Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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This land dispute concerned the ownership of seventeen acres of “common open space” in a purported common-interest community. Petitioners Crea and Martha McMullin (“the McMullins”) acquired thirty acres of land in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, intending to develop a rural subdivision. The McMullins recorded a final plat, which created seven lots along with seventeen acres of common open space, and entered into a subdivision agreement with the County. The plat identified the subdivision as “Two Rivers Estates.” For the next eight years, the McMullins were unable to sell any of the lots. During that time, the McMullins mortgaged six of the seven lots to finance the construction of a family lodge on one of the lots. They did not mortgage or encumber the common open space. When the McMullins became unable to pay the loans, the mortgagee foreclosed on Lots 2 and 3, which were then purchased by Respondents Joseph and Kelly Conrado (“the Conrados”) and John and Sena Hauer (“the Hauers”), respectively. Still under financial strain, the McMullins sold Lot 1 to the Hauers and Lots 4, 5, 6, and 7 to Lincoln Trust Company FBO John Hauer. After acquiring six of the seven lots, the Hauers and Lincoln Trust Company filed suit to quiet title to their respective lots. The Hauers asserted that Two Rivers Estates was a common-interest community under the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”), and that their lots included appurtenant rights in the common open space through an unincorporated homeowners’ association created by the common-interest community. After a bench trial, the trial court found that the recorded final plat, certain deeds, and the subdivision agreement established both an implied common-interest community and an unincorporated homeowners’ association that held equitable title in the open space. The court further concluded that the Hauers, Lincoln Trust Company, and the Conrados were members of the unincorporated homeowners’ association; that each lot owner had a duty to contribute 1/7th of the common expenses to the homeowners’ association; and that the homeowners’ association had power to levy assessments to collect those expenses. The McMullins appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed in a split, published decision, with the majority largely agreeing with the trial court’s analysis. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the recorded instruments were insufficient under CCIOA to create a common-interest community by implication. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded to the court of appeals for further proceedings. View "McMullin v. Hauer" on Justia Law

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In this case, at issue was whether the petitioner was entitled to a jury trial under Rule 38 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. Between 2008 and 2011, Zachary Mason (“Zach”) farmed several properties in Otero County, Colorado. During this time, Zach executed several loan agreements with Farm Credit of Southern Colorado, ACA, and Farm Credit of Southern Colorado, FLCA (collectively, “Farm Credit”). As part of the loan agreements, Farm Credit owned a perfected security interest in some of Zach’s crops, farm equipment, and other items of personal property. In May 2012, Zach defaulted on his loans. As a result, Farm Credit sued Zach for judgment on his notes, foreclosure of real property collateral, replevin of personal property collateral, conversion of insurance proceeds, civil theft, breach of contract, and fraud. The court of appeals held that the petitioner was not entitled to a jury trial because the claims in the respondents’ original complaint were primarily equitable. In reaching this conclusion, the court of appeals ignored the claims in the respondents’ amended complaint. The Colorado Supreme Court found that was in error: when a plaintiff amends its complaint and a party properly requests a jury trial, the trial court should determine whether the case may be tried to a jury based on the claims in the amended complaint, not the original complaint. If the claims against a particular defendant in a plaintiff’s amended complaint entitle that defendant to a jury trial, then “all issues of fact shall be tried by a jury,” upon a proper jury demand and payment of the requisite fee. Here, the claims against the petitioner in the respondents’ amended complaint were primarily legal, as opposed to equitable, meaning the petitioner was entitled to a jury trial under Rule 38. View "Mason v. Farm Credit S. Colo., ACA" on Justia Law

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Carol Bishop and Mark Klosky (“Klosky”), and Shannon and Keith Love (the Loves) owned adjacent parcels of land in a residential neighborhood. Klosky wanted to remove a large tree sitting primarily on their property, but part of the tree sat on the Loves’ property. The Loves wanted to keep the tree. The controlling Colorado case law holds that when a tree encroaches onto a neighbor’s land, the tree remains the sole property of the owner of the land where the tree first grew, unless the tree was jointly planted, jointly cared for, or treated as a partition between the properties. Any such joint activity implied a shared property interest. Here, the trial court and appellate courts concurred the Loves failed to prove any such shared property interest, and the Colorado Supreme Court declined to overturn the prevailing case law. Thus, finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed rulings in Klosky’s favor. View "Love v. Klosky" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Oakwood Holdings, LLC and respondent Mortgage Investments Enterprises LLC each claimed a right to the deed on a piece of foreclosed property. In 2014, Mortgage Investments purchased the property at a foreclosure sale. On or around the date of the foreclosure sale, Oakwood purchased junior liens on the property and then attempted to redeem pursuant to section 38-38-302, C.R.S. (2017). Mortgage Investments, however, did not provide redemption figures and instead, acting under a limited power of attorney granted by the prior property owner, attempted to pay off the amount due to Oakwood under the junior liens. Oakwood, however, refused the payment. Mortgage Investments then filed for a declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration that its payoffs were valid and that Oakwood was not entitled to redeem the property. The parties ultimately filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment for Oakwood, Mortgage Investments appealed, and in a unanimous, published opinion, a division of the court of appeals reversed. