PropertyProf Blog

Editor: Stephen Clowney
Univ. of Kentucky College of Law

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Rules for Gifting Property

Benny Kass advises a couple who are attempting to gift a $200,000 to their two grandchildren using the annual gift exclusion:

[I]f you decide to go this route, each year you and your wife can gift $56,000 worth of the property to your two granddaughters. If the property value stays under $224,000 — and the current exclusion number stays the same — you can complete the transfer within four years.

[But] in many cases, such a gift could be a disservice to the granddaughters. When you gift them the property, your basis for tax purposes becomes their basis. So if you bought the property for $100,000, that's their basis. If they sell for $300,000 down the road . . . they will have to pay a lot of capital gains tax. [...]

But if you die, and your grandkids inherit the property, under current law they get what is known as the stepped-up basis. In other words, their tax basis is the value of the property on the day you died.  So, my firm suggestion: Let them inherit the property, and leave it to them in your wills.

Steve Clowney

June 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

You Think You've Got a Bad Landlord?

A case out of California:

A California husband and wife deemed the "landlords from hell" by authorities are headed for four years in prison for menacing their tenants, according to authorities.

The landlords' actions ranged from cutting holes in the floor of one victim's living room with a power saw while he was inside the apartment to soaking victims' beds, clothes and electronics with ammonia, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.  "The actions of these defendants are so outlandish and brazen that it sounds like the plot line of a horror movie," district attorney George Gascon said in a statement. [...]

The laundry list of offenses the two were accused of also included purchasing a semi-automatic handgun and threatening to shoot the building manager, changing locks, cutting phone lines, shutting off utilities, removing a victims' belongings from their apartment and destroying them, multiple burglaries and threatening letters to victims. [...] The couple were charged with felonies in April 2008, but posted bail and ran away to Italy, authorities said.

Steve Clowney

June 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bouvier on First Amendment Protections for Urban Agricultural Practices

Jaime-bouvierJaime Bouvier (Case Western) has posted The Symbolic Garden: An Intersection of the Food Movement and the First (Maine Law Review) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

What is communicated when a neighbor raises raspberries instead of roses on the porch trellis, grows lacinato kale rather than creeping bentgrass in the front yard, or keeps Buckeye hens rather than a Bulldog? This essay asserts that these and other urban agricultural practices are expressive, that they are not just ends in themselves but are communicative acts. These acts are intended to educate neighbors, assert a viewpoint, establish identity, and are widely viewed as symbols of support for a social and political movement, what Michael Pollan has dubbed the “Food Movement.” And, as symbolic acts, they deserve protection under the First Amendment.

This article will first examine the recognition of the Food Movement as a social and political movement. It will then look at how gardens and other urban homesteading practices, like raising chickens and bees, are broadly asserted and accepted as symbols of the Food Movement. Finally, it will assess how First Amendment principles will apply to these urban agricultural practices and the degree of constitutional protection they should receive.

Steve Clowney

June 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Country's Most Endangered Historic Places

Montschool

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has released its 26th annual list of America's most endangered historic places.  Many regard this list as the preservation community's most effective tool for mobilizing constituencies to save the country's threatened places.  This year's list includes the Houston Astrodome, the Pan Am Terminal at JFK Airport, and the Village of Mariemont, Ohio -- one of the country's first planned communities.  Here's the list.

Steve Clowney

(pic: One of Montana's Historic Rural Schoolhouses)

June 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bell on Territorial Sovereignty in International Law

AbellAbraham Bell (San Diego) has posted An Economic Analysis of Territorial Sovereignty in International Law (Book Chapter) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The laws of territorial sovereignty are among the earliest to have been developed in modern international law, and are among the most important. While this would seem to indicate the potential attractiveness of normative economic analyses of the laws of territorial sovereignty, there is unfortunately little scholarship on territorial sovereignty law that utilizes the insights of economic analysis.

This essay aims to begin filling that gap by utilizing insights from a related field of private law: property. The doctrines of territorial sovereignty bear a strong resemblance to the laws of property in municipal law. Territorial sovereignty, like property; contains rules of acquisition, transfer, and abandonment. It uses chains of title to evaluate claims, and adopts standard property maxims such as nemo dat quod non habet, (one cannot transfer what one does not have). The Essay presents several areas of research in the field of property law that can fruitfully be incorporated into economic analysis of territorial sovereignty, and suggests the means for incorporating the insights.

