Short-Term Rental Legislation & Litigation On the Way!

The advent of the shared economy in the real estate context has provided homeowners and investors alike with expanded opportunities to generate revenue from the use of their real estate. Airbnb and VRBO are two of the most popular companies facilitating short-term rental availability. The rapid growth in this shared real estate economy has served as a disruptor of sorts to the traditional hotel and hospitality industry, causing that industry to revisit its own models in order to better compete.

 

The popularity of short-term rental use, however, has created a whole new set of problems about which property owners, state and local governments, renters, and those impacted by the explosion of short-term rentals should be aware.… Read More »

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Foreclosure Deficiency: Construction Loan vs. Home Improvement Loan

By: Kevin J. Parker

In a recent Arizona Court of Appeals case, Helvetica Servicing, Inc., v. Pasquan, 2019 WL 3820015, (8/15/19), the Court of Appeals addressed the distinction between (1) a construction loan (or refinance of same) and (2) a home improvement loan (or refinance of same), as it relates to Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute, A.R.S. §33-729(A).

In general, an anti-deficiency statute provides that although a purchase-money lender or a construction lender can – in appropriate circumstances – foreclose on their loan and cause a sale of the property to pay the loan, the lender cannot (if the statutory criteria are met) force the homeowner/borrower to pay the remaining balance still owed on the loan following the foreclosure (known as the deficiency).… Read More »

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Know your Obligations: Colorado’s Statutory Expansions of the Implied Warranty of Habitability Are Now in Effect

The Colorado legislature had a busy session this year.  Among the several significant bills it enacted, HB1170 strengthens tenant protections under the implied warranty of habitability.  It became effective on August 2, 2019, so landlords and tenants alike are now subject to its requirements.

The bill makes numerous changes to Colorado’s implied warranty of habitability, and interested parties should review the bill in detail.  Landlords in particular may want to consider retaining legal counsel to make sure they have proper procedures in place to promptly deal with any habitability complaints within the new required timelines.  This posting is not intended to provide a comprehensive guide to the changed law, but simply to highlight some of the most significant changes.… Read More »

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CCP 998 Does Not Confer an Independent Right to Attorneys’ Fees

By: Tony Carucci

A so-called “offer to compromise” under California Code of Civil Procedure section 998 can reverse the parties’ entitlement to costs after the date of the offer, depending on the outcome of the litigation. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 998. When making a 998 offer, parties may designate the plaintiff as the prevailing party and provide that the plaintiff may seek attorneys’ fees allowed by law, or expressly include the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees within the amount of the offer. But does an offer that simply provides that the plaintiff may seek attorneys’ fees “allowed by law” provide the plaintiff with an independent right to attorneys’ fees?… Read More »

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Is a Bankruptcy Plan that Violates Federal Criminal Law Proposed in Bad Faith?

By: Ben Reeves

Although legal in many states, marijuana remains illegal under federal criminal law. See 21 U.S.C. § 856(a)(1). One would think that engaging in illegal activity under federal criminal law would preclude relief under federal bankruptcy law. And, in fact, several bankruptcy courts have reached that exact conclusion. See, e.g., In re Rent-Rite Super Kegs West, Ltd., 484 B.R. 799 (Bankr. D. Colo. 2012) (“[A] federal court cannot be asked to enforce the protections of the Bankruptcy Code in aid of a Debtor whose activities constitute a continuing federal crime.”). That bright-line rule, however, may now be subject to some debate.… Read More »

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That’s Common Knowledge! Failure to Designate an Expert Witness in a Professional Negligence Case is Not Fatal Where “Common Knowledge” Exception Applies

By:  Lyndsey Torp

In reversing summary judgment for defendants, the California Fourth District Court of Appeal recently held that homeowners suing their real estate broker for negligence did not need an expert witness to establish the elements of their causes of action. Ryan v. Real Estate of the Pacific, Inc. (2019) 32 Cal. App. 5th 637. Typically, expert witnesses are required to establish the standard of care in professional negligence cases. But in Ryan, the court of appeal held that the “common knowledge” exception applied despite this general rule, because the conduct required by the particular circumstance of the case was within the common knowledge of a layman.… Read More »

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Arizona, Meet RON!

By: Lauren Podgorski

Arizona passed Senate Bill 1030, which authorizes Arizona notaries to perform remote online notarizations, known as “RON.” RON becomes effective as of June 30, 2020.

 What is Remote Online Notarization (RON)?

Currently, a person must “personally appear before or be in the presence of” a notary public in order to have her signature or document notarized. RON provides that an Arizona notary public who is physically located in Arizona may notarize remotely, using communication technology for individuals located anywhere in the United States, and even outside of the United States subject to certain additional requirements. Now, with RON, communication technology satisfies the requirement to “personally appear before or be in the presence of” a notary public.… Read More »

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Appellate Court Affirms Medical Marijuana Variance in Phoenix

By:  Patrick J. Paul

On May 2, 2019, the Arizona Court of Appeals in a memorandum decision, upheld a superior court judgment affirming a variance granted by the City of Phoenix Board of Adjustment (Board) to allow the operation of a medical marijuana dispensary in North Phoenix.  Dreem Green Inc. v. City of Phoenix, 2019 WL 1959618.

In Arizona, the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) is authorized to allocate medical marijuana dispensary registration certificates via population-based geographic areas individually  referred to as a Community Health Analysis Area or “CHAA.”  In this instance DHS granted a medical marijuana registration certificate to prospective facility operators for the North Mountain  CHAA, and those certificate holders sought to open a dispensary near Dunlap Ave and Interstate 17 in Phoenix on property zoned C2. … Read More »

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Colorado Court of Appeals clarifies that a finding of irreparable harm is not required to enter a permanent injunction to enforce an easement

On March 21, 2019, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Rinker v. Colina-Lee, holding for the first time that the “irreparable harm” element typically required to grant a permanent injunction is not needed for injunctions issued to enforce easements. 2019 COA 45. While the facts underlying the case are long and somewhat convoluted, for the purposes of the court’s “irreparable harm” holding, the case involves two real property owners along a private road governed by an association agreement. Id., ¶¶ 12-14. Uphill property alterations by the association and other members caused debris to accumulate on Mr.… Read More »

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Vacation Rentals: Liability of the Owner for Injury Suffered by the Renter

By:  Kevin J. Parker

With the explosion of the “private” rental business wherein residential property owners rent their house or condo on a short-term basis to third-parties, certain legal issues have arisen with regard to the duties owed by the property owner to the renter.

 A recent Virginia Supreme Court case, Haynes-Garrett v. Dunn, 818 S.E.2d 798 (Va. 2018), addressed that issue. In that case, the property owners owned a rental house in Virginia Beach. The property was not the owners’ main residence, but rather a vacation home that was sometimes used by the owners, but mostly used as a rental.… Read More »

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Estoppel Certificate? Estop and Check Your Lease

By:  Lauren Podgorski

If you are leasing space in a building, there may come a time when you receive a request from your landlord to fill out and sign an estoppel certificate. Estoppel certificates are usually sent to tenants in connection with the sale or refinance of a building, and a third party may rely on the accuracy of the statements and information contained in the estoppel certificate in connection with that transaction. Estoppel certificates can range from a very simple, one-page document, to several pages.

I’ve received an estoppel certificate in the mail. What do I do now?

Consider the following:

Check your lease.… Read More »

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Land Banking. Why Consider It?

By: Lauren L. Munsell

For homebuilders, financing a real estate transaction, oftentimes via an institutional lender, is common place in the industry.  But what is land banking and why should it be considered by homebuilders?

Land banking is an off-balance sheet financing structure whereby the land banker purchases fee title to the homebuilder’s desired lots – instead of the homebuilder. Simultaneously, the homebuilder enters into an option agreement with the land banker wherein the homebuilder obtains an option to purchase the desired lots from the land banker.  Such option is generally secured by a non-refundable option fee paid by the homebuilder to the land banker.… Read More »

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Am I Still Covered Under the Title Insurance Policy?

By: Ian Douglas

When transferring property for corporate restructuring or estate planning purposes, an important issue to consider is whether the successor owner will be covered by the grantee’s title insurance policy.  Because title insurance policies insure only the title of the “Insured” identified in the policy, the successor in interest of the named insured may not be covered following the transfer.