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s judgment, concluding that under the plain language of the applicable redemption statutes, a junior lienor who complied with its obligations under section 38-38-302 by timely filing its notice of intent to redeem is entitled to redeem, and at that point, it has no duty to accept a tendered lien payoff from a certificate of purchase holder. Although a debtor-owner is sometimes entitled to cure, the statute is clear that he or she must do so before the foreclosure sale is complete, and Mortgage Investments gained no additional rights by obtaining the limited power of attorney from the debtor-prior owner after the sale in this case. Accordingly, once Oakwood complied with the statutory requirements to redeem, it was permitted to do so and had no obligation to accept what amounted to cure funds tendered by Mortgage Investments on behalf of the debtor-prior owner. View "Oakwood Holdings, LLC v. Mortgage Investments Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Smokebrush Foundation, Katherine Tudor, and Donald Herbert Goede, III (collectively, “Smokebrush”) owned property on which the non-profit foundation operated a wellness center in the City of Colorado Springs. Smokebrush sued the City, contending that Smokebrush’s property had been contaminated by pollutants from an adjacent property owned by the City. The City moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, claiming governmental immunity from suit under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (“CGIA”). Smokebrush responded that the City had waived immunity under the Act, section 24-10-106(1)(c) and section 24-10-106(1)(f). The district court agreed with Smokebrush and denied the City’s motion to dismiss. In a unanimous, published opinion, however, a division of the court of appeals reversed and remanded with instructions to grant the City’s motion. The Colorado Supreme Court granted Smokebrush’s petition for certiorari and affirmed in part and reversed in part the division’s judgment. With respect to Smokebrush’s claims regarding airborne asbestos released during the 2013 demolition activities, the Supreme Court concluded the City did not waive immunity under section 24-10-106(1)(c)’s dangerous condition of a public building exception. With respect to Smokebrush’s claims regarding the coal tar contamination, the Supreme Court concluded that under the plain language of section 24-10-106(1)(f), the City waived its immunity for such claims. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Smokebrush Foundation v. City of Colorado Springs" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Marin Metropolitan District (the “District”) was a special district created as a vehicle to finance the infrastructure of a proposed residential community. In late 2007, the organizers of the District held an election and approved the creation of the District. At the same time, pursuant to Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (“TABOR”), the organizers voted to approve the issuance of bonds and to impose property taxes to pay the bonds on landowners within the District. A group of condominium owners subsequently learned that their properties had been included in the District under what they believed to be suspicious circumstances and that they had been assessed property taxes to pay the bonds. Acting through their homeowners’ association, respondent Landmark Towers Association, Inc., (“Landmark”) the owners brought two lawsuits: one to invalidate the creation of the District and the other (this case) to invalidate the approval of the bonds and taxes and to recover taxes that they had paid to the District, among other things. The district court ultimately ordered a partial refund of the taxes paid by the condominium owners and enjoined the District from assessing future taxes on the owners in order to pay its obligations under the bonds. Both sides appealed, and the court of appeals concluded, in pertinent part, that Landmark’s challenge to the bond and tax election was timely and that the election violated TABOR and applicable statutes. At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court was whether Landmark’s challenge to the bond and tax election was timely and the election was validly conducted. The Supreme Court reversed, finding Section 1-11-213(4), C.R.S. (2017), required a party seeking to contest an election like that present here to file a written statement of intent to contest the election within ten days after the official survey of returns has been filed with the designated election official. Without that statement, no could had jurisdiction over the contest. Landmark’s challenge to the bond and tax election at issue was time barred, and thus, the Court reversed the judgment below and remanded for further proceedings. View "UMB Bank, N.A. v. Landmark Towers Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2008, Petitioners, five Colorado companies, entered into separate contracts to buy to-be-built condominium units from Respondent, developer One Ski Hill Place, LLC (“OSHP”). Petitioners paid earnest money and construction deposits of fifteen percent of the purchase price of each unit. But Petitioners were unable to obtain financing and failed to close by the agreed-upon 2010 deadline, thereby breaching the Agreements. Each Agreement