Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Defendants GMPM Company and 479 Maple Street, LLC, appealed a circuit court order granting the petition for wrongful eviction filed by plaintiff Melissa Natal. On appeal, defendants argued the circuit court erred by determining that its property was not a “shared facility” as defined by RSA 540-B:1 (2021). Specifically, defendants argued RSA 540-B:1 did not require that an owner occupy the premises, but, rather, only that an owner have access to the common areas for the purposes of cleaning, maintaining, and monitoring the premises. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, for property to qualify as a shared facility under RSA 540-B:1, the owner had to reside at the premises with the occupants. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Natal v. GMPM Company & al." on Justia Law

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Defendant Carter Community Building Association appealed a superior court's grant of summary judgment to plaintiff Carter Country Club, Inc. (CCCI), on CCCI's petition to quiet title to a parcel of property in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Defendant also appealed the denial of its motion to amend its counterclaim to add a claim for declaratory relief. In 1986, CCCI conveyed the property at issue to the Trustee of the Farnum Hill Trust by deed. In December 1986, CCCI conveyed by deed the rights it reserved in the Farnum Hill deed to defendant. In November 1989, the property was conveyed to a private corporation. In September 1990, the corporation brought an action to quiet title, naming as defendants CCCI’s shareholders; defendant moved to intervene. In September 1991, a superior court issued an order declaring that the corporation’s title was “free and clear of all rights or interests” of CCCI’s shareholders, and ordering that any issues pertaining to the defendant’s motion to intervene would be addressed in further proceedings. The litigation settled without resolving the issue before the New Hampshire Supreme Court here, whether defendant had an interest in the property. At some point thereafter, the plaintiff took title to the property. In August 2018, the plaintiff brought an action to quiet title, naming the defendant as a party and claiming that the conveyance of CCCI’s future interest in the property to the defendant was void. The plaintiff’s theory was that the Farnum Hill deed created a right of reentry retained by CCCI, which, the plaintiff contended, was not freely transferable. The plaintiff also argued that the defendant’s interest in the property, if any, violated the rule against perpetuities and was an unreasonable restraint on alienation. The defendant counterclaimed, seeking a declaration that it had an enforceable future interest in the property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, notwithstanding that CCCI had an inalienable right of reentry, defendant may have the right to enforce a golf-course restriction as a restrictive covenant. Judgment was affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Carter Country Club, Inc. v. Carter Community Building Association" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Bellevue Properties, Inc. (Bellevue) appealed a superior court order dismissing its petition to quiet title and for declaratory judgment brought against the defendants, 13 Green Street Properties, LLC and 1675 W.M.H., LLC (collectively, 13 Green Street). Bellevue owned and operated the North Conway Grand Hotel, which abutted Settlers’ Green, an outlet shopping center owned by 13 Green Street. Common Court, a road that encircled the hotel and much of Settlers’ Green, provided access to the properties. Half of the road is private, and half is public. A recorded easement allowed hotel guests to travel over a private road and the private section of Common Court. 13 Green Street planned to construct a mixed-use development in Settlers’ Green, including a supermarket and parking lot, on an undeveloped parcel of land (Lot 92) and an abutting lot (Lot 85). McMillan Lane ran through Lots 92 and 85. To construct a single, continuous development across both lots, 13 Green Street sought to replace McMillan Lane with a new private road that, like McMillan Lane, would run from Barnes Road to the public section of Common Court. In November 2019, Bellevue filed this petition to “[q]uiet title to the land” underneath McMillan Lane “by declaring that [Bellevue] has an easement in the form of a private right of access over same” pursuant to RSA 231:43, III. 13 Green Street moved to dismiss, arguing that Bellevue could not assert a statutory right of access under RSA 231:43, III because its property did not directly abut McMillan Lane. The trial court agreed with 13 Green Street and dismissed Bellevue’s petition. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment of dismissal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bellevue Properties, Inc. v. 13 Green Street Properties, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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Eighteen petitioners (the Taxpayers) appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) order issued following the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision in Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, 173 N.H. 362 (2020). In that decision, the Supreme Court vacated the BTLA’s prior dismissal of the Taxpayers’ property tax abatement appeals and remanded for the BTLA to further consider whether the Taxpayers omitted their personal signatures and certifications on their tax abatement applications to respondent Town of Bartlett (Town), “due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.” On remand, the BTLA found that “based on the facts presented, the Taxpayers [had] not met their burden of proving the omission of their signatures and certifications was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect,” and again dismissed their appeals. