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

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

A decorated junk vehicle in the yard is not a "lawn ornament."  

The Town of Ledgeview, Wisconsin cited John Knaus for violating a municipal ordinance against junked vehicles, and for littering. Knaus had a rusted van on blocks in his yard with no license plates. After two warning letters from the town, Knaus was issued citations weekly. At that point, Knaus started decorating the van with paint, a flower box, flat tires and other appliances. He put up a sign that said the van was a lawn ornament.

Then he started putting other things in the yard, including a golf cart, pots, tires and something that looked like a washing machine. Knaus defended his actions by saying that he was trying to depict a "redneck campground" in the yard. Knaus was convicted in the municipal court and ordered to pay fines. At trial, he accused the town inspector of trespassing in his yard and questioned the testimony of the town's witness. The appeals court upheld the finding on whether the van was "junked" because that finding is one for the fact-finder.

Knaus was also found guilty of littering on private land. The anti-littering ordinance prohibits throwing or depositing litter on occupied private property in the town, excepting garbage containers authorized by the owner. Property owners must keep private property free of litter. Litter means "garbage, refuse and rubbish," and other "waste material" that is thrown or deposited and tends to create a danger to public health, safety and welfare.

Knaus claimed the citations violated his First Amendment right of expression on the basis that the so-called junked vehicle and litter are expressive lawn ornaments. His argument was unsuccessful, because "the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances.

TOWN OF LEDGEVIEW, v. KNAUS, 340 Wis. 2d 742; 2012 Wisc. App. LEXIS 229 (March 20, 2012) [enhanced version available to subscribers].


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