Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

By
The case stemmed from a dispute over property subject to the terms of a will executed by a now-deceased member of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation (the Nation). Judge Robert Noonan, a county court and surrogate’s court judge, presided over the proceedings seeking to probate the will in the surrogate’s court. The Nation commenced a N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding in the Appellate Division seeking to prohibit the judge or any future surrogate in the estate proceeding from exercising jurisdiction over the case. The Appellate Division dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that the proceeding must originate in Supreme Court. At issue on appeal was whether the proceeding must originate in Supreme Court because Judge Noonan’s position as Surrogate was not one listed in N.Y. C.P.L.R. 506(b)(1), which limits article 78 proceedings that may be commenced in the Appellate Division to those against County Court Judges and Supreme Court Justices, or whether Judge Noonan’s position as a county court judge required that the proceeding be commenced in the Appellate Division. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, where Judge Noonan was acting as Surrogate with respect to the probate of the will, the Nation’s suit challenging those actions should have been brought in Supreme Court. View "Tonawanda Seneca Nation v. Noonan" on Justia Law

By
The owner commenced tax certiorari proceedings against the City of Rye, challenging assessments for tax years 2002-2010. for Lot 9 and Lot 10. Lot 10 is within the Rye City School District. Lot 9, which the owner believed to be within that district, actually lies within Rye Neck Union School District. Under RPTL 708, within 10 days of service of the notice and petition on a municipality in a tax certiorari proceeding, a petitioner must mail a copy of those documents to the superintendent of schools of any district within which the assessed property is located. The owner did not comply with that requirements before reaching an agreement with the City. Before that tentative settlement was finalized, the owner recognized its error, notified the Rye District, mailed the petition and notice, and sought the Rye District's consent to settle. The District instead intervened. The court dismissed the petitions with prejudice for failure to comply with RPTL 708. The Appellate Division clarified that dismissal pertained to Lot 9, noting that the action may not be recommenced under CPLR 205(a). The Court of Appeals affirmed. A petitioner who ignores the RPTL 708 mailing requirements and denies a school district the opportunity to economically address a tax certiorari proceeding is not permitted to recommence a proceeding dismissed based upon such noncompliance; to do so would undermine the goals that prompted amendments to RPTL 708. View "Westchester Joint Water Works v Assessor of City of Rye" on Justia Law

By
A condominium board commenced a foreclosure action on a condominium unit to recover unpaid common charges owed by the previous unit owner. Two mortgages were consolidated into a single mortgage lien years before the condominium board filed its common charges lien. Plaintiff, the winning bidder in the foreclosure action, commenced this action seeking a judgment declaring that the second mortgage was subordinate to the subsequently recorded common charges lien and was therefore extinguished by the condominium board’s successful action. Supreme Court declared that the consolidation agreement was the first mortgage of record and that Plaintiff purchased the unit subject to the consolidated mortgage. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the consolidated mortgage qualifies as the first mortgage of record under N.Y. Real Prop. Law 9-B. View "Plotch v. Citibank, N.A." on Justia Law

By
Ranco Sand and Stone Corporation, the owner of two parcels of contiguous property in an area zoned for residential use, applied to rezone one parcel to heavy industrial use. The Town of Smithtown’s Planning Board, acting as the lead agency under State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), adopted a resolution issuing a positive declaration that rezoning the parcel may have a significant effect on the environment and required Ranco to prepare a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). Ranco commenced this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding against the Town and the members of the Town Board, seeking to annul the positive declaration and requesting mandamus relief directing the Town to process the rezoning application without a DEIS. Supreme Court dismissed the petition, finding the matter not ripe for judicial review. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that the SEQRA positive declaration was the initial step in the decision-making process and did not give rise to a justiciable controversy. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Town’s SEQRA positive determination was not ripe for judicial review. View "Ranco Sand & Stone Corp. v. Vecchio" on Justia Law

By
James Pyne, who died during these proceedings, was the founder and sole stockholder of Remet Corporation. Pyne sold Remet’s stock and facilities, along with real property he had been leasing to Remet, to Burmah Castro Holding, Inc. The sales agreement contained an indemnification provision obligating Pyne to indemnify, defendant, and holder the buyer harmless for certain environmental losses. Remet later received a letter from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) notifying Remet that it was a potentially responsible party for environmental contamination at the Erie Canal Site adjacent to Remet’s real property. Remet filed notices of claim against Pyne’s estate seeking indemnification for environmental liabilities under the sales agreement. Remet then brought this action against the Estate asserting claims for contractual and common-law indemnification. Supreme Court granted Remet summary judgment on liability. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that DEC’s letter did not require Remet to take action. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the letter was sufficiently coercive and adversarial as to require action in connection with any environmental law pursuant to the sales agreement; and (2) Remet was entitled to contractual indemnification for past and future environmental losses arising out of DEC’s investigation and remediation of the Erie Canal Site. View "Remet Corp. v. Estate of Pyne" on Justia Law