contained an identical provision governing default (the “Damages Provision”), which provided, in sum, that if a purchaser of a unit defaulted, then OSHP had the option to retain all or some of the paid deposits as liquidated damages or, alternatively, to pursue actual damages and apply the deposits toward that award. This case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review of whether the liquidated damages clause was invalid because the contract gave the non-breaching party the option to choose between liquidated damages and actual damages. The Court held that such an option does not invalidate the clause and instead parties are free to contract for a damages provision that allows a non-breaching party to elect between liquidated damages and actual damages. However, such an option must be exclusive, meaning a party who elects to pursue one of the available remedies may not also pursue the alternative remedy set forth in the contract. View "Ravenstar v. One Ski Hill Place" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in this matter addressed appeals from two related cases: Gallegos Family Properties, LLC’s petition to de-designate a portion of the Upper Crow Creek Designated Ground Water Basin, and an order awarding the Well Owners a portion of their litigation costs. At issue was whether Gallegos satisfied the statutory standard for de-designating a portion of the Basin set forth in section 37-90-106(1)(a), C.R.S. (2003), and as interpreted by this the Court in Gallegos v. Colorado Ground Water Commission, 147 P.3d 20 (Colo. 2006), and whether Gallegos should have bourne the Well Owners’ costs. The designated groundwater court concluded that Gallegos had failed to make new showings sufficient to justify de-designating a portion of the Basin and taxed Gallegos for a portion of the Well Owners’ costs. The Supreme Court concluded that Gallegos failed to prove by evidence not before the 1987 Commission that the Well Owners were pumping water connected to Crow Creek such that future conditions and factual data justify de-designating a portion of the Basin. Because a party must show connectivity to prove impact, Gallegos failed to meet its burden, and de-designation was improper. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the designated groundwater court’s order denying Gallegos’s petition. Furthermore, because the designated groundwater court properly denied Gallegos’s petition for de-designation, the Supreme Court concluded that the court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the Well Owners were prevailing parties for purposes of C.R.C.P. 54(d), that the costs awarded were reasonable and necessary, and that Gallegos should pay these costs pursuant to Rule 54(d). View "Gallegos Family Properties, LLC v. Colorado Groundwater Commission" on Justia Law

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This case centered on whether the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”) permitted a developer–declarant to retain a right of consent to certain proposed amendments to a common interest community’s declaration. Petitioner Vallagio at Inverness Residential Condominium Association, Inc. (the “Association”), sought damages for alleged construction defects in the Vallagio at Inverness residential development project (the “Project”), a community organized under CCIOA. The Project’s developer and declarant, respondent Metro Inverness, LLC (the “Declarant”), drafted and recorded the Project’s original declaration, which set forth specific dispute resolution procedures for construction defect claims. As pertinent here, certain provisions of the original declaration: (1) required that all construction defect claims be resolved through binding arbitration; and (2) provided that the provisions governing such claims “shall not ever be amended” without the Declarant’s written consent. Shortly before the Association filed the present action, and without obtaining the Declarant’s consent, the requisite number of the Project’s unit owners voted to amend the declaration to delete the foregoing dispute resolution provisions. The Declarant moved to compel arbitration, arguing that the attempted declaration amendment was ineffective absent its written consent and, thus, the Association was bound by the arbitration provision contained in the original declaration. The district court denied the Declarant’s motion, reasoning in pertinent part that the consent-to-amend provision violated and was therefore void under CCIOA. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the consent-to-amend provision contained in the Project’s original declaration was consistent with CCIOA and was therefore valid and enforceable. Furthermore, the Court concluded that because the unit owners did not obtain the Declarant’s consent to remove the arbitration provision, the attempted removal was ineffective, and the declaration’s arbitration agreement remained in force. View "Vallagio at Inverness Residential Condo. Assn. v. Metro. Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a construction-defect matter filed by a homeowners’ association (HOA) against several developers, an attorney for the HOA previously represented one of the developers. The developers moved to disqualify that attorney under Rules 1.9 and 1.10 of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. The trial court denied the motion, without what the Colorado Supreme Court described as “meaningfully analyzing for purposes” of Rule 1.9 whether this case was “substantially related” to the prior matters in which the attorney represented the developer. Instead, the Court found the trial court relied on issue preclusion, and found that in this situation, the attorney was not disqualified to represent the developer. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by not analyzing the facts of this case under Rule 1.9, and therefore vacated the denial of the developers’ motion, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Villas at Highland Park Homeowners Assoc. v. Villas at Highland Park, LLC" on Justia Law