Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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Homeowner-plaintiffs Michelle and Robert Russell appealed a superior court order denying their summary judgment motion and granting that of insurer-defendant NGM Insurance Company. On appeal, the homeowners argued the trial court erred when it determined that their homeowners’ insurance policy provided no coverage for the additional living expenses they incurred when they were unable to live in their home because of mold contamination. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Russell NGM Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Wayne and Ruth Ross, trustees of the Wayne Ross Revocable Trust and the Ruth Ross Revocable Trust, respectively, appealed a superior court order in favor of defendants Donald Ross and Rossview Farm, LLC (the LLC). Plaintiffs contested findings that the parties entered into a lease for the plaintiffs’ lifetimes and that they had no right to evict the defendants pursuant to RSA 540:2, II(d) or (e) (2007). The trial court found that plaintiffs conceded that a June 23, 2006 document satisfied the statute of frauds because, in their post-trial memorandum, plaintiffs explained their position that the June 23, 2006 document “is a writing signed by all the parties that states the terms of the parties’ agreement. This document satisfies the statute of frauds and governs their relationship.” The “clear” language of the June 23, 2006 document, plaintiffs posited, created a yearly lease. However, plaintiffs also argued in the post-trial memorandum that defendants’ introduction of parol evidence of the parties’ intent to create a perpetual lease violated the statute of frauds because “the intent of the parties to create a perpetual lease must be clear from the face of the document and there must be a document to satisfy the statute of frauds.” Thus, plaintiffs did not concede that the June 23, 2006 document satisfied the statute of frauds for all purposes; instead, they contended that it “satisfies the statute of frauds” if the document was read to create a yearly lease. The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated and remanded, finding the trial court’s finding that plaintiffs conceded the issue lacked evidentiary support, and concluded plaintiffs did not waive their statute of frauds argument by concession. View "Ross v. Ross" on Justia Law

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Defendant Latvian Lutheran Exile Church of Boston and Vicinity Patrons, Inc. (Patrons), appealed a superior court order declaring that it did not have an easement to use a private road to access Lake Massasecum. Plaintiff Carolyn Carlson, Trustee of the Carolyn J. Carlson Living Trust (Carlson), cross-appealed the trial court’s denial of Carlson’s petition to quiet title. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court found Carlson lacked standing to pursue both her actions, it affirmed the trial court’s ruling that she lacked standing on her petition to quiet title, vacated the trial court’s grant of declaratory relief, and remanded. View "Carlson v. Latvian Lutheran Exile Church of Boston" on Justia Law

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Defendants Aaron and Maryann Little (Littles) appealed a Superior Court quieting title in plaintiffs Barbara O’Malley and her daughter Helen O’Malley a strip of land based upon adverse possession, as well as a previous order denying the Littles’ motion for summary judgment. Barbara and her husband, Joseph, acquired the “McKay Lot” in 1963 for use as a summer home. Over the next 50 years, the couple lived there with their children. The backyard of the McKay Lot abutted the backyard of the Littles’ property (“Francis Lot”). In October 1993, Barbara contracted for the installation of a chain link fence between the McKay Lot and the Francis Lot after tenants from the latter began walking across the yard of the Francis Lot with beach chairs and scratching Helen’s car. The fence was placed about three to five feet over the property line between the two lots. Between the fence and the property line (disputed area), there was a clothesline and outdoor shower and grill, all of which were used frequently by the O’Malley family. The plaintiffs and their relatives and friends would occasionally park against the fence. In 1996, following the death of her husband, Barbara deeded the McKay Lot to herself and her daughter Helen. The Littles purchased the Francis Lot in December 2008. Upon acquiring the property, the Littles assumed that the actual property line was represented by the fence between the two properties. However, in the spring of 2010, Scott McCarthy, a prior owner of the Francis Lot, informed the Littles that the plaintiffs’ fence encroached approximately three to five feet onto the Francis Lot from the actual property line. The Littles confirmed this statement by reviewing a survey plan and measuring the property line with a tape measure. They then called plaintiffs in April 2010 to inform them of this discovery, before stating that they needed to move the fence. Plaintiffs refused. Upon reviewing the record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found ample evidence that there was “no evidence that [record owner] took steps to eject [adverse possessors] or to disrupt their open possession of the disputed parcel” and affirmed quieting title in plaintiffs. View "O'Malley v. Little" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Condominiums at Lilac Lane Unit Owners’ Association (Lilac) appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to defendants Monument Garden, LLC (Monument Garden) and Eastern Bank. The trial court determined that a residential development in Dover known as the Condominiums at Lilac Lane was not subject to the provisions of the Condominium Act RSA chapter 356-B (2009 & Supp. 2016), regulating “convertible land.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with defendants that the plain language of the Act contravenes Lilac’s assertion that “convertible land” and “expandable condominium” were the only means by which units may be built in the future after the condominium was created. As such, the Court affirmed the superior court’s order. View "Condominiums at Lilac Lane Unit Owners Assn. v. Monument Garden, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff segTEL, Inc. was a telecommunications company that owned and/or operated a fiber optic cable network throughout New Hampshire, including within the City of Nashua. It did not own any poles or conduits within the City, and did not have its own license from the City authorizing its occupation of the City’s rights of way. Instead, pursuant to pole attachment agreements with the utility providers, the plaintiff remitted a fee to the utility providers in exchange for the right to place its fiber optic cables on their poles and conduits. These pole attachment agreements did not require the plaintiff to pay property taxes assessed by the City. Having become aware of plaintiff’s use of the utility providers’ poles and conduits, the City in 2014 assessed plaintiff property taxes of $1,507.94 for its use of the City’s rights of way. Plaintiff applied for an abatement, which the City denied. Thereafter, plaintiff brought this action in superior court, seeking: (1) a declaratory judgment that the City was not entitled to impose the tax; and (2) to strike the City’s 2014 tax assessment. The trial court granted summary judgment to plaintiff, ruling that “[b]ecause [the plaintiff] has not entered into an agreement in which it consented to be taxed,” the City could not lawfully tax the plaintiff for its use and occupation of the City’s rights of way. The City appealed, and finding no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Segtel, Inc. v. City of Nashua" on Justia Law

