Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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CitiMortgage, Inc. obtained a judgment of foreclosure against the family homestead of Homeowners - husband and wife. Homeowners attempted to appeal without legal representation. The Court of Appeals dismissed the attempted appeal with prejudice because of defects in Homeowners’ filings. Homeowners filed a petition to transfer, which the Supreme Court initially denied. On reconsideration, the Court vacated the order denying transfer and assumed jurisdiction over this appeal. The Court then affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that, under the facts presented in this case, the trial court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of CitiMortgage. View "McCullough v. CitiMortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

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The owner of real property executed a warranty deed to three grantees, two of whom (Husband and Wife) were married. A dozen years later, in a separate case, the circuit court entered a damages judgment against Husband and the third grantee (Underwood) and in favor of Underwood’s former employer (Demming). The Demming judgment subsequently became a lien on the property. Husband subsequently denied. Thereafter, Underwood brought this action seeking to partition and sell the property and distribute the proceeds, arguing that she, Husband, and Wife owned the property as tenants in common and that she no longer wanted to own the property in common with Wife and Husband’s Estate. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Estate and Demming. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Husband’s interest in the property passed directly to Wife upon his death and not to his Estate. The Supreme Court granted transfer and reversed, holding that Indiana’s legal presumption that spouses owning real property hold their interests as tenants by the entirety is rebutted on the record in this case because the deed conveying the property specifies that the tree grantees shall take the property “all as Tenants-in-Common.” Remanded. View "Underwood v. Bunger" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the Town of Fortville adopted an ordinance and resolution annexing 644 acres (the “Annexation Territory”) of land adjacent to the municipality. A number of landowners (“Remonstrators”) comprising ninety-three percent of the owners of parcels within the affected area filed a petition challenging the proposed annexation. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the Remonstrators and ordered that the annexation shall not take place, concluding that the Annexation Territory was not needed and could not be used by the municipality for its development in the reasonably near future. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court fulfilled its obligation to consider only whether the statutory conditions for annexation had been satisfied; and (2) the trial court did not clearly err in upholding the remonstrance and denying annexation because Fortville failed to demonstrate that the Annexation Territory was needed and could be used for Fortville’s development in the reasonably near future. View "Town of Fortville v. Certain Fortville Annexation Territory Landowners" on Justia Law

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After Tom Bonnell bought a strip of land from the Pulaski County Board of Commissioners, Ruby and Douglas Cotner filed this suit to quiet title, claiming that they had previously acquired ownership of a second of that land via adverse possession. The trial court (1) concluded that the prior sale of the strip by tax deed extinguished any interest the Cotners may have had, but (2) awarded the Cotners a prescriptive easement on certain outbuildings encroaching onto the strip. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the denial of the Cotners’ adverse possession claim, holding that the tax sales of the strip defeated the Cotners’ claim of ownership by adverse possession; but (2) reversed the grant of a prescriptive easement in the Cotners’ encroaching outbuildings, holding that the sale of the strip by tax deed extinguished any and all interest the Cotners previously possessed. View "Bonnell v. Cotner" on Justia Law