In older ALTA title insurance policies, the definition of “Insured” included the person or entity specifically identified in the policy as the insured, as well as any subsequent owners who took title to the subject property by operation of law. … Read More »

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Recording “Un-Neighborly” Documents

By: Bob Henry

In September 2018, in Baumgartner v. Timmins, 245 Ariz. 334, 429 P.3d 567, the Arizona Court of Appeals provided further clarification on what constitutes an “encumbrance” on a property for purposes of Arizona’s statutory scheme prohibiting the recording of “false documents.”  The statute, A.R.S. § 33-420, prohibits the recording of documents that a person knows to be forged, are groundless, or that contain material misstatements (or false claims).  A person who claims an “interest in, or a lien or encumbrance against” real property who records such documents can be held liable for $5,000 or treble the actual damages caused by the recording (whichever is greater), A.R.S.… Read More »

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“Bee” Careful: Unique Considerations When Negotiating a Bee Storage Lease Agreement

By: Colton Addy

beehive-1143380_1920 (1)

As demand for commercial bees used to pollinate crops (such as almond trees) has grown, so has the demand for facilities to store bees.  Entering a lease agreement for the storage of live bees presents some unique issues the parties need to consider when negotiating the lease agreement.

Don’t Bee Short-Sighted:  Bees are often transported to different areas depending on the time of year, which means bees are not stored in the same facility all year.  The lease agreement will often only provide for the storage of bees during the season when the bees are used for pollination in that particular area, but that does not mean the parties must limit the term of the lease agreement to a single season.  … Read More »

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What If Your CCP 998 Offer is Silent on Costs?

By: Tony Carucci

In California, the “prevailing party” in litigation is generally entitled to recover its costs as a matter of law. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 1032. But under California Code of Civil Procedure section 998, a party may make a so-called “offer to compromise,” which can reverse the parties’ entitlement to costs after the date of the offer, depending on the outcome of the litigation. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 998. The potential payoff of a 998 offer is that “If an offer made by a defendant is not accepted and the plaintiff fails to obtain a more favorable judgment or award, the plaintiff shall not recover his or her postoffer costs and shall pay the defendant’s costs from the time of the offer.” Cal.… Read More »

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Homie Can’t Do That

By:  Patrick J. Paul

The Arizona Attorney General recently reached an agreement with Utah-based real estate company Homie which made a splash in the Phoenix market during the fall election with candidate-type signage posted throughout the community urging a “Vote for Homie” as significant change and assured that such change would be “coming to your pocket.”  The problem?  Confusion to the voter, improper collection of personal data.

Homie first entered the Phoenix market in January 2018 with a softer digitally-based advertising splash.  Homie suggested that customers could save an average of $10,000 in home sales transactions by utilizing its technology and licensed real agents and directed further inquiry to its website  http://homieforsenate.com/. … Read More »

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Attorneys’ Fees Are Available in Arizona Eviction Actions

By: Ben Reeves

The Arizona Court of Appeals recently held that any successful plaintiff in a forcible detainer action (i.e., an eviction action) may recover an award of its attorneys’ fees and costs incurred at trial under A.R.S. § 12-1178(A). See Bank of New York v. Dodev, 1 CA-CV 17-0652 (Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2018). Prior to this decision, caselaw held that fees were only awardable in actions arising out of the termination of a residential lease. RREEF Mgmt. Co. v. Camex Prods., Inc., 190 Ariz. 75, 945 P.2d 386 (Ct. App. 1997). Changes to the statute, however, rendered the prior caselaw obsolete.… Read More »

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Court Addresses HOA Attempt to Restrict Short Term Rentals

By:  Kevin J. Parker

In a recent case, the Texas Supreme Court addressed an attempt by a homeowners’ association (“HOA”) to restrict short-term rentals based upon recorded Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”) applicable to a residential subdivision. The property was a single-family home. The homeowner rented the home through websites such as VRBO. The HOA issued notices of violation; the homeowner kept renting; the HOA assessed fines against the property. The property owner then sought a declaration from the court that the CC&Rs did not impose a minimum duration on occupancy or leasing. The trial court agreed with the HOA.… Read More »

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Condemnation Actions: How Valuable Is Your Evidence of Property Value?

By: Erica Stutman

house

When a government condemns (takes) private property for a public use, the property owner is entitled to receive “just compensation” equal to the property’s market value. Value is typically determined by appraisals, but if the parties cannot agree, a judge or jury will determine the amount in a condemnation lawsuit. The parties may seek to present various forms of evidence of value, though it will be admissible only if the evidence is relevant and its value is not substantially outweighed by the risk of causing unfair prejudice, confusion, undue delay or waste of time, does not mislead the jury, and is not needlessly cumulative.… Read More »

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Arizona Court Determines Statute of Limitations Applicable to a Claim for Reformation of a Deed of Trust (and a Related Claim for Declaratory Judgment)

By:  Kevin J. Parker

In a recent Arizona Court of Appeals case, Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Pheasant Grove LLC, 798 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 15 (August 23, 2018), the Court of Appeals addressed the question of what statute of limitations was applicable to a declaratory judgment claim.  In that case, a bank’s deed of trust inadvertently omitted one of the lots that was supposed to secure that bank’s loan.  The deed of trust should have covered lots 8 and 9, but by its terms covered only lot 8.  A different bank subsequently recorded a deed of trust that encumbered lot 9. … Read More »

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Ten Years After Colorado’s Adverse Possession Amendment: a brief look backwards and forwards

In response to national outrage over an infamous adverse possession case in Boulder, Colorado, in which a lawyer and a judge intentionally took their neighbors’ undeveloped land through adverse possession, the Colorado legislature amended the state’s adverse possession statute (C.R.S. § 38-41-101) to make the claim significantly harder to prove.  It did this because it believed “there were insufficient ‘obstacles’ to establishing a claim for adverse possession under the existing law.”[1]  Effective July 1, 2008, the amendment created a heightened burden of proof, additional element requirements, and the possibility of a losing defendant recovering money from successful plaintiffs for the value of the land they took and the taxes the defendant had paid on that land.… Read More »

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Wait, You Want An HOA?! Restricting Implied Common-Interest Communities

By: Neal McConomy

While the butt of many jokes and a thorn in the side of some property owners, homeowners associations (“HOAs”) serve the vital function of collecting and disbursing funds to care for and maintain common areas of residential developments. Without HOAs, neighborhood open spaces, parks, and other amenities risk falling into disrepair through a type of tragedy of the commons, wherein residents use such amenities but refuse to subsidize care and maintenance for these common areas believing someone else will pony-up the funds. HOAs, when properly organized and managed, avoid this problem by ensuring everyone pays their fair shares for the common areas.… Read More »

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Cybersecurity on Your Project: Why Not Follow National Security Strategy?

By Rick Erickson

In its recent Cybersecurity Strategy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defined “cyberspace” as “the independent network of information technology infrastructure, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computers, information and communications systems, and embedded processors and controllers.”  To DHS, protecting cyberspace includes threats against “federal and nonfederal information systems.”  In other words, both private and public interests are at risk.  In his 2018 National Defense Strategy, U.S. Department of Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, essentially concurred in declaring cyberspace a “warfighting domain” and promising to “invest in cyber defense, resilience, and the continued integration of cyber capabilities into the full spectrum of military operations.”

The construction industry is a key player in cybersecurity because contractors, designers and owners are responsible for building and delivering projects providing critical public services like national defense, health care, law enforcement, transportation, and utilities.… Read More »

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Everyone Wins When a Foreclosure Sale Generates Excess Proceeds

By: Ben Reeves

Introduction

When a foreclosure sale generates more money than needed to pay off the lien, the excess proceeds usually go first to creditors in the order of their priority, and second to the owner after creditors are paid in full. So, in truth, not everyone wins when a foreclosure sale brings in too much money.  Amusingly, in Steinmetz v. Everyone Wins, the court awarded excess sale proceeds to….you guessed it…Everyone Wins, despite the owner’s argument that Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes barred it from recovering anything.

In addition to supplying a clever title for this post, Steinmetz v. Everyone Wins provides an important analysis of how Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes, homeowner’s assessment lien statutes, and foreclosure statutes apply when determining who “wins” when it comes to excess sale proceeds.… Read More »

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Not so Fast! How Does Revoking Acceleration of a Note Impact the Statute of Limitations?

