Real Estate Law

Real Cases in Real Estate by Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – March 21st Update

Real Cases in Real Estate is a weekly update on real estate law, with legal principles illustrated and explained by lawsuits from around the country. The topics are wide-ranging for appeal to a broad spectrum of readers including lawyers, homeowners, investors and the general public. Andrea Lee Negroni, a Washington DC attorney and legal writer with 25 years of experience in financial services and mortgage law, contributes the case summaries.

Followers of Real Cases in Real Estate will learn and be entertained by lawsuits involving nuisance, trespass, zoning violations, deed restrictions, title insurance, public utilities, mechanics liens, construction defects, adverse possession, foreclosure and eviction, divorce and marital property rights, tenants' rights, and more. Real Cases in Real Estate uncovers the unpredictable, amusing, and sometimes outrageous disputes between next-door neighbors, contractors and homeowners, condo boards and residents, real estate brokers and homebuyers, and zoning administrators and developers.

Each fully cited case summary highlights the essential law of the case and explains the principal legal theories and concepts relevant to the outcome. Plain language treatment makes Real Cases in Real Estate accessible to lawyers and laymen alike.

Whether you follow real estate law professionally or as a hobby, you'll find something new and useful every week in Real Cases in Real Estate.


Updates for the Week of March 21st, 2011

Mississippi has no law on "spite fences" but the builder of a spite fence must remove it

The Wells bought three acres of land in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, with their only access being across a 20-foot easement on adjacent property owned by the Bazzills. At first the neighbors were friendly, but the friendliness evaporated when the Bazzills built a gate restricting access to their property, a rock wall (or berm), speed bumps, and a 14-foot high fence. The fence bordered the Wells' property and completely obstructed their lake view, leaving them with a view of a sewage lagoon. The Wells couple sued the Bazzills for injunctive relief and damages.

After the trial, the chancellor ordered the Bazzills' fence removed, but allowed the gate, the speed bumps and rock wall to remain. The chancellor determined that the fence was a "spite fence" which provided no benefit to the Bazzills and was installed only to annoy the Wells(es). Because Mississippi has no legal authority on spite fences, the chancellor relied on a treatise on real property to determine whether the fence fit the definition. A spite fence, according to 9 Powell on Real Property §62.05, is "a structure of no beneficial use to the erecting owner or occupant of the premises, but erected or maintained by him solely for the purpose of annoying the owner or occupier of adjoining property." Since the fence served no useful purpose for the Bazzills, it had to be removed.

A dissenting opinion clarifies the distinction between a spite fence and a private nuisance. Mississippi law on private nuisance describes it as "a non-trespassory invasion of another's interest in the use and enjoyment of his property..." The dissenting judge disagreed that the Bazzills' fence had no beneficial use to them, noting that Mr. Wells was so hostile and threatening to his neighbors that the fence insulated the Bazzills from Well's malicious threats. Therefore, he would have let the fence remain.

Lexis.com subscribers can view the enhanced version of The Green Acres Trust v. Wells, 2010 Miss. App. LEXIS 386 (Miss. App. July 20, 2010).

Non-subscribers can use lexisOne's Free Case Law search to view the free, un-enhanced version of The Green Acres Trust v. Wells, 2010 Miss. App. LEXIS 386 (Miss. App. July 20, 2010).


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