Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the Tax Department’s decision to rescind $4.9 million in land preservation tax credits it had previously awarded to the Woolford family on the grounds that the Woolfords’ appraiser was not a “qualified appraiser.” Specifically, the circuit court found that the Woolfords’ appraiser lacked the necessary education and experience, as required by applicable federal law incorporated by Va. Code 58.1-512(B), to offer a qualified appraisal. The Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case, holding (1) the trial court erred in ruling that the Woolfords’ appraiser was not a “qualified appraiser”; and (2) the Department was not constrained from auditing the value of the tax credits claimed by the Woolfords after initially awarding them those tax credits. View "Woolford v. Virginia Department of Taxation" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in relying on principles of res judicata to refuse to stay an injunction brought by the City of Staunton’s Zoning Administrator against the landowner in this case pending further proceedings before the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals and erred in granting the injunction against the landowner. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court as to the stay and the injunctive relief sought, holding (1) the doctrine of res judicata that the circuit court relied on was not a proper basis to deny the stay based on prior administrative or circuit court proceedings; and (2) as a result, the final order granting an injunction, when the landowner had not been given the opportunity to exhaust her administrative remedies, was in error. View "Chilton-Belloni v. Angle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court sustaining a demurrer filed by the Commissioner of Highways in his capacity as chief executive officer of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in this action filed by Plaintiff seeking to compel the Commissioner to reconvey property pursuant to Va. Code 33.2-1005(A). The VDOT acquired the property in 1994 in advance of a transportation project. A 1993 appraisal valued the land at $286,110. In 2014, Plaintiff informed the VDOT that he was exercising the right under section 33.2-1005(A) to require VDOT to reconvey the land “for its original purchase price” of $286,110, as the transportation project had not commenced within twenty years. The circuit court concluded that it did not have the authority to insert a purchase price of $286,110 based on the appraisal where the wording of the general assembly was “original purchase price.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that an appraisal valuation is not synonymous with “original purchase price” as used in section 33.2-1005(A). View "Kalergis v. Virginia Commissioner of Highways" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court approving modifications to an easement by necessity crossing Joanna Palmer’s property. The circuit court approved the modifications after finding that they were reasonably necessary for the beneficial use of property owned by R. A. Yancey Lumber Corporation (Yancey). On appeal, Palmer argued that the circuit court erroneously granted Yancey the right to modify its easement by necessity because the modifications will unlawfully increase the width of an established easement by necessity. Alternatively, Palmer argued that the court erred by granting Yancey the right to modify the easement in order to use tractor-trailers extending over a road because this will unreasonably increase the burden on the Palmer property. The Supreme Court held (1) under the “reasonable necessity rule,” the width of an existing easement by necessity may be expanded without the consent of the servient landowner, but modifications to such easements must not create unreasonable burdens on the servient estate; and (2) the circuit court’s grant to Yancey the right to make modifications to widen its easement by necessity for use by tractor-trailers was neither plainly wrong, nor without evidence to support it. View "Palmer v. R. A. Yancey Lumber Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in denying Seller specific performance of a contract for the sale of real property after finding that Seller failed to establish that he held marketable title. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Seller’s motion in limine and admitting a substitute trustee’s deed, which rebutted Seller’s evidence that any dispute over ownership of the property had been resolved; (2) the circuit court did not err by granting Buyer’s motion to strike the evidence; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by awarding Buyer attorney’s fees. View "Denton v. Browntown Valley Associates" on Justia Law

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The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP) sought permission to enter Hazel Palmer’s property to conduct preliminary surveys in order to build a natural gas transmission line. When Palmer withheld her consent, ACP provided a notice of intent to enter her property pursuant to Va. Code 56-49.01. Palmer continued to deny permission, and ACP filed a petition for a declaratory judgment requesting a declaration of its rights under section 56-49.01. Palmer filed a plea in bar and a demurrer, arguing that section 56-49.01 applies only to domestic public service companies and is unconstitutional under Va. Const. art. I, 11 because it impermissibly burdens a fundamental right. The circuit court overruled Palmer’s plea in bar and demurrer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 56-49.01 establishes the General Assembly’s intent that the entry-for-survey privilege be available to foreign natural gas companies that do business within the Commonwealth; and (2) Palmer’s fundamental property rights do not include the right to exclude ACP in this case. View "Palmer v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP) sent Landowners letters seeking permission to enter their properties to conduct preliminary surveys and studies in order to build a natural gas transmission line. When Landowners withheld their permission, ACP provided notices of intent to enter their properties pursuant to Va. Code 56-49.01. ACP then filed petitions for declaratory judgment against Landowners seeking an order declaring that the notices of intent to enter provided ACP with a right to enter Landowners’ properties. The circuit court issued a final order concluding that ACP was entitled to enter landowners’ properties pursuant to section 56-49.01. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that ACP’s notices were deficient because they did not “set forth the date of the intended entry” as required by section 56-49.01(C). View "Chaffins v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC" on Justia Law

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Two property insurers issued policies to a Harris Teeter grocery store. The insurers together paid claims for property damage resulting from the malfunctioning of a county sewer line. Exercising their subrogation rights, the insurers sued Arlington County alleging an inverse condemnation claim under Va. Const. art. I, section 11. The circuit court dismissed the case with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in concluding that the original complaint failed to state a viable legal claim for inverse condemnation; but (2) the court erred in denying the insurers leave to amend their complaint because the allegations in the proffered amended complaint, combined with the reasonable inferences arising from them, asserted a legally viable claim for inverse condemnation. Remanded. View "AGCS Marine Insurance Co. v. Arlington County" on Justia Law

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A declaration of protective covenants and restrictions (Declaration) for a Subdivision created a Committee, an unincorporated association, to have full authority to enforce the Declaration. In 2014, an amendment of the Declaration was recorded in the name of the lot owners and the Subdivision’s home owners association (Association) asserting that the Declaration could be amended by two-thirds of the lot owners. The amendment was signed by all the lot owners except Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs filed a complaint asserting that the Declaration could be amended only with the unanimous consent of all the lot owners. Thereafter, another amendment was signed by all the lot owners except Plaintiffs asserting that the Association was created by the Declaration. Plaintiffs amended their complaint to seek a declaratory judgment that both amendments were invalid. The circuit court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in ruling that the Declaration did not create a property owners’ association within the meaning of the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act; (2) erred in ruling that the amendments may not be adopted by a two-thirds majority vote; and (3) did not err in finding that the Association was not a property owners’ association within the meaning of the Act. View "Shepherd v. Conde" on Justia Law

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Martha Lambert filed a warrant in debt asserting that the Sea Oats Condominium Association failed to pay $500 to repair an exterior door to her condominium. Lambert sought $500 in damages and an award of attorney’s fees. The general district court entered judgment for the Association. The circuit court awarded judgment to Lambert. The court then entered a corrected final order awarding Lambert $500 in damages and $375 in attorney’s fees. Lambert appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by awarding her only $375 in attorney’s fees. The Association asserted that the circuit court erred by awarding Lambert attorney’s fees at all. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court abused its discretion by failing to consider relevant factors in its attorney’s fees award that should have been given significant weight; and (2) a party seeking an award of attorney’s fees need not prove the reasonableness of the award in its prima facie case. Remanded. View "Lambert v. Sea Oats Condominium Ass'n" on Justia Law