By: Ben Reeves

Introduction

Lenders routinely accelerate notes after a default occurs, calling the entire loan due immediately. Less regularly, a lender may change its mind and unilaterally revoke the acceleration.  Rarely, however, does a lender fail to foreclose on its real property collateral before the statute of limitations expires.  In Andra R. Miller Designs, LLC v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 244 Ariz. 265, 418 P.3d 1038 (Ct. App. 2018), a unique set of facts involving these issues led the Arizona Court of Appeals to hold that proper revocation of acceleration resets the statute of limitations.

The Facts

In Miller, a lender made a $1,940,000 loan evidenced by a promissory note and secured by a deed of trust against a home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. … Read More »

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California Supreme Court Clarifies Deadline to File Anti-SLAPP Motions in Light of Amended Pleadings

By: Tony Carucci

California’s “anti-SLAPP” (“SLAPP” is an acronym for strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute—codified at California Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 et seq.—is the primary vehicle for defending against any action involving petitioning or free speech. The statute was designed to provide an early and fast summary judgment-like procedure to allow defendants and cross-defendants to file a motion to dismiss either an entire complaint, specific causes of action, or even just portions of a cause of action, and to require the plaintiff to respond before conducting discovery. By facilitating an early challenge to a plaintiff or cross-complainant’s claims, the anti-SLAPP statute allows the responding party to avoid the costs and delay that chill the exercise of constitutionally protected rights.… Read More »

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“But I didn’t know what I was signing….”

By Bobby Kethcart

In real estate cases—which frequently involve long purchase agreements, loan documents, personal guarantees, deeds of trust, etc.—we’ve likely all had a client or opposing party who trots out the line that they didn’t know what they were signing, or they didn’t read or understand what they were signing, so the document shouldn’t be enforced according to its terms.

Most of us instinctively believe the claim is a loser: You signed the document, you’re bound by it.

But is this actually right? … Read More »

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Developers Celebrate Arizona’s Opportunity Zones

By: Patrick J. Paul

President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress in December included a new community development program designed to promote investment in low income urban and rural communities.  These “Opportunity Zones” provide that every Governor may nominate up to 25% of qualifying low-income Census tracts for consideration in the program which provides substantial reductions on capital gains taxes with the greatest benefits to those holding their investments for a period of at least 10 years.

States were required by March 21st to submit nominations or request a 30 day extension to subsequently submit.  The Treasury Department in turn has 30 days from the date of submission to designate the nominated zones. … Read More »

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Property Owner Entitled to Rely on Zoning Administrator Advice

By:  Kevin J. Parker

In the recent case of In Re Langlois/Novicki Variance Denial, 175 A.3d 1222, 2017 VT 76 (2017), the Vermont court addressed the question of whether a property owner could enforce – by equitable estoppel principles – a representation by a town zoning administrator that no permit or variance was needed for the property owner’s proposed construction.  In that case, a landowner wanted to add a pergola to an existing concrete patio on his land.  During a social visit at the property, the property owner asked the town zoning administrator if he needed a permit.  The town zoning administrator told the property owner that no permit was needed. … Read More »

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Under Colorado House Bill 17-1279, HOA Boards Now Must Get Members’ Informed Consent Before Bringing A Construction Defect Action

By: Luke Mecklenburg

Last year, I wrote a post calling attention to stalled efforts in the Colorado legislature to pass  meaningful construction defect reform.  Shortly thereafter, the legislature got it done in the form of House Bill 17-1279.  This bill creates an important pre-litigation notice-and-approval process whenever an HOA initiates a construction defect action in its own name or on behalf of two or more of its members.

Before May 2017, the pre-litigation requirements that an HOA had to fulfill before bringing a construction defect claim under the Colorado Construction Defect Action Reform Act (“CDARA”) were generally minor. For example, while many declarations required majority approval from the community prior to initiation of claims, in practice, what the industry was seeing is that some HOAs were making it so that only a majority of the HOA Board had to approve bringing the claim, rather than the majority of interested unit owners. … Read More »

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California’s Right To Repair Act Is The Sole Remedy For Damages For Construction Defects In New Residential Construction

By: Mark Johnson

The California Supreme Court ruled in McMillin Albany LLC et al. v. The Superior Court of Kern County, (1/18/2018) 4 cal. 5th 241, that California’s Right to Repair Act, California Civil Code sections 895 et seq. (“Act”) is the sole remedy for construction defect claims for economic loss and property damages regarding new residential construction.  The Act establishes a pre-litigation dispute resolution process that must be followed before filing a construction defect action for new residential construction purchased after January 1, 2003. The Act provides a builder with the right to attempt to repair construction defects before litigation is filed.… Read More »

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What Types of “Damages Claims” Survive a Trustee’s Sale?

By: Ben Reeves

Introduction

Arizona’s trustee’s sale statutory scheme provides for the waiver of all defenses and objections to a trustee’s sale that: (i) are not raised prior to the sale, and (ii) do not result in an injunction against the sale going forward.  See A.R.S. § 33-811(C).  In other words, if you have an objection to a trustee’s sale, you must seek and obtain an injunction prior to the sale or your objection will be waived.

Arizona’s Court of Appeals previously held that notwithstanding this statutory waiver, “common law” defenses to repayment of the debt survive a non-judicial foreclosure even in the absence of an injunction prior to the sale.  … Read More »

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When Does a Contractor Legally Abandon a Construction Project?

By Rick Erickson

Lately, we’ve been spending more time as litigators pursuing and defending claims of abandonment against contractors. It has become apparent that abandonment is often misinterpreted in its legal meaning and effect.  Here are some thoughts on abandonment to consider.

On its face, the concept of abandonment is simple enough. For any number of reasons, a contractor abandons a project when the contractor stops showing up.  Abandonment is major concern for all players on the project because it causes critical path delays and significant costs to replace the contractor with another contractor, many times at a much higher cost than the original contractors’ bid.… Read More »

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Withdrawal of an Admission in California May Shift Costs—Including Attorneys’ Fees—Incurred in Connection with the Withdrawal

By: Tony Carucci

Under California Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.300, a court may permit a party to withdraw an admission made in response to a request for admission upon noticed motion. The court may only do so, however, “if it determines that the admission was the result of mistake, inadvertence, or excusable neglect, and that the party who obtained the admission will not be substantially prejudiced in maintaining that party’s action or defense on the merits.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 2033.300(b). The court may also “impose conditions on the granting of the motion that are just, including, but not limited to .… Read More »

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Oregon and Nevada Adopt the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act

By:  Ben Reeves

Nevada and Oregon join Utah in adopting the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act (the “Act”) promulgated by the Uniform Law Commission.  We have been following the development of the Act since its drafting stages.  If you want more information about the Act, check out our prior posts about the drafting process, what the Act is and does, and Utah’s enactment of the Act.… Read More »

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Is the Issuance of a City Use Permit Referable? Not When It Is an Administrative Act

By: Adam E. Lang

Arizona’s Constitution gives electors in cities, towns, and counties the ability to refer legislation that was enacted by their local elected officials to the ballot for popular vote. Ariz. Const. art. IV, Pt. 1 § 1(8). But only legislative acts are referable; administrative acts are not. In general, a legislative act makes new law and creates policy, is permanent in nature, and is generally applied. On the other hand, an administrative act is one that executes and implements a law already in place. Wennerstrom v. City of Mesa, 169 Ariz. 485, 489-90, 821 P.2d 146, 150-51 (1991).… Read More »

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Specific Performance of an Option Contract to Purchase Real Property is Barred Absent Agreement on All Material Terms

By:  Richard H. Herold

On November 14, 2017, the Court of Appeals (Division 1), in Offerman v. Granada, LLC, 2017 WL 5352664, reversed a trial court order directing specific performance of an alleged option to purchase real property, holding that the alleged option was too indefinite to be specifically performed because the parties did not agree to all of the material terms of the option.

Tenant-Purchaser Offerman executed a two-year lease with Landlord-Seller Granada, which granted Offerman “the option to purchase [the] property…for a sales price to be determined at that time by an independent appraiser acceptable to both Tenant and Landlord.… Read More »

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The Contributors to This Blog Are Pleased to Announce That….