Unfortunately, economic analysis of property law can only partially fill the gaps in analysis of territorial sovereignty. Many of the concerns of the law of territorial sovereignty differ significantly from those of property. The Essay, thus, considers future potential directions for research, and concludes with observations on the limitations of the analogy between property and territorial sovereignty.

Steve Clowney

June 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Death to Bike Share Programs

My quest to destroy Bikeshare programs is finally gaining some adherents.  Although I appreciate the anger in this video from the Wall Street Journal, I wish Ms. Rabinowitz had stayed away from sweeping generalization about "totalitarians" and gotten a little farther into the real policy issues of costs v. benefits. 

Steve Clowney

June 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prum & Kobayashi on the Geography of Green Building

Darren Prum (Florida State) & Tetsuo Kobayashi (Florida State - Geography) have posted Green Building Geography Across the United States: Does Governmental Incentives or Economic Growth Stimulate Construction? on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

As green building activity continues to rise across the country, some state governments decided to create incentives that would motivate developers to voluntarily pursue third party certification for their real estate projects in order to assist in meeting sustainability and environmental goals. Despite the growing number of studies in green buildings, the geography of green buildings and sustainable construction only includes a few studies, which emphasize the lack of green building research from the spatial perspective and their relevance to public policies the lack of green building research from the spatial perspective and their relevance to public policies. This study analyses spatial distributions of certified green buildings in relation to governmental incentives deemed necessary to further environmentally friendly public policies that embrace sustainable construction practices while applying a regression analysis over time to determine the impact of such a course of action in relation to economic growth. This study focuses on each of the six states that applied tax incentives. The regression analysis between the number of certified green buildings and Gross Domestic Product in each state shows positive correlation between the two indicating an economic growth is a significant factor to explain the growth in green buildings.

Steve Clowney

June 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An Update on the Private Property Rights Protection Act

Ilya Somin offers a brief update on the fate of the Private Property Rights Protection Act:

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act, which would prevent local governments that engage in Kelo-style economic development takings from receiving federal economic development funds. As I explained in a post last year (which explains the bill in more detail), this legislation has been kicking around Congress since 2005. At various times, it has passed the House only to die in the Senate. If it finally passes both houses this time around, it will be a useful, though limited step towards disincentivizing abusive takings that transfer property to powerful private interests, often without actually producing the promised economic benefits for the region.

Why has the PRPA failed to pass for so long, despite overwhelming public opposition to Kelo-style takings? Various factors play a role. But a big one is political ignorance, of the same type that has led to enactment of many ineffective “reforms” at the state level. Most voters are unaware of the PRPA and don’t keep track of its legislative fortunes.Most voters are rationally ignorant and and devote only a very limited amount of time and effort to following political issues. Since the PRPA is not one of the top handful of issues on the political agenda, the public knows little about it and Congress can sit on it for years with little fear of punishment at the ballot box. Meanwhile, many local governments go on taking property for the benefit of private interest groups, while at the same time also collecting federal economic development funds. This is just one relatively small example of the broader problem of political ignorance discussed in my forthcoming book Democracy and Political Ignorance.

Steve Clowney

June 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Map of the Day: The Atlas of True Names

The "Atlas of True Names" reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on today’s maps.  For instance, where you would normally expect to see the Sahara indicated, the Atlas gives you “The Tawny One”, derived from Arabis word es-sahra, meaning “the fawn coloured."

