Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – April 6th, 2012 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – April 6th, 2012 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 April 6th, 2012

Use and Sale of Drugs from a Mobile Home Adversely Affects Use of Neighboring Properties.  

In 2005, Victor and Rita Hudson filed an application to keep a mobile home on their property in Sussex County Delaware. The Sussex County Code permits a mobile home to be placed on property for use as a single family dwelling, if necessary in an emergency or hardship situation, if the mobile home does not adversely affect the use of neighboring properties. The Hudson's son Steven suffered from psychological and physical problems. When their application was approved, the Hudsons brought a mobile home onto their property and Steven and his wife and son moved into it. When the 2-year permit expired, the Hudsons received a one-year extension. When they sought a second extension, it was denied because of neighbors'complaints about Steven.

At a hearing on the special use exception, two neighbors presented letters stating they had no objection to the mobile home, but four neighbors opposed extension of the special use permit. One of them testified that Steven stole electricity from the Delaware Electric Cooperative, which damaged his own electricity and applicances. This group of neighbors also claimed Steven was using and selling drugs, which they thought explained the constant flow of vehicles to the mobile home. Other neighbors said they didn't want Steven living in the neighborhood because they believed he was selling drugs. A police search at the mobile home turned up ecstasy tablets, marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Steven and his wife were arrested; Steven was charged with Maintaining a Dwelling for Keeping Controlled Substances, Possession of Marijuana and other drug-related crimes.

The County Board of Adjustment denied the Hudson's application for extension of the special use permit, noting that a special use permit is temporary and conditional and that the circumstances existing when the original application was approved had changed. Because Steven and his wife were using the mobile home to sell drugs, an illegal activity, the uses of adjacent and neighboring properties were substantially affected.

The Hudsons claimed their civil rights were violated when their application to extend the special use exception was denied, but the Board of Adjustment explained that the proper remedy for violation of the Fair Housing Act and Delaware Fair Housing Act is to file a complaint with the Secretary of HUD or the Delaware Human Rights Commission. The Board of Adjustment refused to hear these claims.

Hudson v. Sussex County Bd. of Adjustment, 2010 Del. Super. LEXIS 77 (Feb. 19, 2010) [enhanced version available to subscribers]

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