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The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed an order of the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) denying 77 of Public Service Company of New Hampshire's (d/b/a Eversource Energy (PSNH) 86 individual tax abatement appeals on property located in 31 municipalities for tax year 2011, and 55 abatement appeals for tax year 2012. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) granted PSNH exclusive franchises to provide certain electricity services within its territory. A municipality’s selectmen appraise the value of the property located within the municipality, including utility property. For the appeals that it granted, the BTLA found that the municipal assessors acknowledged a material degree of overassessment of the property at issue. The BTLA noted that PSNH’s burden in a tax abatement appeal was to demonstrate that the municipal assessments were disproportionate.The BTLA found that PSNH had made only “very general assertions regarding regulation and its alleged impact on the market value of [PSNH’s] property.” It therefore concluded that PSNH had failed to provide sufficient probative evidence that the utility regulatory environment in which PSNH operated, considering both the benefits and burdens of such regulation, was so restrictive that any prospective purchaser would be limited to a return based upon net book value. Thus, merely identifying the presence of regulation that may impact the market value of property was insufficient. Based upon its review of the record, the Supreme Court agreed with the BTLA, and found that the BTLA's findings were supported by the record with respect to PSNH's remaining claims. View "Appeal of Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy" on Justia Law

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New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Inc. (NHEC) filed tax abatement appeals to the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) for 23 municipal assessments of its property that occurred in 2011 and 2012. The BTLA held a consolidated hearing over nine days between January and February 2015 regarding NHEC’s tax abatement appeals. During the hearing, NHEC presented expert witness testimony and an appraisal of NHEC’s property from George Lagassa, a certified general real estate appraiser and the owner of Mainstream Appraisal Associates, LLC. In his appraisals, Lagassa estimated the market value of NHEC’s property by reconciling the results of four valuation approaches: a sales comparison approach; an income approach, which estimated the value of NHEC’s property by capitalizing the company’s net operating income; a cost approach, which estimated the net book value (NBV) of NHEC’s property by calculating the original cost less book depreciation (OCLBD) of NHEC’s property; and a second cost approach, which estimated the value of NHEC’s property by calculating the reproduction cost new less depreciation (RCNLD) of NHEC’s property. NHEC appeals the BTLA order denying 16 of NHEC’s 23 individual tax abatement appeals regarding its property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the BTLA’s order and affirmed it. View "Appeal of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff DirecTV, Inc. appealed a superior court decision denying a petition for property tax abatement for the tax years 2007, 2008, and 2009. The property at issue was located in New Hampton and used by DirecTV as a satellite uplink facility. On appeal, DirecTV argued that the trial court erred when it: (1) ruled that satellite antennas and batteries used to provide backup power constituted fixtures; and (2) determined the value of the property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded after review that the antennas and batteries were not fixtures, and therefore, taxable as real estate. The Court reversed the superior court on that issue, vacated its decision on the valuation of the property, and remanded for further proceedings. View "DirecTV, Inc. v. Town of New Hampton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Fat Bullies Farm, LLC (Fat Bullies), and the counterclaim defendants, Donald Gould and Peter Simmons, appealed certain superior court findings and rulings made during the course of litigation with defendants Alan and Donna Perkins and Lori and Bret Devenport, involving the sale of a 3.1 acre horse farm in North Hampton known as Runnymede Farm. When the Devenports purchased the property in 1998, they promised to operate it as a horse farm in perpetuity, and to allow the former owner to maintain an office on site. Simmons told the Devenports that he was interested in purchasing the property. The Devenports told Simmons they would only sell if the buyer agreed to the horse farm and on site office conditions. Simmons spoke with Gould about purchasing the property jointly with the intent to develop and/or resell it. The two created Fat Bullies “for the purpose of acquiring real estate for development or resale.” After amendments to the purchase contract, the Devenports reiterated that they would sell the property only if Fat Bullies committed to operating it as a horse farm. Despite their intentions to develop the property, Simmons and Gould agreed. The parties executed a sales agreement. No payment had been made on the property; word got back to Lori Devenport that Simmons had talked to others in North Hampton about purchasing the farm. The Devenports rescinded the agreement, believing Simmons lied to them about promising to operate Runnymede as a horse farm. Fat Bullies invoked an option, but the Devenports refused to sell. In 2011, the Devenports sold Runnymede to the Perkinses. After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Devenports on Fat Bullies’ breach of contract claim, finding that Fat Bullies failed to prove the existence of a contract by a preponderance of the evidence, and a verdict in favor of Fat Bullies, Simmons, and Gould on the Devenports’ fraudulent inducement claim. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the trial court with respect to a Consumer Protection Act violation decision; the Court reversed with respect to attorney fees related to that Act decision. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fat Bullies Farm, LLC v. Devenport" on Justia Law