Truenames

Steve Clowney

(HT: Joseph Blocher)

June 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Freyfogle on Aldo Leopold

FreyfogleEric Freyfogle (Illinois) has posted Leopold's Last Talk (Wash. J. Envtl. L. & P.) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

During the last decade of his life, Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) delivered more than 100 conservation talks to various popular, professional, and student audiences. In them, he set forth plainly the central elements of his conservation thought. By studying the extensive archival records of these talks one sees clearly the core elements of Leopold’s mature thinking, which centered not on specific land-use practices (good or bad), but instead on what he saw as deep flaws in American culture. Leopold’s sharp cultural criticism — more clear in these talks than in his lyrical, muted classic, A Sand County Almanac — called into question not just liberal individualism but central elements of Enlightenment-era thought. This essay distills the messages that Leopold repeatedly presented during his final years. It clarifies the messages by situating Leopold’s thought within long-running philosophic discussions on the nature of life, the limits on human knowledge, standards of truth, and the origins of value. For Leopold, conservation could succeed only if it challenged prevailing cultural understandings and pressed for specific, radical change. The now-stymied environmental movement has never taken that advice to heart.

Steve Clowney

June 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Steal

Slate puts together a short anthology of the best magazine pieces about audacious heists.  The stories feature tales of diamond thieves, a skyjacking, and the theft of the Mona Lisa.

Steve Clowney

June 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Is "Happy Birthday To You" in the Public Domain?

A new law suit aims to find out:

A filmmaker is suing to make the song "Happy Birthday to You" free for everyone to use.  The plaintiff, Good Morning to You Productions Corp., a New York-based company that is making a documentary about the song, said it belongs in the public domain.  Warner/Chappell Music Inc., the publishing arm of Warner Music Group, owns "Happy Birthday to You," meaning it has exclusive rights over the song's reproduction, distribution and public performances. 

According to Good Morning to You's class-action lawsuit, filed in New York, the company had to pay Warner $1,500 for a license to use the song.  As the 26-page court document notes, the song has a history dating back 120 years.   The tune's origins go back to the 1893 song "Good Morning to All" by sisters Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill.  The lyrics were: "Good morning to you / Good morning to you / Good morning dear children / Good morning to all."    That song eventually evolved into "Happy Birthday."   The suit aims to return "millions of dollars" in licensing fees from Warner to thousand of people and groups that have paid the company to use the song.

Mike Masnick's blog has a good summary of the issues and an embedded copy of the plaintiff's brief:

The full lawsuit, embedded below, goes through a detailed history of the song and any possible copyright claims around it. It covers the basic history of "Good Morning to You," but also notes that the "happy birthday" lyrics appeared by 1901 at the latest, citing a January 1901 edition of Inland Educator and Indiana School Journal which describes children singing a song called "happy birthday to you." They also point to a 1907 book that uses a similar structure for a song called "good-bye to you" which also notes that you can sing "happy birthday to you" using the same music. In 1911, the full "lyrics" to Happy Birthday to You were published, with a notation that it's "sung to the same tune as 'Good Morning.'" There's much more in the history basically showing that the eventual copyright that Warner/Chappell holds is almost entirely unrelated to the song Happy Birthday to You.

Steve Clowney

June 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Schindler on Banning Lawns

Sarah_schindlerSarah Schindler (Maine) has posted Banning Lawns (George Washington Law Review) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Recognizing their role in sustainability efforts, many local governments are enacting climate change plans, mandatory green building ordinances, and sustainable procurement policies. But thus far, local governments have largely ignored one of the most pervasive threats to sustainability — lawns. This Article examines the trend toward sustainability mandates by considering the implications of a ban on lawns, the single largest irrigated crop in the United States.

Green yards are deeply seated in the American ethos of the sanctity of the single-family home. However, this psychological attachment to lawns results in significant environmental harms: conventional turfgrass is a non-native monocrop that contributes to a loss of biodiversity and typically requires vast amounts of water, pesticides, and gas-powered mowing.

In this Article, I consider municipal authority to ban or substantially limit pre-existing lawns and mandate their replacement with native plantings or productive fruit- or vegetable-bearing plants. Although this proposal would no doubt prove politically contentious, local governments — especially those in drought-prone areas — might be forced to consider such a mandate in the future. Furthering this practical reality, I address the legitimate zoning, police power, and nuisance rationales for the passage of lawn bans, as well as the likely challenges they would face. I also consider more nuanced regulatory approaches that a municipality could use to limit lawns and their attendant environmental harms, including norm change, market-based mechanisms such as progressive block pricing for water, and incentivizing the removal of lawns.

Steve Clowney

June 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)