Real Estate Law

Real Cases in Real Estate by Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – Nov. 1st 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 week of Nov. 1st, 2010

A Minor Breach by a Lifelong Tenant in a Rent Controlled Apartment Does Not Justify Eviction.

Carol Masterson's landlord attempted to evict her for violating an agreement that she would not permit her boyfriend to come on the grounds or into the building where she lived. In addition, the agreement also required Carol to notify the management if she saw her boyfriend on the premises. Apparently this agreement was based on the presence of drugs in her apartment which she claims she didn't know about and which must have belonged to the boyfriend.

The boyfriend was seen by others in the building's driveway on one occasion and outside Carol's window on another. Carol did not notify the building of his presence as she had agreed to do, so the landlord sought to evict her.  The court considered the fact that Carol Masterson is 66 years old, had only a junior high school education, and had lived her entire life in the rent controlled apartment, paying less than $300 a month. The judge noted that if she was evicted, she would have to life in a shelter. Moreover, Carol testified that although her boyfriend came to see her at the building, his visits were unannounced and she always asked him to leave immediately.

Taking all the circumstances into account, the court decided that Carol's breach of her agreement was minor and that eviction was not appropriate. The decision also notes that Carol could not have stopped her boyfriend from visiting the building and might not have understood that she was supposed to notify the management when he was there. The judge in this case seems to have a soft spot for love, closing with these words: "There was no evidence that Mr. Petito's visits were based on illegal activity. It appears they were the result of his desire to visit the woman with whom he has spent over 25 years of his life." subscribers can view the enhanced version of Tri Cruger Realty, LLC v. Masterson & Petito, 2010 NY Slip Op 51657U (N.Y. Civ. Ct. Aug. 25, 2010).

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Tenant's Possession of Marijuana is Not Grounds for Eviction if Landlord Fails to Prove Drug-Related Criminal Activity.

Richard Edwards was a tenant of an apartment in St. Paul public housing when he visited another public housing tenant at her apartment in another building. Police came to Edwards host's apartment during Edwards' visit; while there, they frisked Edwards and found marijuana in his pockets. Edwards was charged with possession of marijuana. His landlord attempted to evict him from his own apartment, claiming Edwards breached his lease, which prohibited criminal activity and drug-related criminal activity.

The issue in the case was whether possession of a small amount of marijuana was enough to demonstrate that Edwards was engaged in criminal activity, or drug-related criminal activity. Neither federal law nor Minnesota statutes spell out what constitutes a "material breach" of a lease.  In Minnesota, the amount of marijuana found on Edwards is a petty misdemeanor and under another state law, a petty misdemeanor is not a crime. The landlord, rather than relying on these state law definitions, referred to an "Admissions and Occupancy Policy" that defined criminal activity as intentional conduct that is forbidden by Minnesota law, even if not prosecuted by a law enforcement agency. The flaw in the landlord's argument was that the Admissions and Occupancy Policy were not introduced into evidence, and Edwards' lease did not define the term "drug-related criminal activity."

Holding that the landlord did not prove its case that Edwards violated his lease, based on "limited, vague, and confusing testimony regarding the definitions," Edwards could not be evicted. subscribers can view the enhanced version of Public Housing Agency of the City of St. Paul v. Edwards, 2010 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 972 (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 14, 2010).

Non-subscribers can access State Case Law, Codes, Full Jurisdictional Shepard's® Citations and more using lexisOne's Research Value Package.