Snell & Wilmer’s Real Estate Litigation Group, which provides the content for The Real Estate Litigation Blog, is pleased to announce that it has been recognized in both the national and metropolitan rankings by U.S. News Media Group and Best Lawyers for the 2018 edition of “Best Law Firms.”  We achieved the following rankings:

 •            National Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Phoenix (AZ) Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Utah Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Colorado Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Reno (NV) Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Tucson (AZ) Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

The rankings are determined through an evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.  Read More »

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California Mediation Confidentiality May Apply to Third Party “Participants” Retained to Provide Analysis

By: Tony Carucci

California Evidence Code section 1119 governs the general admissibility of oral and written communications generated during the mediation process. Section 1119(a) provides that “[n]o evidence of anything said or any admission made for the purpose of, in the course of, or pursuant to, a mediation . . . is admissible or subject to discovery, and disclosure of the evidence shall not be compelled, in any . . . civil action . . . .” Cal. Evid. Code § 1119(a) (emphasis added). Similarly, section 1119(b) bars discovery or admission in evidence of any “writing . . . prepared for the purpose of, in the course of, or pursuant to, a mediation .… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court Clarifies Area Variance Standard; Property Owners May Obtain an Area Variance When Special Circumstances Existed at Purchase

By:  Nick Wood, Adam Lang, Noel Griemsmann, and Brianna Long

In Pawn 1st v. City of Phoenix, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected a Court of Appeals rule that would have unduly restrained alienation of property in Arizona. The Court of Appeals found that the City of Phoenix Board of Adjustment acted beyond its authority when it granted an area variance to a pawn shop where the special circumstances causing a need for the variance existed before the pawn shop purchased the property. Under Arizona law, boards of adjustment cannot grant an area variance where the special circumstances requiring the variance are self-imposed.… Read More »

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Who says you can’t choose between liquidated damages or actual damages?

In Colorado, courts enforce liquidated damages provisions if three elements are satisfied: (1) the parties intended to liquidate damages; (2) the amount of liquidated damages was a reasonable estimate of the presumed actual damages caused by a breach; and (3) at the time of contracting, it was difficult to ascertain the amount of actual damages that would result from a breach. But what happens when a contract gives a party a right to choose between liquidated damages or actual damages? This seems troublesome because it allows a party to set the floor for their damages without limitation if actual damages exceed the contractual amount.… Read More »

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What Happens When a Secured Creditor Files a Late Claim in an Equity Receivership?

By: Ben Reeves

Pitting a receivership court’s inherent equitable powers against pre-existing property rights can lead to some pretty interesting questions.  In SEC v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 848 F.3d 1339, 1343-44 (11th Cir. 2017), the Eleventh Circuit recently examined whether a district court’s inherent authority to establish a claims submission process allowed the court to extinguish a security interest in real property based solely upon an untimely proof of claim.  Much to the relief of secured creditors, the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred, as a matter of law, by extinguishing the creditor’s pre-existing property rights under those circumstances.… Read More »

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Arizona Court of Appeals Awards Attorneys’ Fees in Quiet-Title Action

In Arizona, a party successfully quieting title to property may recover its attorneys’ fees if it satisfies three requirements: (1) the party requests a quitclaim deed from the party adversely claiming title twenty days before bringing the quiet-title action; (2) the party tenders five dollars for the execution and delivery of the deed; and (3) the adverse party fails to comply. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 12-1103(B). Recently, in McCleary v. Tripodi, No. 2 CA-CV 2016-0145, 2017 WL 3723472 (Ariz. Ct. App. Aug. 29, 2017), the Arizona Court of Appeals awarded attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party under this statute.

In McCleary v.Read More »

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Pacing in Construction Scheduling Disputes

On a high level, construction delay litigation involves sorting out the impacts to the critical project path and determining which party is responsible for those impacts. One of the more difficult elements of this process is determining whether a delay would have occurred regardless of one party’s critical path impact due to a separate, independent impact to the critical path by the other party.  For example, a contractor cannot collect delay damages for delays caused by the owner if the contractor itself was causing independent impacts that would have pushed off the completion date anyway.

However, the concept of “pacing” provides a potential defense for a party who is not on pace with the as-planned schedule for noncritical activities, even where those activities are still ongoing after the planned completion date.… Read More »

Author: Luke Mecklenburg | Leave a comment

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The “Ugly” Property Next Door is Ruining My Property Value

By:  Kevin J. Parker

Traditional bases for private nuisance claims include circumstances where noise, light, vibration, or odor emanating from a neighboring property harm the value of your property. Such bases can be objectively verified and quantified.  Courts in various states depart, however, on the issue of whether pure unsightliness of a neighboring property, which diminishes the value of your property, supports a cognizable damages claim against the neighboring property owner under the law of nuisance.

 As explained by the Vermont Supreme Court in the recent case of Myrick v. Peck Electric Co., 2017 WL 129041 (January 13, 2017), state laws vary on the viability of a claim for aesthetic nuisance. … Read More »

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Nevada Supreme Court Clarifies the Litigation Waiver of the One-Action Rule

By Bob L. Olson 

Nevada has a one-action rule which, with limited exceptions, requires a creditor seeking to recover a debt secured by real property to proceed against the security first prior to seeking recovery from the debtor personally. In the event that a law suit is filed in violation of the one-action rule, final judgment may be entered in favor of the creditor but that judgment “releases and discharges the mortgage or other lien.”  NRS 40.455(3).  Nevada law further provides that, with the exception of certain guaranties, any provision in an agreement relating to the sale of real property which contains a waiver of Nevada’s anti-deficiency laws may not be enforced by a court because doing so violates Nevada’s public policy. … Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court Confirms a Prevailing Homeowner Can Recover Fees on Implied Warranty Claims

By Rick Erickson

On August 9th, in Sirrah Enterprises, L.L.C. v. Wunderlich, the Arizona Supreme Court settled the question about recovery of attorneys’ fees after prevailing on implied warranty claims against a residential contractor.  The simple answer is, yes, a homeowner who prevails on the merits can recover the fees they spent to prove that shoddy construction breached the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability.  Why?  Because, as Justice Timmer articulated, “[t]he implied warranty is a contract term.”  Although implied, the warranty is legally part of the written agreement in which “a residential builder warrants that its work is performed in a workmanlike manner and that the structure is habitable.”

In other words, a claim based on the implied warranty not only arises out of the contract, the claim is actually based on a contract term.… Read More »

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RICO Madness: The Nuisance of Owning and Operating a Marijuana Facility

By:  Bob Henry

On June 7, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Safe Streets Alliance, et al. v. Hickenlooper, et al., (No. 16-1048), an opinion that could open the doors to property use litigation involving marijuana facilities.   One of the issues in Safe Streets was whether a property owner can use the federal RICO statutory scheme to obtain relief arising out of a neighboring property owner using property for the cultivation of marijuana in a manner that causes an impact to the value, use, and enjoyment of one’s property.  

The pertinent factual allegations in Safe Streets (on the federal RICO issue) were straightforward.     Read More »

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Erasing Any Doubt: Arizona FED Actions Do Not Accrue Until Formal Demand for Possession is Tendered

By:  Bob Henry

Clearing up any lingering confusion, in Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC v. Woods, 767 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 4 (June 22, 2017), the Arizona Court of Appeals confirmed that residential forcible entry and detainer actions in Arizona accrue for statute of limitations purposes when a party entitled to possession makes a formal demand for return of possession not when the party could have made a demand for return of possession.

In Carrington, the borrowers (the Woodses) remained in property that they had acquired in 2008 but then lost to foreclosure several years later.  The original lender obtained title to the property at a trustee’s sale on February 16, 2010, but did not take any action to remove the Woodses at that time. … Read More »

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Orchestrating Bias: Arbitrator’s Undisclosed Membership in Philharmonic Group with Pauly Shore’s Attorney Not Grounds to Reverse Award in Real Estate Dispute

By:  Lyndsey Torp

The California court of appeal recently issued an unpublished decision in Knispel v. Shore, 2017 WL 2492535, affirming a judgment confirming an arbitration award in a real estate dispute involving Pauly Shore.  The court of appeal held that the arbitrator’s failure to disclose her membership in the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic Group with the attorney representing Pauly was not grounds to overturn the judgment.