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant Town of Windham (Town) appealed a superior court order denying its motion to dismiss the tax abatement appeal of plaintiff Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. (Shaw’s), for lack of standing. The Town also appealed the superior court's order granting Shaw’s requested tax abatement. The owner of the property at issue leased 1.5 acres of a 34.21-acre parcel in Windham established as Current Use. The lease, in relevant part, required Shaw’s to pay the Owner its pro rata share of the real estate taxes assessed on the entire parcel, and the Owner was required to pay the taxes to the Town. If the Owner received a tax abatement, Shaw’s was entitled to its pro rata share of the abatement. In 2017, Shaw’s was directed by the Owner to pay the property taxes directly to the Town, and it did. Shaw’s unsuccessfully applied to the Town’s selectboard for a tax abatement and subsequently appealed to the superior court. The Town moved to dismiss, arguing that Shaw’s lacked standing to request a tax abatement on property it did not own. Finding the superior court did not err in finding Shaw's had standing to seek the abatement, or err in granting the abatement, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's orders. View "Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, the Towns of Chester and Hudson (collectively, Towns), appealed a Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) order granting respondent Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy (PSNH) abatements of taxes assessed against its property located in Chester for tax years 2014 and 2016 and in Hudson for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016. PSNH submitted an appraisal report prepared by its expert, Concentric Energy Advisors, Inc., setting forth the expert’s opinion of the aggregate fair market value of PSNH’s taxable property located in each municipality for each tax year. Two appraisers employed by the Towns’ expert, George E. Sansoucy, P.E., LLC (GES), used a substantially similar methodology in appraising the fair market value of the land interests. The BTLA compared the equalized market value to the aggregate assessed value for each municipality for each tax year. The BTLA concluded that an assessment was unreasonable and granted an abatement when it determined that the difference between the equalized market value and the aggregate assessed value was greater than five percent. The Towns argued that because both GES and Concentric relied upon the assessed value of PSNH’s land interests in reaching their opinions of fair market value, the values that the BTLA incorporated into its analysis “were already proportionate” and “should not have had the equalization ratio[s] applied to them.” The BTLA denied the Towns’ motion for reconsideration, noting that it based its calculations upon values that “were supplied by the [Towns] themselves in the stipulations agreed to by them” and adopting the arguments PSNH raised in its objection. Finding no reversible error in the BTLA's order, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Town of Chester et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Chad and Kelly Short (Buyers) appealed a superior court order denying their requests for specific performance and attorney’s fees and costs in connection with an alleged contract to purchase real estate from defendants John and Lori LaPlante, as trustees of the LaPlante Family Revocable Trust (Sellers). Buyers visited the Sellers’ Concord home for the first time on May 24, 2018, and that day submitted an offer to purchase it for $690,000. After negotiations, but before the purchase and sale agreement (P&S) was executed, the parties agreed that the Buyers would purchase the property for $690,000 and would submit $10,000 as a deposit, and the Sellers would furnish up to $7,250 in closing costs. On June 1, the Sellers located a property in Stratham that they thought would suit their needs. They submitted an offer on that property on June 3. Also, on June 3, the parties fully executed the final P&S for the Sellers’ Concord property, which included the following provision (the Disputed Provision): “This agreement is subject to Sellers finding suitable housing no later than July 14, 2018.” On June 5, the Sellers sent an email apologizing to the Buyers “for wanting to cancel the P&S . . . at this stage.“ Buyers interpreted the Sellers’ attempt to cancel the P&S as an indication the Sellers received a better offer; Buyers subsequently brought this action. The trial court found that the P&S was not “a binding and enforceable contract” because “[t]here was no meeting of the minds regarding the Disputed Provision.” The Buyers unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration, and this appeal followed. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the superior court’s order and affirmed. View "Short v. LaPlante" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Lauren Shearer appealed, and defendants Ronald Raymond and Sandra Auvil cross-appealed a superior court order which found plaintiff had an easement across defendants’ property to access his landlocked property. The court ruled that “by operation of common law” plaintiff had an easement to access his parcel over a public highway that was discontinued by town vote in 1898. Defendants’ cross-appeal presented a question of first impression for the New Hampshire Supreme Court: whether the owner of landlocked property had an easement for ingress and egress over a public highway that was discontinued by town vote prior to the enactment of the statutory right of access. Plaintiff, in turn, appealed certain aspects of the trial court’s order relating to the width and permitted uses of the easement. The Supreme Court held that, under New Hampshire common law, an easement existed over a discontinued highway if the landowner demonstrated the easement was reasonably necessary for ingress and egress to the property. The Court vacated the trial court’s decision and remanded for the trial court to make that determination in the first instance. In the interests of judicial economy and because the issues might arise on remand, the Supreme Court also addressed the issues raised by plaintiff in his appeal. View "Shearer v. Raymond" on Justia Law

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Defendants Shane and Trina Beattie appealed a superior court orderthat dismissed with prejudice their preliminary objection challenging the State’s taking of 0.93 acres of their land in fee simple, as well as permanent and temporary easements. The Beatties argued the trial court erred when, in dismissing their preliminary objection which challenged the necessity and net-public benefit of the taking, the trial court applied the fraud or gross mistake standard of review set forth in RSA chapter 230 rather than a de novo standard pursuant to RSA chapter 498-A. The State contended the trial court did not err because RSA chapter 230, not RSA chapter 498-A governed the outcome of the case. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the Beatties, reversed and remanded. View "New Hampshire v. Beattie" on Justia Law

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Defendants Henry Palmer and Janis Monty-Palmer appealed a superior court order that granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs Richard Arell, Jr. and Natalie Allard-Arell. In their petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, the Arells asserted that the Palmers’ temporary easement to use a well on the Arells’ property required the Palmers to develop their own water source. The trial court ordered the Palmers to investigate the cost and feasibility of developing a well on their own property, and, if possible and reasonable, to install a well within three years. Because the clear and unambiguous language of the Palmers’ deed did not support the trial court’s decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Arell v. Palmer" on Justia Law