Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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In this water use case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the State of Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management (Commission) concluding that Appellants waived the right to proceed on the contested case, holding that the Commission’s finding that Appellants waived the right to continue the case was not clearly erroneous or wrong. More than a decade ago, the Supreme Court vacated the issuance of two water use permits and remanded the matter to the Commission. On remand, the parties claiming to be the applicant’s successors in interest submitted a letter to the Commission stating that they did not have the financial resources to continue to pursue the case. Years later, Appellants filed a new water use application. The Commission treated the application as a continuation of the remanded case and then concluded that the letter constituted a waiver of Appellants’ right to continue the original proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission did not err in finding that Appellants expressly waived their right to proceed with the contested case by their letter. View "In re Contested Case Hearing on the Water Use Permit Application Originally Filed by Kukui, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) authorizing issuance of a Conservation District Use permit (CDUP) for a Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) near the summit of Mauna Kea, holding that the BLNR property applied the law in analyzing whether the permit should be issued for the TMT. Appellants, Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, argued that Mauna Kea, as a sacred manifestation of their ancestors, was desecrated by development of astronomy facilities near its summit. The BLNR authorized issuance of the CDUP of the TMT after Third Circuit judge Riki May Amano conducted a contested case hearing over forty-four days. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the BLNR did not err by refusing to disqualify Amano as the hearing officer, and certain Deputy Attorneys General; (2) the TMT project does not violate religious exercise rights of Native Hawaiians protected by federal statutes; (3) the TMT project does not violate public trust principles, and the conditions of Hawai’i Administrative Rules 13-5-30(c) for issuance of a CDUP were satisfied; and (4) the proceeding was legitimate. View "In re Contested Case Hearing re Conservation District Use Application" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court expressly rejected the Twombly/Iqbal “plausibility” pleading standard in this case and reaffirmed that in Hawai’i state courts, the traditional “notice” pleading standard governs. On the first appeal before the Supreme Court, the Court vacated a foreclosure decree based on issues of fact regarding whether Bank of America, N.A. held the note at the time the foreclosure lawsuit was filed. The Court remanded the case to the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) for a determination of whether the circuit court erred by dismissing the homeowner’s counterclaim before granting summary judgment for foreclosure in favor of Bank of America. On remand, the ICA upheld the dismissal of three counts, including a wrongful foreclosure count, in the homeowner’s counterclaim. The homeowner appealed, arguing that the ICA applied the wrong pleading standard. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment on appeal, holding (1) a pleading must meet the traditional “notice” standard to overcome a Haw. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss; and (2) a party may bring a claim for wrongful foreclosure before the foreclosure actually occurs. View "Bank of America, N.A. v. Reyes-Toledo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the tax court erred in determining that the timeliness of an appeal of real property tax assessments was determined by county ordinance and not state law. Appellant filed a notice of appeal to the tax court for each of fourteen parcels challenging the City Council of the City and County of Honolulu’s assessment notices. The notices of appeal were filed the next business day following the deadline set by a county real property tax ordinance. The appeal deadline fell on a Sunday and was followed by a State holiday. The tax court dismissed the appeals, concluding that the county ordinance superseded the “weekend rule” established by Hawai’i state law. The Supreme Court vacated the tax court, holding (1) the City did not possess the constitutional authority to invalidate via an ordinance the statutory weekend rule as it applied to the tax court’s jurisdiction; and (2) therefore, Appellant’s notices of appeal were timely filed. View "Kalaeloa Ventures, LLC v. City & County of Honolulu" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment for Respondent as to all counts in Petitioner’s counterclaim in this property dispute. Respondent filed a complaint against Petitioner alleging that Petitioner had trespassed upon his property and destroyed his landscaping. Petitioner filed a counterclaim arguing that Respondent’s property had been dedicated for exclusive use as a cemetery and that Petitioner had the right to enter the property to visit a family burial site. Petitioner also requested a declaratory judgment clarifying the nature and extent of the parties’ rights and responsibilities with respect to the property. Petitioner also sought to quiet title. The circuit court granted Respondent’s motion for summary judgment as to all claims. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding that the ICA (1) did not err in affirming the summary judgment with respect to Petitioner’s statutory dedication claim and in holding that Petitioner was not entitled to relief under Haw. Rev. Stat. chapter 669; but (2) erred in concluding that the circuit court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Respondent on Petitioner’s common law dedication claim. View "Ibbetson v. Kaiawe" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a certificate of title was entered when a deed was accepted by the Office of the Assistant Registrar of the Land Court and stamped with a new certificate of title number. Plaintiff-mortgagor brought this action against Defendant-purchaser arguing that the non-judicial foreclosure sale of certain property was not lawfully conducted. Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff’s arguments to invalidate the foreclosure sale were untimely because they were not raised before the issuance of a new certificate of title. Plaintiff argued in response that a new certificate of title had not been issued, and therefore, Plaintiff was not prevented from challenging the non-judicial foreclosure. The circuit court granted summary judgment, concluding that the issuance of a new certificate of title number was sufficient to provide Defendant with statutory protection. The Supreme Court vacated the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) assignment of a new certificate of title number is not the statutory equivalent of an entry of a certificate of title, and therefore, the evidence in this case did not establish that a certificate of title had been entered; (2) accordingly, Plaintiff was not barred from bringing this action; and (3) an issue of material fact existed precluding summary judgment. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Omiya" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of partial summary judgment to Plaintiff on remand from a decision by the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) in Plaintiff’s favor on two issues relating to the existence of an implied easement from a landlocked parcel of land to the nearest road. The ICA held (1) the “unity of ownership” element for an implied easement may be satisfied by the Kingdom of Hawaii’s ownership of the two parcels prior to severance; and (2) the statute of limitations in Haw. Rev. Stat. 657-31 does not apply to implied easements, as in this case, but only to easements by prescription. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment on each issue, holding that the ICA did not err in its judgment. View "Malulani Group, Ltd. v. Kaupo Ranch, LTD" on Justia Law

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Harrison, an owner of two commercial apartments within a mixed-use development project managed by Casa, sued, alleging she was improperly assessed for expenses that should have been charged only to residential apartment owners, related to elevators, lanai railings, drains, cable television, and pest control. The circuit court granted summary judgment in Casa’s favor, concluding that the disputed assessments were not for limited common elements exclusive to the residential apartments, but were for common elements, and were, therefore, expenses for which Harrison must pay her pro rata share. The circuit court further concluded Harrison was estopped from disputing the expenses because she knew or should have known that Casa had been assessing her for the disputed items for quite some time. The Supreme Court of Hawaii vacated and remanded. Citing the Restated Declaration of Horizontal Property Regime and Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 514A and the declaration of condominium ownership, the court held that the elevators and lanai railings are limited common elements and that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether the drains and cable television wires are common elements. Harrison is not responsible for expenses of limited common elements. The court rejected the claim of estoppel. View "Harrison v. Casa De Emdeko, Inc." on Justia Law

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A purchaser of property that is subject to a mortgage to which the purchaser is not a party may challenge a foreclosing plaintiff’s entitlement to enforce the note. Karen Zakarian executed a promissory note secured by a mortgage executed on certain property. The mortgage was ultimately assigned to Wells Fargo. As a result of a separate foreclosure action, a court-appointed commissioner conveyed the property to Jonathan Behrendt. Wells Fargo filed a complaint seeking foreclosure of the mortgage and sale of the property. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Wells Fargo, concluding that Wells Fargo was entitled to have the property sold free and clear of Behrendt’s claim. On appeal, Behrendt argued that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding Wells Fargo’s standing to sue and whether Wells Fargo was the holder of the note. In response, Wells Fargo argued that because Behrendt was not a party to the mortgage and the mortgage conferred no contractual rights or standing on Behrendt, Behrendt could not attack the foreclosure. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Behrendt may challenge the foreclosure; and (2) the evidence Wells Fargo presented regarding its entitlement to foreclose at the time the complaint was filed was not admissible on the grounds asserted. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Behrendt" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the denial of Petitioner’s motion for return of her personal possessions allegedly taken during the execution of a writ of ejectment after the foreclosure sale of a house in which she resided, the Supreme Court held (1) although the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (PTFA) does not require a residential lease to be in writing, Petitioner was not entitled to PTFA protections because she did not qualify as a bona fide tenant under the PTFA; (2) generally, the landlord-tenant code applies to residential leases entered into before a lis pendens, but Petitioner was not a residential tenant; (3) Petitioner was afforded her due process rights to notice and an opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner; but (4) the circuit court erred in failing to grant Petitioner’s motion for return of possessions where the possessions included items of no financial value to the purchase of the property at foreclosure but with great sentimental value to Petitioner. View "Peak Capital Group, LLC v. Perez" on Justia Law