The underlying arbitration involved a dispute between Michael Scott Shore, on the one hand, and his brother, Pauly, among others, on the other hand, regarding certain residential property located on Sunset Boulevard near The Comedy Store in West Hollywood (owned and operated by their mother, Mitzi Shore).… Read More »

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California Supreme Court Hands Victory to Private Property Owners Over Public Use

By:  Sean M. Sherlock

In 1970 the California Supreme Court held that, under certain circumstances, private property owners impliedly dedicate their property to the public if they permit the public to use it. Gion v. City of Santa Cruz (1970) 2 Cal.3d 29.  This holding was controversial, and the next year the California Legislature enacted Civil Code section 1009 limiting the public’s ability to permanently use private property through an implied dedication.

In the 40-plus years since then, the lower courts have wrestled with the issue of whether the statute limiting implied dedication applies only to recreational uses by the public, or also to nonrecreational uses.… Read More »

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Appeals of Rulings by The Registrar of Contractors Must Be Timely Filed in Superior Court.

By Rick Erickson

Recently in Johnson v. Arizona Registrar of Contractors, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of a homeowner’s late appeal of an adverse decision by the Registrar of Contractors (“Registrar”).  After successfully pursuing a complaint to suspend a roofing contractor’s license, the homeowner tried but failed to get her roofing repair costs from the Registrar’s Recovery Fund.  The homeowner sent her appeal to the Registrar.  However, the governing Arizona statute, A.R.S. § 12-904(A), clearly required the homeowner’s appeal to be filed in Superior Court, not with the Registrar.  Once the homeowner realized her mistake, her appeal to Superior Court was a day late. … Read More »

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Does Your 998 Offer to Compromise Include Attorneys’ Fees and Costs?

By: Anthony J. Carucci

In California, the “prevailing party” in litigation is generally entitled to recover its costs as a matter of law. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 1032. But under California Code of Civil Procedure section 998, a party may make a so-called “offer to compromise,” which can reverse the parties’ entitlement to costs after the date of the offer, depending on the outcome of the litigation. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 998. The potential payoff of a 998 offer to compromise is explained in section 998(c)(1):

If an offer made by a defendant is not accepted and the plaintiff fails to obtain a more favorable judgment or award, the plaintiff shall not recover his or her postoffer costs and shall pay the defendant’s costs from the time of the offer.

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Conflicts of Laws, Deficiency Actions, and Statutes of Limitations – Oh My!

By: Ben Reeves

What law governs a deficiency action if the choice-of-law provisions in the note and deed of trust conflict? The Arizona Court of Appeals answered that very question in ZB, N.A. v. Hoeller, No. 1 CA-CV 16-0071 (Ct. App. April 15, 2017).  It turns out, the note controls.

The Facts

In ZB, ZB, N.A. (ZB), a Utah bank, lent money to the Hoellers to purchase a commercial property in Missouri.  The note included a choice-of-law provision stating that Utah law governed the debt.  The deed of trust securing the commercial property, however, provided that Missouri law controlled “procedural matters related to the perfection and enforcement of [ZB’s] rights and remedies against the [p]roperty.”  In 2012, the Hoellers defaulted, and the bank recovered the property through a trustee’s sale.… Read More »

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Landlords Beware: Subordination Agreements

By: Kevin J. Parker

In the recent Arizona Court of Appeals case Earle Investments, LLC v. Southern Desert Medical Center Partners, 762 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 12 (2017), the Court of Appeals addressed the question of the scope of a subordination agreement signed by the property owner (Lessor/Landlord) at the request of the Lessee/Tenant and Lessee/Tenant’s Lender.  In general, by subordination, Party No. 1 with a higher/better lien priority agrees to allow Party No. 2 (usually a lender providing construction funds for the overall betterment of the property) to get a lien position in front of Party No. 1.  Party No.… Read More »

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Colorado House Bill 1279 stalls over 120-day unit owner election period

With the session more than halfway through, the Colorado Legislature’s 2017 attempts at meaningful construction defect reform may fail again.  This year, the Legislature did not attempt a single-bill construction defect overhaul like those that have failed over the last half-decade.  Rather, it has sought to enact reforms on a piecemeal basis, with several smaller bills addressing specific issues that have been affecting condominium construction along Colorado’s booming Front Range. 

This new approach appears to be headed towards much the same outcome as the failed efforts of the past.  House Bill 1169 would have given developers a statutory right to repair before being sued by homeowners, and Senate Bill 156 would mandate arbitration or mediation. Read More »

Author: Luke Mecklenburg | Leave a comment

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What is the Effect of an Untimely Challenge to the Timeliness of a Trustee’s Sale?

By: Ben Reeves

Ever wonder what happens if a person challenges the timeliness of a trustee’s sale after the sale already occurred? Waiver of the argument of course!  And, in the case of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Waltner, the affirmance of an eviction judgment.

In the Waltner case, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as Trustee for WaMu Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2005-PR4 Trust (the “Bank”), purchased a residential property at a trustee’s sale in September 2015.  The Bank gave the occupant of the house, Sarah Waltner (“Waltner”), notice to vacate the property, but she did not do so.  Accordingly, the Bank filed a summary action to evict Waltner, which the trial court ultimately granted.… Read More »

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Utah Becomes First State to Enact the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act

By:  David Leta

On March 25, Utah became the first state to enact the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act (“UCRERA”) which was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (the “Conference”) and adopted by the Conference at its annual meeting in July 2015. The Utah Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act, (the “Utah Act”) mirrors UCRERA and applies to all commercial real property receiverships that are filed in the Utah District Courts on and after May 9, 2017.

The Utah Act provides both substantive and procedural guidance in an area of law that historically has been marked by inconsistency and uncertainty.… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court Holds a Credit Bid at a Trustee’s Sale Should Not be Credited to a Title Insurer Under a Standard Lender’s Title Policy To the Extent the Bid Exceeds the Collateral’s Fair Market Value

By:  Richard H. Herold

The Arizona Supreme Court recently addressed what impact, if any, a lender’s credit bid at an Arizona trustee’s sale has on an insurer’s liability under Sections 2, 7 and 9 of the standard’s lender’s title policy (“Policy”), holding in Equity Income Partners, LP v. Chicago Title Insurance Company, 241 Ariz. 334, 387 P.3d 1263 (February 7, 2017) as follows:

  1. Section 2 of the Policy, entitled “Continuation of Insurance,” not Section 9, entitled “Reduction of Insurance; Reduction or Termination of Liability,” applies when a lender acquires property at a trustee sale by “either a full- or partial-credit bid” since Section 2 directly addresses the existence and amount of coverage in such circumstances.
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Federal Court Issues Permanent Injunction and Permanently Shuts Down Santa Ysabel’s Desert Rose Bingo

By: Anthony J. Carucci

On December 12, 2016, Judge Battaglia of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California issued the Court’s long-awaited ruling on the State of California and Federal Government’s motions for summary judgment in the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel tribe’s (the “Tribe”) Desert Rose Bingo case. The State of California argued that the Tribe’s Internet bingo website, Desert Rose Bingo, offered a Class III game—as classified under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”)—to patrons in violation of the Tribe’s Tribal-State Compact with the State. Both the State and the Federal Government also argued that the Tribe’s Internet bingo operation violated the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (“UIGEA”) by allowing patrons to participate off-reservation.… Read More »

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Forcible Entry and Detainer Actions: Courts May Not Consider Tenant’s Hardship

By: Erica Stutman

If you own property and a tenant wrongfully refuses to vacate the premises (for example when the lease expires or after proper written notice of termination), you may have a quick and easy remedy to have the tenant removed. Arizona’s forcible entry and detainer (FED) statute allows a person to bring a speedy, summary action to obtain an order that the person must leave the property immediately. See A.R.S. § 12-1171 – 1183.  To allow for quick resolution, the only question a court may consider in a FED action is who has the right of possession of the property. … Read More »

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Green Energy Can Complicate Real Estate Foreclosures

Bob L. Olson

A quick drive through almost any newer residential community in the Southwest will show that a lot of residents are embracing “Green Energy” or renewable energy by placing solar panels on their properties. While most people would agree that increasing the use of alternative energy is socially responsible, there are a number of real estate investors that may view it as an opportunity to make additional profits by purchasing distressed properties with solar panels and then reselling those properties for more than they would be worth without solar panels. The theory is relatively straight forward as many believe that foreclosure of a deed of trust that was recorded before the solar panels were installed would extinguish any liens in favor of the vendor that sold or financed the sale of the solar panels. … Read More »

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Franchisors Should Consider Signing a Conditional Lease Assignment Rather Than a Franchisee’s Lease

By:  Richard H. Herold

In Franchise & High Properties, LLC v. Happy’s Franchise, LLC, a 2015 decision issued by the Court of Appeals in Michigan, the franchisor, Happy’s Pizza Franchise, LLC, signed a five-year lease for the commercial space to be occupied by its franchisee, Happy’s Pizza #19, Inc.  The franchisor did so to secure a right of first refusal to purchase the property and to enforce the franchise agreement to have the lease assigned to the franchisor if the franchisee defaulted.

