Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – April 27th, 2012 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – April 27th, 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 27th, 2012

Viewing a neighboring property with video cameras is not harassment in Minnesota; inconspicuously installed video cameras do not have a substantial adverse effect on the neighbors' privacy.

The Johnsons sought a restraining order against the Michels, claiming harassment. Johnson noticed video cameras on the Michels' adjacent property; the cameras were pointed toward his house. Michels installed the cameras for security because there had been vandalism at his property. Johnson not only called the sheriff's office to report Michels' cameras, but came onto Michels' property and cut some of the camera wires.

At the hearing for the restraining order, the Johnsons said some of the cameras pointed toward the bedroom and bathroom of their home, and the hot tub. They said they felt "violated" by the video recording. The court dismissed the Johnsons' petition, noting that what was recorded by the cameras was no different than what could be seen by an observant neighbor. Moreover, the court found no violation of the Johnsons' privacy because there were no intrusive or unwanted acts, nor words or gestures that had an adverse effect on the Johnsons' safety, privacy or security. Michels did not trespass on the Johnsons' property or take any active measures towards them.

On appeal, the Johnsons argued that the court should have considered Minnesota criminal statutes, making it a crime to stalk, follow, monitor or pursue another through technological or other means. They also sought application of a Minnesota law making it a gross misdemeanor to surreptitiously install or use a device for observing or photographing a person through a window of a place where another person has an expectation of privacy, with intent to interfere with that person's privacy. Neither argument was persuasive because the cameras were not used surreptitiously; they recorded only what an observant neighbor would have been able to see. There was no evidence that Michel's camera used imaging techniques that provided greater visual access than a still camera or the human eye. Michel's cameras were small and installed in inconspicuous places, so they were not instrusive acts with adverse effects on the Johnsons. The Johnsons did not get the restraining order.

Johnson et al. vs. Michels Property Groups, LLC, et al., 2010 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 959 (Sept. 14, 2010) [enhanced version available to subscribers].

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