By
Petitioner owned and operated five commercial parking facilities for the purpose of furthering the goal of its sole member, a not-for-profit corporation, to revitalize downtown Jamaica, Queens. New York City Tax Commission revoked Petitioner’s real property tax exemption pursuant to N.Y. Real Prop. Tax Law 420-a(1)(a), determining that the use of the parking facilities, even for economic development of an underdeveloped area, did not constitute a “charitable” use and that the parking facilities were “not incidental to another recognized charitable purpose but [were] the very purpose for which the property [was] being used.” Supreme Court upheld the City’s revocation of the tax exemption. The Appellate Division reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because Petitioner’s ownership and operation of the parking facilities was not incidental to a tax-exempt purpose, it was not entitled to a real property tax exemption under that statute. View "Greater Jamaica Dev. Corp. v. New York City Tax Comm’n" on Justia Law

By
Defendant executed an adjustable rate note to First National Bank of Arizona, wherein she agreed to repay a loan. To secure payment, Defendants executed a mortgage with the the bank. The loan was subsequently made part of a residential mortgage-back securitization trust, and Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas became the owner of the note. Aurora Loan Servicing, LLC later assumed servicer obligations, and thereafter, the mortgage was assigned to Aurora. When Defendants defaulted under the note, Aurora commenced this foreclosure action. Defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that Aurora did not have standing to bring this foreclosure action. Supreme Court denied the motion and then granted Aurora’s motion for summary judgment of foreclosure and sale. The Appellate Division affirmed the first order, concluding that Aurora had standing. The court reversed the judgment of foreclosure and sale for reasons not relevant to this appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the finding that Aurora had standing to commence this mortgage foreclosure action, holding that because the note was transferred to Aurora before the commencement of the foreclosure action, Aurora was vested with standing to foreclose. View "Aurora Loan Servs., LLC v. Taylor" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff Bank was the owner and holder of note secured by a mortgage on commercial property in Brooklyn. When Defendant, the mortgagor and obligor on the note, defaulted, Bank commenced a mortgage foreclosure action against Defendant. The property was sold at auction to Bank. Bank subsequently retained an appraiser to determine the fair market value of the property. Bank then moved for a deficiency judgment against Defendant in an amount representing the outstanding amount Bank was owed less the alleged fair market value. Supreme Court denied Bank’s motion for a deficiency judgment, holding that Bank failed to meet its burden of establishing the fair market value of the premises because the affidavit from the appraiser was conclusory and lacked specific information about how he reached his fair market value determination. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals modified the order of the Appellate Division, holding that Supreme Court correctly found that the appraiser’s affidavit was insufficient to meet Bank’s burden, but that the court should have permitted Bank to submit additional proof establishing fair market value rather than denying the deficiency judgment motion outright. View "Flushing Savings Bank, FSB v. Bitar" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff filed a complaint against Bank of America and related entities seeking to set aside and cancel, as null and void, the Bank’s mortgage interest in real property conveyed on the authority of an allegedly forged deed. The Bank moved to dismiss the complaint under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3211(a)(5) as untimely under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 213(8). Supreme Court dismissed the complaint in its entirety as time-barred. The Appellate Division affirmed as to the Bank, concluding that Plaintiff’s forgery-based claim against the Bank was subject to the six-year statute of limitations for fraud claims set forth in N.Y. C.P.L.R. 213(8). The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the statute of limitations in section 213(8) did not foreclose Plaintiff’s claim against Defendant because, under prior case law, a forged deed is void ab initio, and as such, any encumbrance upon real property based on a forged deed is null and void. View "Faison v. Lewis" on Justia Law

By
Petitioners, the owners of a single-family residence located in Nassau County, filed a small claims assessment review (SCAR) petition under Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) 730. The County requested disqualification of the petition for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the property was not owner-occupied by Petitioners during the tax year in question. The SCAR hearing officer agreed and disqualified the petition. At issue on appeal was whether the property should come within the statute’s coverage where, during the relevant tax year, the property was occupied rent-free by Petitioners’ close relative. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that when a property is occupied during the relevant tax period by an owner’s relative but not by the owner, the property is not “owner-occupied” within the meaning of RPTL 730(1)(b)(i). View "Manouel v. Bd. of Assessors" on Justia Law