The issue in the case was whether the term “tenant” referred solely to Happy’s Pizza #19 or whether it also included Happy’s Franchise as a co-tenant. … Read More »

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Sierra Pacific v. Bradbury goes unchallenged: Colorado’s six-year statute of repose begins when a subcontractor’s scope of work ends

It’s official: the October 20, 2016 deadline to petition for certiorari  to the Colorado Court of Appeals on its decision in Sierra Pacific Industries, Inc. v. Bradbury has passed, so it appears that decision will stand.

In Sierra Pacific, the Court of Appeals held as a matter of first impression that the statute of repose for a general contractor to sue a subcontractor begins to run when a subcontractor’s scope of work is substantially complete, regardless of the status of the overall project.  Sierra Pac. Indus., Inc. v. Bradbury, 2016 COA 132, ¶ 28, ___ P.3d ___.  The Court of Appeals interpreted the statute of repose in C.R.S.… Read More »

Author: Luke Mecklenburg | Leave a comment

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Avoiding Lender Liability for Credit-Related Actions in California

By: Anthony J. Carucci

Aside from general statutory prohibitions on lender discrimination, there are certain circumstances under California law in which lenders may be held liable for credit-related actions, such as negotiating or denying credit. See generally 11 Cal. Real Est. § 35:3 (explaining that the business of lending money is subject to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51 et seq., the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov. Code § 12900 et seq., the Federal Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1691, et seq.Read More »

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What Do I Do With This Stuff? Dealing With Abandoned Property After Foreclosure

By: Lyndsey Torp

You’ve successfully foreclosed on a commercial building in California, and, thankfully, the borrower moved out after foreclosure or after a period of tenancy. But the borrower left behind all sorts of property – furniture, filing cabinets, records, and other assorted property.  While you may be tempted to just toss it all in the dumpster, doing so may subject you to liability.  There are several statutes that you should consider when determining how to handle the abandoned property.

Statutory Options for a Landlord

A landlord-tenant relationship may arise following foreclosure if, for example, the owner of the property accepts rent from the former owner.… Read More »

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Developer Awarded Cost of Preparing Administrative Record in CEQA Lawsuit

Lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) typically proceed as petitions for administrative mandamus. This means the petitioner is asking the court to review an agency’s decision and ultimately issue a mandate directing the agency to set aside its decision.  In this respect the court acts like an appellate court, reviewing the agency’s decision.  There are no witnesses or trial exhibits or jurors or opening statements.  The court reads the parties’ briefs, hears their arguments, and makes its decision based on the evidence in the administrative record of proceedings.

The administrative record is often voluminous. It includes not only the environmental reports, but also all project application materials, staff reports and related documents, public notices, written comments and responses, all evidence or correspondence submitted to or relied upon by the agency, hearing transcripts, written findings, and more. … Read More »

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Washington Answers the Question of Whether Title Companies Owe a Duty of Care to Third Parties…

By: Ben Reeves

Last year (as we blogged about here and wrote a more in depth Law360 article about here), the Ninth Circuit certified to the Washington Supreme Court the question of whether title companies owe a duty of care to third parties when they record legal instruments. We finally have an answer…

“We answer the certified question no and hold that title companies do not owe a duty of care to third parties in the recording of legal instruments. Such a duty is contrary to Washington’s policy and precedent, and other duty of care considerations.”

Centurion Properties III, LLC v.Read More »

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California Supreme Court Upholds Precondemnation Procedures

By Patrick J. Paul

On July 21, 2016, the California Supreme Court in Property Reserve v. Superior Court upheld the state’s precondemnation entry and testing statutes provided they were reformed to allow impacted property owners the ability to have a jury trial to determine damages associated with such entry and testing.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) sought to construct water conveyance facilities that would require significant property condemnation. As part of this process, DWR further sought to investigate the environmental and geological suitability of more than 150 private properties considered for the conveyance route.

DWR proposed two sets of precondemnation diligence – – environmental and geological activities.… Read More »

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Equitable Subrogation Part Deux: Mechanic’s Lien vs. Later Bank Deed of Trust

By Kevin J. Parker

https://www.swlaw.com/people/kevin_parker

This post follows, almost two years to the day, Rick Erickson’s post of August 29, 2014. As noted by Rick Erickson in his August 29, 2014 post, the Arizona Supreme Court in the Weitz case (2014) had determined that equitable subrogation principles were applicable to enable an earlier-recorded mechanic’s lien to be trumped by a later-recorded bank deed of trust, if the loan secured by the later deed of trust paid off a lien that had been ahead of the mechanic’s lien.  In a decision filed August 9, 2016, the Arizona Court of Appeals further clarified the scope of such equitable subrogation.… Read More »

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“Rip and Tear” Damage Remains Covered Under CGL Policy as “Accident”—for Now.

By: Michael Lindsay and Luke Mecklenburg

The Colorado Supreme Court has approved a settlement between the parties to an appeal of the 2012 Colorado Pool Systems v. Scottsdale Insurance Company Court of Appeals case, leaving that ruling intact.  The ruling parses a fine line between uncovered costs of repairing defective work and covered costs of damage caused to nondefective work while repairing defective work.  This nuanced opinion, which is now established Colorado law, is worth a second look.

In Colorado Pool Systems, Inc. v. Scottsdale Insurance Company, the Colorado Court of Appeals determined that so-called “rip and tear” damage caused by a construction professional to nondefective work while correcting defective work is covered as an “accident” under standard Commercial General Liability insurance language. … Read More »

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Landlords Must Not be Arbitrary When Denying a Tenant’s Request To Sublease or Assign

By:  Richard Herold

So, you’re a landlord who’s entered into a 30-year lease, the lease has rent escalation clauses which are dramatically out of step with the market, and it’s your view that you are therefore losing money every month. The tenant is closing its business and wants to sublet or assign the lease to a similar business for the final seven years of the lease.  While these cases are fact-sensitive, some of the following rules may apply where the lease provides the tenant with an opportunity to ask the landlord to consent to an assignment of the lease or a sublease.… Read More »

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Hold that paintbrush! A glimpse into design-control in planned communities

House

By: Erica Stutman

You are choosing a new paint color for the outside of your house, and you think, “Since all the other houses are beige, I’ll do mine purple.” Not so fast – you better check your community’s governing documents before brushing on that first coat of paint.

If you live in a planned community, you’ve probably seen a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (or similarly-titled document) (CC&Rs), which established the community and a homeowners’ association to govern it. Among other things, CC&Rs often allow for the creation of a design-review or architectural committee to act on behalf of the association, giving the committee members broad discretion to review and approve homeowners’ plans to modify their properties.… Read More »

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Common Law Indemnity Claim Affirmed on Justifiable Beliefs

By Rick Erickson https://www.swlaw.com/people/rick_erickson

Yesterday, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued an interesting opinion in Hatch Development v. Solomon. Hatch illustrated two key points in real estate and construction litigation: (1) a contractor’s indemnity does not always require an expressly written obligation; and (2) when facts are undisputed that a contractor is solely at fault for a construction defect, a property owner can be indemnified after paying a neighboring property owner for damages caused by the contractor’s defective work.

Hatch was a homeowner who hired Solomon to install sewer lines. After installation, heavy rain led to muddy water in the sewer lines, suggesting a defect in the installation. … Read More »

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California’s One-Action Rule May Apply to Federal Lenders

By: Anthony J. Carucci

California’s one-action rule provides that “[t]here can be but one form of action for the recovery of any debt or the enforcement of any right secured by mortgage upon real property or an estate for years therein . . . .” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 726(a). In other words, the one-action rule prescribes that the only process for recovery of a debt secured by a mortgage or deed of trust is to foreclose on the lien. The rule aims to prevent a multiplicity of actions and vexatious litigation, and to force a beneficiary to look to all of the security as the primary fund for payment of a debt before looking to the trustor’s other assets.… Read More »

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Governor Ducey Vetoes Water and Development Bills

By Patrick J. Paul

With the second regular legislative session of Governor Doug Ducey’s tenure complete, the Governor exercised his veto pen rejecting several laws impacting water and land development.

