize the well on the Holden’s property. Later, in 2001, Saunders’s lender bank foreclosed Lot 16. The Weeces acquired Lot 16 from the lender in 2005. The Holdens and the Weeces continued to follow the joint well use agreement to provide water to Lot 16; however, a dispute arose in 2015 regarding the Weeces use of such water. The Holdens claimed the district court erred in adopting the findings of fact and conclusions of law contained within a special master’s Report and Recommendation and that the priority date of the Weeces’ water right, recommended by the special master and adopted by the district court, was clearly erroneous. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order. View "Holden v. Weece" on Justia Law

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This case addressed whether the issuance of a tax deed extinguished a prescriptive easement across a parcel of land by operation of former Idaho Code section 63-1009. The Owens purchased a small parcel of land (“the Orphan Parcel”) from Kootenai County after a tax sale. A dispute arose as to whether the Regans had the right to drive across the Orphan Parcel. The Regans sued the Owens to reform the tax deed to include an express easement and to establish a prescriptive easement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Regans, ruling that the Owens’ deed contained a mutual mistake and should be reformed to reflect an express easement that the original grantors intended. The Owens appealed and the Idaho Supreme Court held that the deed should not be reformed. The Court also vacated a portion of the district court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Owens, finding that any prescriptive easement was extinguished by Idaho Code section 63-1009, which provided that tax deeds conveyed property free of all “encumbrances.” The Regans appealed; shortly thereafter, the Idaho Legislature amended Idaho Code section 63-1009. In September 2017, the Idaho Supreme Court released its original decision in this appeal, then granted the Regans’ petition for rehearing. After review, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment entered in favor of the Owens and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Regan v. Owen" on Justia Law