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JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. filed a post-judgment motion to intervene in this foreclosure action to protect its interest as assignee of a mortgage on the real estate of Deborah Walton and Margaret Walton. JPMorgan filed its motion three years after a final judgment foreclosing plaintiff Claybridge Homeowners Association’s judgment lien and six years after the suit began. The trial court denied the motion to intervene as untimely. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the motion to intervene was untimely because Plaintiff’s lis pendens notice, filed the day the suit began, provided constructive notice of Plaintiff’s foreclosure action; and (2) the notice was valid because it was based on Plaintiff’s enforceable, unrecorded judgment lien and because Plaintiff’s foreclosure action was not a personal claim but an in rem real estate action to enforce a judgment lien. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Claybridge Homeowners Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Junior creditor Car-X Associates Corporation sued a mortgagee to foreclose on a lien. In addition to the mortgagee, Car-X’s complaint named senior creditor Huntington National Bank as a defendant to answer as to any interest it may have in the real estate. When Huntington failed to timely respond to the complaint and summons Car-X obtained a default judgment against Huntington. Huntington moved to set aside the default judgment under Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(1) because of its excusable neglect and under Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(8) because such relief would be just and equitable under the circumstances. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the trial court’s denial of Huntington’s motion to set aside the default judgment for excusable neglect; but (2) remanded to the trial court to reconsider whether equitable reasons support granting Huntington’s motion under Trial Rule 60(B)(8), especially in light of Huntington’s meritorious defense to the underlying foreclosure suit, the substantial amount of money involved, and Car-X’s lack of prejudice from the delay. View "Huntington Nat’l Bank v. Car-X Assocs. Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a church, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment seeking to determine the boundary line between it and Defendants, homeowners, to determine ownership of its real estate, to allow it to build a fence along the boundary line, and seeking an injunction to prevent Defendants from further trespassing. The homeowners counterclaimed, arguing that they had acquired title to the disputed real estate by adverse possession as well as prescriptive easement. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on both the adverse possession and prescriptive easement claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court on both claims, holding that Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on their claims of adverse possession and prescriptive easement. View "Celebration Worship Ctr., Inc. v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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Two landowners (Landowners) each owned property served by a regional sewer district (District). Because the Landowners’ property had outstanding fees owed to the District, the District perfected liens against the properties, and the county treasurer and auditor ordered that the properties be sold at a tax sale. The Landowners petitioned the trial court requesting that the court find that their respective properties cannot be sold at a tax sale pursuant to Ind. Code 13-26-14-4. The district court ordered that both properties be removed from the tax sale because the District maintained the only lien and therefore was precluded from foreclosing on the parcels pursuant to the lien foreclosure prohibition clause in Ind. Code 13-26-14-4, which governs the collection of regional sewer district sewer liens. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the lien foreclosure prohibition of section 13-26-14-4 does not apply to collection by tax sale; and (2) because the District employed the tax sale method and did not seek collection of the Landowners’ unpaid sewer bills and penalties through the lien foreclosure method, the lien foreclosure prohibition clause did not apply. View "Twin Lakes Reg’l Sewer Dist. v. Ray" on Justia Law

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Two landowners owned property served by a regional sewer district. The district had perfected liens against the properties due to the landowners’ failure to pay fees and penalties. The trial court listed the properties to be sold at a tax sale to satisfy obligations for the unpaid sewer bills. The landowners subsequently petitioned the circuit court to remove their properties from the tax sale list. The circuit court granted the petitions, concluding that because the district maintained the only lien, the district was precluded from foreclosing on the parcels pursuant to Ind. Code 13-26-14-4. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the foreclosure prohibition of Ind. Code 13-26-14-4, which governs the collection of regional sewer district sewer liens, does not apply to collection by tax sale; and (2) because the district did not seek collection of the landowners’ unpaid fees and penalties through the lien foreclosure method, but rather employed the tax sale method, the lien foreclosure prohibition clause did not apply. Remanded. View "In re Carroll County 2013 Tax Sale" on Justia Law

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Buyers agreed to buy a condominium from Seller pursuant to a purchase agreement. Buyers demanded that Seller fix a minor electrical problem as a condition of purchase, which led to this protracted litigation. In the first appeal, the court of appeals concluded that Buyers breached the contract with their unreasonable demand and remanded for the trial court to determine damages. The trial court awarded Seller $93,972 in damages. Seller appealed, arguing that she reasonably mitigated her damages and that the trial court erred in calculating damages. Buyers cross-appealed. The court of appeals reversed and awarded only $117 in damages, concluding that Seller could have avoided all damages except a $117 repair bill if she had responded to Buyers’ demand to fix the electrical problem, thus preserving the agreement. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed the trial court, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion (1) by finding that Seller could have mitigated her damages by selling her condo in 2007 rather than waiting until 2011; and (2) in refusing to find that Seller’s duty to mitigate required yielding to the Buyers’ breach. View "Fischer v. Heymann" on Justia Law