On May 9th, Governor Ducey vetoed two measures that could have allowed developers to manipulate the requirements of Arizona’s Groundwater Management Act of 1980: Senate bills 1268 (adequate water supply requirements) and 1400 (county water supply).  The bills’ sponsor, Senator Gail Griffin, had expressed concerns that the federal government was exercising too much control of the water supply in Cochise County in its efforts to ensure the continued flow of water in the San Pedro River.… Read More »

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Applying New California Rules to Your Real Estate Litigation Practice

By: Lyndsey Torp

Several new California procedural rules went into effect on January 1, 2016. While we are several months into the new year, litigators may need a reminder of these new rules.  The list below summarizes several of the notable new rules.

  • Pleading Stage
    • New California Code of Procedure section 430.41(a)(2) mandates that the parties meet and confer at least five days before filing a demurrer (California’s motion to dismiss). If the parties fail to meet and confer, the demurring party may submit a declaration to the court explaining why the meet and confer did not happen, and the demurring party is granted an automatic 30-day extension.
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California Case Deals with Nuisance Lawsuit Intended to Delay Foreclosure

A recent California case provides good precedent for dealing with nuisance lawsuits that are intended to delay valid foreclosures. In Brown v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company —Cal.Rptr.3d—, 2016 WL 2726229 (May 9, 2016), plaintiff sued defendants to stop them from foreclosing on her home.  The trial court sustained defendants’ demurrer without leave to amend, and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint.  The court of appeal affirmed.

In 2004, plaintiff took a $450,000 home loan from Washington Mutual Bank. Washington Mutual failed in 2008, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) was appointed its receiver.  The FDIC sold many of Washington Mutual’s assets, including loans and mortgage servicing rights, to JPMorgan Chase Bank (“Chase”). … Read More »

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Special Rules for Eviction Actions

By:  Kevin Parker

In a recent case, the Arizona Court of Appeals addressed the special rules of procedure for eviction actions. The eviction rules became effective January 1, 2009.  In Sotomayor v. Sotomayor-Munoz, 735 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 28 (March 28, 2016), the court addressed the question of whether the evicted tenant had timely appealed.  The trial court had entered a formal judgment of eviction; and the tenant had filed various post-judgment motions which the tenant apparently believed extended the tenant’s deadline for filing a notice of appeal.  The Court of Appeals determined that the appeal was untimely because, according to the court, the particular motions filed by the tenant did not extend the appeal deadline. … Read More »

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Nevada Supreme Court Holds that Foreclosure Of HOA Lien Extinguishes Equal Priority HOA Lien.

By: Bob L. Olson

In Nevada’s master-planned communities it is common for one home to be in multiple homeowners’ associations.  In such cases there is generally a master association for the master-planned community and then sub-associations for specific developments within the master-planned community.  The liens of the master association and the sub-association have equal priority unless their declarations provide otherwise. See NRS 116.3116(8) (formerly NRS 116.3116(4)).  Earlier this year in Southern Highlands Community Association v. San Florentine Avenue Trust, 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 3 (Jan. 14, 2016), the Nevada Supreme Court (the “Court”) had the opportunity to discuss the effect of the foreclosure by one association on the other association’s lien of equal priority.… Read More »

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Examining Denver’s new construction defect reform ordinance

Construction defect reform is a hot-button issue in Colorado.  This is especially true along the booming Front Range, where rapidly increasing population has driven the prices of renting and buying property a mile high.  Developers maintain that building condominiums is just too risky given their exposure to lawsuits from dissatisfied owners under current state law, while homeowners’ rights groups insist that the current system is necessary to protect homeowners from shoddy construction in what amounts to the biggest investment of many peoples’ lives.

In the face of such a polarizing issue, the Colorado legislature has tried but failed to pass any meaningful reform.… Read More »

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Eminent Domain: Be Careful What You Ask For

By:  Richard Herold and Patrick Paul

The condemnation[1] of property for public works may not always be as clean and easy as the government would like.  Although local governments are often critical players in the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties, contaminated property can: (1) trigger disclosure requirements; (2) lead to environmental liability, for example, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA” or “Superfund”) (42 U.S.C. §9601, et seq.) or an analogous state statute;[2] and/or (3) impact the ultimate valuation of the property.

Local governments can be liable under CERCLA as any one of the following:

  • A current owner or operator of the contaminated property
  • An owner or operator of the property at the time of contamination
  • A party who arranged for the disposal of contamination
  • One who transported the hazardous substances to the property

Condemning authorities can, however, avail of Superfund’s bona fide prospective purchaser defense by engaging in all appropriate inquiry in advance of condemnation and/or taking reasonable post condemnation steps with respect to any known or discovered contamination.… Read More »

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Tips on Pursuing and Defending Complaints against Contractors

By Rick Erickson firm bio

The often staggering cost of litigation has prompted an equally staggering amount of regulatory complaints against contractors in recent years. Why? Because filing a complaint against a contractor may not cost a complainant anything but time. And any litigation expenses are mostly borne by the contractor/respondent, who is anxious to defend and protect their license and reputation (i.e. their livelihood).

Here are some tips for pursuing or responding to a complaint and getting the best out of your state’s contractor regulatory agency (in Arizona, the Registrar of Contractors):

(1)        Respect the Registrar. Your regulatory agency is probably understaffed and overworked.… Read More »

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Lenders Should Contract for the Right to Recover Lost Goodwill Proceeds when Commercial Property is taken in Eminent Domain

By: Anthony J. Carucci

Business Goodwill Generally

In California, the “goodwill” of a business “consists of the benefits that accrue to a business as a result of its location, reputation for dependability, skill or quality, and any other circumstances resulting in probable retention of old or acquisition of new patronage.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 1263.510(b). Put another way: “Goodwill is the amount by which a business’s overall value exceeds the value of its constituent assets, often due to a recognizable brand name, a sterling reputation, or an ideal location. Regardless of the cause, however, goodwill almost always translates into a business’s profitability.” People ex rel.Read More »

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Guarantors’ “Lost Profits” Completely Offset Lender’s Deficiency Claim

By: Ben Reeves

Believe it or not, lenders can breach loan agreements too…and when they do, there can be significant consequences. In Great Western Bank v. LJC Dev., LLC, 726 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 21 (Ariz. Ct. App. Nov. 10, 2015), the Court of Appeals affirmed that guarantors’ “lost profits” resulting from the lender’s breach of a loan agreement completely offset the amount owed under the guaranty. Much can be learned from this unusual outcome, so please continue reading for an analysis of the facts and legal principles of this case.

The Loan Agreements

In Great Western Bank, the bank entered into an acquisition and development loan (the “A&D Loan”) with Cedar Ridge Investments, LLC (“Borrower”) to allow Borrower to acquire and begin the development of infrastructure for a fifty-home subdivision in Flagstaff, AZ to be known as Cedar Ridge.… Read More »

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The Uniform Law Commission Approves the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act

By: Ben Reeves

As we previously reported here, several years ago the Uniform Law Commission (the “ULC”) (the organization that drafted such favorites as the Uniform Commercial Code and the Uniform Arbitration Act) determined that states would benefit from a model act that would govern the powers, rights, and duties of receivers appointed over commercial real property. Since that time, a drafting committee has worked diligently to prepare a comprehensive statute that would address this unique area of law. The ULC recently approved the drafting committee’s final version, and the result is the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act (the “Act”).… Read More »

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School district’s condemnation of a private road passes the test

By: Erica Stutman

The power of eminent domain allows a government or quasi-governmental entity to condemn (take) private property for a public use upon a showing of necessity.  In exchange, the property owner must receive “just compensation” equal to the property’s fair market value, and may be entitled to additional damages, such as severance damages, relocation expenses, costs, or interest.  The eminent domain powers of school districts and other political subdivisions is set forth in A.R.S. § 12-1111.

