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.
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.
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
follow real estate law professionally or as a hobby, you'll find something new
and useful every week in Real Cases in Real Estate.
for the Week of December 27th, 2012
A decorated junk vehicle in
the yard is not a "lawn ornament."
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.
OF LEDGEVIEW, v. KNAUS, 340 Wis. 2d 742; 2012 Wisc. App.
LEXIS 229 (March 20, 2012) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers].
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