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Category Archives: real estate development

All owners are necessary parties in condominium litigation when class action fails

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The Villa Dorado condominium has 45 buildings, only nine of which have elevators. When the condominium association’s board assessed every unit owner for repairs to elevators, Epstein and Root protested. Their units were in buildings with no elevators, Read the rest of this entry

City of Sullivan must charge everyone the same tap fee

This post has been removed because the Missouri Supreme Court’s opinion in City of Sullivan v. Sites overruled the Court of Appeals’ opinion in  City of Sullivan v. Sites and affirmed the trial court’s decision upholding different tap fees for different parts of town.

Reformation, or when may a court change a deed?

When Rocky Lawrence saw the rig move onto his property to drill a gas well, he checked his deed. Sure enough, nothing on the deed indicated that the seller of the property reserved the mineral rights.

Patsy Barnes saw the same drilling rig and went to Conway Title Company to make sure that she had reserved the mineral rights when she signed the deed conveying that property to Lawrence.   She was certain that the contract for sale stated that the mineral rights would not be conveyed to Lawrence.

Sarah at Conway Title had one of those awful moments, realizing that the reservation of mineral rights was not in the deed that Patsy signed, though the purchase contract stated that the mineral rights would be reserved to the seller. Sarah asked Lawrence to sign a correction deed, but he refused. Then Lawrence filed a quiet title suit, hoping to affirm that he and his wife owned the mineral rights and would receive royalties from natural gas produced from the well on their land.

People ought to be bound by what they sign, especially when it comes to real estate. Otherwise, what would be the point of putting the contract or deed in writing or reading a contract before signing it?

Mistakes are inevitable, and it would be unfair to allow someone to benefit from a mistake at the expense of another. Courts have developed the equitable remedy of reformation for the correction of mistakes and have also developed some strict rules for determining whether to reform a contract or a deed. Though the exact rules vary a bit from state to state, the basic rules are these: Read the rest of this entry

Branson Landing land titles: how soon we forget how it was just 10 years ago!

Pictures help to tell the story that lies underneath the disputed land titles at the north end of Branson Landing. You can click on these images to enlarge them. Here’s the 1913 plat of Park Addition to the City of Branson.

The southwest corner of the Belk building sits about where Sycamore Street joins what has been called St. Limas Street and Boxcar Willie Drive, now Branson Landing Boulevard. The platted lots in Block 4 of Park Addition were the location of resorts until construction of Branson Landing began. Mang Park, with a baseball diamond and swimming pool, occupied Read the rest of this entry

Jury muddles title to North Beach Park and part of Branson Landing

On January 14, 2010, a Taney County jury rendered its verdict on the counterclaim of Doug Coverdell and Coverdell Enterprises against Empire District Electric Company, the Joplin-based utility that owns Lake Taneycomo and some adjacent land.

Coverdell’s counterclaim apparently sought to determine that Coverdell had better title than Empire to Branson’s North Beach Park and the north end of Branson Landing, possibly extending as far south as the north quarter of the parking garage.

The City of Branson has leased North Beach Park from Empire for decades. The deeds that the jury seemed to affirm include land that the City bought from owners other than Empire as well as land owned by persons not involved in the lawsuit.

A quiet title suit often doesn’t absolutely determine ownership, but only determines which of the litigants has a better claim to title. Without a definite legal description and the participation of all the owners, a verdict like the one here is much less than certain.

As events unfold, I’ll explain more here. If you want to get an email notification of updates to this blog, check the email box in the upper right corner of your screen.

Having reviewed portions of the court file, my tentative conclusion is that the jury’s verdict is a long way from resolving the dispute. Empire has filed a post-trial motion and others will be assessing their options. A judgment does not become final for 30 days, which can be extended by the filing of post-trial motions.

Ozarks economic outlook for 2010

As with any identifiable region, the Ozarks’ economy is a partly a product of adjacent economies interacting with internal and external forces. A survey of the metro areas that ring the Ozarks may give us a hint about what to expect for the future. The economic engines within the Ozarks also deserve a look. This long essay will yield the conclusion that 2009 will be a year of Read the rest of this entry

The Tri-State Mining District continues, producing poultry, not lead and zinc

The Tri-State Mining District, comprising adjacent portions of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, is generally thought to be out of business, other than for its massive legacy of environmental damage, notably the Tar Creek Superfund site, but also involving water and soil contamination in several counties in all three states.

But mining continues with no royalties being paid. The mineral is groundwater, exported not as “pigs” of lead, but as chickens and eggs. A major portion of the groundwater drawn from the Ozark aquifer in several Southwest Missouri counties is used for Read the rest of this entry

More confusion for Missouri boat dock law

Boat docks, like other properties along Missouri’s lakes, are valuable and jealously guarded by those claiming ownership or rights of use.

The law of boat docks is a muddle, perhaps due to the historic lack of clarity as to whether a boat dock is real property (land and the things attached permanently to it) or personal property (anything but real property), which is generally portable.

The Missouri legislature attempted to resolve that issue for the purposes of appraisal and mortgage lending with the enactment of  HB 842, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Wood, whose legislative district encompasses Table Rock Lake.

Signed by Gov. Nixon on July 7, 2009 and effective August 28, 2009, this new law defines “boat dock” as “a structure for loading and unloading boats and connecting real property to water, public or private.” In addition, “a boat dock is real property and has riparian rights,” provided: Read the rest of this entry

Holding a city to its promise

Most of us want to respect the government, especially local government. We expect local government to keep its promises.

But the law relating to cities, towns and villages (which are all lumped together in the category “municipal corporations” or “municipalities”) cuts them some slack. A city council, board of aldermen or village board can adopt an ordinance and lawfully repeal it later. Often voters elect new representatives because they promise to vote to change or repeal a previous ordinance.

The adoption of ordinances is how the city’s governing body exercises its legislative powers. A city should have the ability to correct mistakes or adapt to changing conditions for the benefit of the public.

But a city should be held to its agreement, said Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District in its July 21, 2009 opinion in Kindred v. City of Smithville, even though 40 years had passed since the agreement was made and lots of things had changed. Read the rest of this entry

A warranty deed doesn’t always convey everything

Lawyers are taught in law school that ownership of land carries with it a bundle of rights. A warranty deed conveys “fee simple absolute” title, which is the full bundle of rights. A person who obtains title by a warranty deed gets 100% of the rights associated with the piece of land described in the deed, other than what is excepted by the language of the deed, such as recorded restrictions and easements.

But Missouri courts have recognized a hole in this rule: some rights associated with real estate are personal property, not real property, even though the rights have to do with real estate. The warranty deed does not necessarily convey these rights, even though the warranty deed says that it is conveying all “rights, privileges, interests and appurtenances” that go with the land described.

Unless the special rights are specifically identified in the deed or another document of assignment, a court can require a trial to determine whether the person who signed the deed intended to convey them. Most lawyers don’t know about this quirk, and it can bite their clients real hard. Read the rest of this entry

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