In Catalina Foothills Unified School District No. 16 v. La Paloma Property Owners Association, the Arizona Court of Appeals confirmed that a school district may condemn a private road for vehicles to enter a school campus. … Read More »

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Property Taxes: A Shopping Center May Not Always be a Shopping Center

By:  Rick Herold, Craig McPike & Ben Reeves

In the world of real property taxes, Valuation + Classification = Assessed Valuation.  Sounds simple, right?  The County Assessor determines the first factor, valuation (subject to certain guidelines under applicable Arizona law).  The Arizona State Legislature determines the second factor, the property’s legal classification and corresponding assessment ratio (i.e., tax rate).  Given the wide disparity in assessment ratios, classification can be a major issue for taxpayers.

Recently, the Court of Appeals confirmed that a shopping center for valuation purposes may not be a shopping center for classification purposes.  Scottsdale/101 Associates LLC v.Read More »

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Statute of Frauds: (1) Email as “Writing” and (2) Email Signature as “Signature”

By:  Kevin J. Parker

Arizona, like most states, has a Statute of Frauds that essentially requires real estate related contracts to be both (1) in writing and (2) signed by the party to be charged.  A.R.S. § 44-101.  Questions often arise as to whether an email can satisfy the “writing” requirement, and whether an electronic signature can satisfy the “signed by the party to be charged” requirement.  The answer to these questions, like many legal questions, is: it depends.  Whether an email can satisfy the “writing” requirement might depend on whether the transaction relates to interstate commerce.  Pursuant to federal statute, 15 U.S.C.… Read More »

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It just got a little bit easier to enforce judgment liens

By:  Ben Reeves

Last year, we posted It just got a little bit harder to enforce judgment liens, which analyzed a Court of Appeals decision that invalidated a judgment lien against third-party purchasers due to the judgment creditors’ failure to record an information statement along with the judgment.  Lewis v. Debord, 236 Ariz. 57, 335 P.3d 1136 (Ct. App. 2014).  In that case, even though the Court of Appeals found that the judgment lien remained valid, the opinion concluded that the failure to record the information statement affected the “priority” of the judgment lien and rendered the third-party purchasers’ ownership interest superior to the judgment creditors’ lien interest. … Read More »

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Offensive Discovery after Strudley and Changes to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure

By: Neal McConomy

Toxic tort cases often involve real property, especially in areas with large mining and energy sectors like the West and Southwest. The cases frequently have large potential damage values and require extensive discovery. Numerous expert witnesses, vast amounts of real property testing, and significant document production are common. The cost of engaging in this far reaching discovery is often a significant factor in early settlement negotiations. Toxic tort defendants have a substantial incentive to settle disputes before engaging in discovery no matter the likelihood of success at trial because the discovery costs alone represent a sizeable expense that cannot be recovered even with a successful verdict at trial.… Read More »

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Homebuilders Welcome Recent Court Decisions

By:  Patrick Paul

Arizona homebuilders will welcome with open arms two recent legal rulings of substantial impact to their industry. In the first decision, on July 28, 2015, in Sullivan v. Pulte Home Corp., No. 1 CA-CV 14-0199, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that homebuilders do not owe a duty of care to subsequent (non-original homeowners) for economic losses arising from latent construction defects unaccompanied by physical injury to persons or other property.

The fairly simple fact scenario follows.  In 2000, Pulte Home Corporation sold the home at issue to the original homeowners, who, in 2003, sold the property to the Sullivan Plaintiffs.  … Read More »

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Does a title company owe a duty of care to third parties in the recording of legal instruments?

By: Ben Reeves

This is precisely the question that the Ninth Circuit recently certified to the Washington Supreme Court in Centurion Properties III, LLC v. Chicago Title Ins. Co.

Facts of the Case

In this case, Centurion Properties III, LLC (the “Borrower”) purchased a tract of real property in Washington with a loan from General Electric Capital Corporation (the “Senior Lender”), and secured the loan with a first position lien against the property. The loan documents and lien instruments specifically prohibited further encumbrance of the property without the Senior Lender’s prior written consent. Chicago Title served as the escrow agent, closing agent, and the title insurer for this transaction.… Read More »

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HOA Super Priority Legal Battles Continue in the Silver State: What Senate Bill 306 Means for Nevada HOAs, Lenders and Homeowners

By:  Aaron D. Ford and Karl O. Riley

In 1991, the Nevada Legislature enacted the Uniform Common-Interest Ownership Act (UCIOA) which had been promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) (the Statute).[1] This law provides that a homeowners association (HOA) may record a lien on each home in the community it governs and in enacting this law, the Legislature authorized an HOA to foreclose its lien through a nonjudicial foreclosure process.[2] When the lien attaches or comes into existence continues to be a dispute issue in the ongoing litigation. Under this law, the HOA’s lien is prior to the first mortgage lien to the extent of certain maintenance and abatement charges and either six or nine months of assessments for common expenses, depending on the circumstances.… Read More »

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New Landlords Should Not Ignore Arizona’s Requirement To Register With The County Assessor’s Office

By: Cory L. Braddock

With ongoing price volatility in Arizona’s residential real estate market, homeowners may be tempted to become recreational landlords. Anyone considering renting their home, however, should be aware that Arizona law requires residential rental property owners to register their residential rental property with the county assessor’s office, presumably so that assessor can assess the appropriate taxes to the property owner. See A.R.S. § 33-1902.

The owner of a residential rental property is required to maintain the following information with the county assessor:

  1.  The name, address, and telephone number of the property owner;
  2. The street address and parcel number of the property; and
  3. The year the property was built.
Read More »
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Are Short-Term Vacation Rentals Legal?

By: Ben Reeves

The recent explosion in popularity of short-term vacation rentals through services such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com not only provides terrifying horror stories about problem renters (google it if you’re interested), but also raises serious questions about the legality of the practice.

Many cities are currently struggling with this very issue. Opponents to short-term rentals argue that transient renters disrupt otherwise peaceful neighborhoods and negatively impact local business like traditional hotels. Proponents of the practice contend that they have a constitutionally protected property right to use their private property without governmental interference. In Jerome, Arizona, the City recently grappled with this very issue, and ultimately decided to inform a few of its citizens that they could no longer rent their homes on a short-term basis—much to the chagrin of the affected property owners.… Read More »

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Arizona Court Clarifies Premise Liability

By:  Kevin J. Parker

In a recent Arizona Court of Appeals case, the court clarified the rules for liability of a property owner to a person injured on the premises. In Lee v. M & H Enterprises, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (filed April 21, 2015), the Arizona Court of Appeals addressed the question whether Wal-Mart as the property owner was liable for injuries suffered by an employee of an independent contractor performing construction services on the premises. The injured person sued both Wal-Mart and his employer, the construction company. The court reiterated the general rule that a landowner is not liable for the negligent conduct of an independent contractor on the premises unless the landowner has been independently negligent.… Read More »

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Guarantors Can Waive Anti-Deficiency Protections

By:  Richard H. Herold and Ben Reeves

In Arizona, guarantors can now be held liable for deficiencies even where borrowers avoid liability due to Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute.

Arizona courts have been active in the last few years in addressing the law governing post-trustee’s sale deficiencies under Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute, A.R.S. §33-814(G), which provides that no deficiency action may be maintained “if trust property of two and one-half acres or less which is limited to and utilized for either a single one-family or single two-family dwelling is sold pursuant to [a] trustee’s…sale.” The deficiency is determined by crediting the borrower and guarantor with the higher of: (a) the fair market value of the property on the date of the trustee’s sale; or (b) the sale price at the trustee’s sale, to reduce the total balance due and owing.… Read More »

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Upheld: Injured Subcontractor’s Lent Employee Has No Claim Against Landowner or General Contractor After Choosing Workers’ Compensation and Failing to Prove Landowner Controlled the Work

By Rick Erickson (http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/rick_erickson)

On this Memorial Day 2015, I write in honor of my U.S. Marine Corps colleague, Megan McClung, who was killed in Iraq nine years ago this December.  Major McClung and I served together in Anbar Province in 2006.  She was the first female Marine Corps officer to be killed in Iraq and the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to be killed in action.  She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

In Lee v. M and H Enterprises, Inc., — P.3d —- (decided Apr. 21, 2015), the Arizona Court of Appeals recently clarified why, in most cases, landowners and general contractors are not liable when subcontractor employees are injured or killed on construction projects.… Read More »

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