Real Cases in Real Estate by Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – January 18th Update

Real Cases in Real Estate by Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – January 18th 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 January 18th, 2011

Ohio's Civil Rights Act Does Not Recognize a "Hostile Housing Environment." 

Lawrence Friel owned Olde Mill Lakes Apartments in Dublin, Ohio, and permitted his daughter Madelynn Reid to live there rent-free, with no lease. In 2004, after seven years of living at Olde Mill Lakes, Madelynn planned foot surgery and notified the management that she would need a disability ramp to access her apartment with a wheelchair.

A ramp was built but Madelynn felt it was unsafe and complained to the building inspector. The complex agreed to remove the ramp but sent Madelynn an eviction notice. A few days later, the management agreed to let her remain in her apartment if she signed a lease and began paying rent.

A new ramp was built but Madelynn said the handicapped parking signs were not up to city code, so the disputes between the apartment management and Madelynn continued. She filed a claim for discrimination and retaliation with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.  The landlord sought to evict her. Ohio civil rights law prohibits landlords from retaliating against tenants by increasing rent or threatening eviction after a tenant complains to a government agency about building, housing or health and safety violations.

The management said Madelynn was not a tenant because she did not pay rent and had no lease. The court said she could be considered a tenant at will, even without a lease or rent payments. Even with her tenancy established, however, the court said there is no cause of action for a "hostile housing environment" under the state's civil rights law. In evaluating her retaliation claim, the court reversed a summary judgment award for the apartment owner, noting the "temporal proximity" between Madelynn's complaint and the eviction notice. Apparently, the short time period between the complaint and the eviction was suspicious enough for a jury to consider the possibility of retaliation. subscribers can view the enhanced version of Reid v. Plainsboro Partners, III, 2010 Ohio 4373 (Ohio Ct. App., Franklin County Sept. 16, 2010)

Non-subscribers can use lexisOne's Free Case Law search to view the free, un-enhanced version of  Reid v. Plainsboro Partners, III, 2010 Ohio 4373 (Ohio Ct. App., Franklin County Sept. 16, 2010)


New York Landlord's Obduracy and Obstinacy is a "Pretext for Discrimination."

New York laws prohibit landlords from refusing to accept Section 8 housing vouchers if they receive tax abatement incentives for rehabilitating their buildings. New York City's Human Rights Law bans discrimination by landlords against tenants based on their lawful sources of income, including Section 8 vouchers. The federal Section 8 program provides vouchers to low income families who use the vouchers to obtain subsidized rent. The New York City Housing Authority pays the subsidized portion of the rent, usually 70%. As a condition of processing Section 8 vouchers, the City Housing Authority requires landlords to execute lead-based paint disclosure forms for tenants.

The landlord in this case was sued by a tenant with a Section 8 voucher who had lived in the apartment for 12 years; the tenant claimed the landlord's refusal to execute the lead-based paint disclosure was the equivalent of the landlord's discriminatory refusal to accept the Section 8 voucher. The landlord had previously executed the certification, more than 13 years earlier, and discarded its records of compliance with the lead-based paint disclosure rules. The landlord, a recipient of the tax abatement, argued that it could not be compelled to provide a second certificate. The landlord even refused to sign the certificate after being presented with a lead paint inspector's report showing no lead paint in the tenant's apartment.

The New York court disagreed with the landlord's position, noting that its obduracy and obstinacy were disingenuous and a pretext for discrimination under the laws preventing discrimination based on use attempted use of Section 8 housing vouchers. subscribers can view the enhanced version of Rakhman v Alco Realty I, L.P., 2010 NY Slip Op 20145 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2010)

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