PropertyProf Blog

Editor: Stephen Clowney
Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Lonegrass on Landlord Retaliation

LonegrassMelissa Lonegrass (LSU) has posted Eliminating Landlord Retaliation from England and Wales -- Lessons from the United States (Louisiana Law Review) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Retaliatory eviction has been the subject of much recent public debate in the United Kingdom. Tenant advocates in England and Wales claim that landlord retaliation is widespread — even rampant — with over 300,000 tenants experiencing some form of landlord retaliation each year. In their efforts to keep anti-retaliation initiatives in the United Kingdom afloat, tenant advocates point to common law jurisdictions around the world whose landlord-tenant law prohibits retaliatory conduct. New South Wales, Australia, New Zealand, and even the United States provide for these protections — why then should not the United Kingdom? Thus far, comparisons to foreign law have been limited and cursory, pointing only to the presence or absence of anti-retaliation regimes in the law. More comprehensive examination of retaliatory eviction regimes abroad — both in their letter and their application — is lacking. This Article seeks to contribute to the legal–political debate surrounding landlord retaliation in England and Wales by providing a detailed, contextual analysis of retaliatory eviction laws in the United States and their success at home.

June 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 19, 2015

60 Million People Displaced From Their Homes in 2014

From Slate:

A staggering 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced around the world in 2014, according to the latest report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, setting a record. That’s 8.3 million more than last year, for the largest one-year jump since the UNHCR began recording. This means that one out of every 122 people in the world is displaced. If that population were a country, would be the 24th-largest in the world. That number includes refugees, internally displaced people, and those seeking asylum.

The staggering numbers are caused by conflicts in a relatively small number of countries. Just three countries—Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia—account for 53 percent of those displaced. The top 10—also including Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, the Central African Republic, Iraq, and Eritrea—account for 77 percent.

June 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Borden on the Taxation of REITs

BordenBradley Borden (Brooklyn) has posted Reforming REIT Taxation (Or Not) (Houston Law Review) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Tax law treats the income of real estate investment trusts (REITs) differently from the income of regular corporations. Income distributed by regular corporations is subject to an entity-level tax and a shareholder-level tax, while taxable income distributed by REITs is subject to tax only at the shareholder level. To qualify for that single-level of tax, REITs must hold primarily real estate assets, and their income must be primarily from such assets. After being a relatively insignificant part of the economy for the first three decades of their existence, REITs have become relevant over the last twenty years, with the market capitalization of publicly traded REITs eclipsing 5% of U.S. GDP at the end of 2014. Reports about REITs appear frequently in major media outlets, with an emphasis on corporate-tax-base erosion that results from REIT taxation. Calls for REIT reform have been answered with proposed legislation that would change various aspects of REIT taxation. Recent work in this area shows that even though REITs do erode the corporate tax base, the requirement that they distribute income and the higher tax rates of REIT shareholders offset corporate-tax-base erosion and minimize the tax-revenue effects of REIT taxation. This Article examines the history of REIT taxation and identifies Congress’s purposes for enacting REIT legislation and amending it over the years. The Article examines the criticisms of REIT taxation and analyzes REIT taxation based upon how well it accomplishes Congress’s purposes and satisfies traditional tax-policy objectives. Based up on that analysis, the Article finds that REIT taxation is benign, and it benefits the economy by helping to stabilize real estate markets. The Article then compares the REIT regime with various reform alternatives. Not surprisingly, after finding that REIT taxation is benign and beneficent, the Article concludes that maintaining the status quo is more attractive than any of the reform alternatives.

June 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Ghetto was a Policy Choice

NPR's Terry Gross interviews historian Richard Rothstein about the origin of the American Ghetto:

June 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Texas Trying to Crack Down on "Adverse Possession Abuse"

From the Dallas Morning News:

The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill, HB 2590, Tuesday afternoon aimed at cracking down on scammers who abuse the state’s adverse possession laws to acquire seemingly abandoned houses and sell them to unsuspecting buyers. A pro-forma House vote on a technical amendment is all that’s left before the bill heads to Gov. Greg Abbott for signing into law.

The bill, introduced in the House by Democratic Rep. Eric Johnson of Dallas and carried in the Senate by Sen. Royce West, would add significant financial penalties for anyone deemed to use fraudulent practices to assert deed claims on other people’s houses without their knowledge or consent, or who try to sell those houses to buyers who are unaware that the seller has no legal right to sell the property. Most people understand adverse possession as “squatter’s rights.”

June 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alexander on the Scottish Right to Roam

AlexanderGregory Alexander (Cornell) has posted The Sporting Life: Democratic Culture and the Historical Origins of the Scottish Right to Roam (Illinois Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:

In 2003, the Scottish Parliament enacted the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, which, among other reforms, grants to “everyone” a right to access virtually all land in Scotland for a wide variety of purposes, including recreation, educational activities, and even some commercial or for-profit activities. Legal recognition of this broad-ranging “right to roam” comes after more than a century of debate over the public’s right to access privately-owned land in the Scottish Highlands. This paper is the first historical account of the origins of the remarkable Scottish right to roam. It sets the debate over the right to roam with a clash between two different visions of the sporting life: One, older, rooted in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, viewed the sporting life as one of hunting, aided by the use of modern technology — rifles and such — and much older technology in the form of dogs and horses. The other vision is of more recent vintage. It is a vision of contact with nature through walking, hiking, and similar forms of unmediated interaction with nature. Curiously, both visions of the sporting life claimed the mantle of preservation and conservation. The paper argues that the culture of unmediated contact with nature ultimately prevailed as a democratic culture became more entrenched in both politics and society.

June 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Map of the Day: Where Do Legal Immigrants Come From?

Mostly, Mexico.  In 2012, for example, nearly 150,000 achieved legal status in the United States.  As a result, Mexicans make up the largest groups of legal immigrants in 27 states.  To make things more interesting, here's a map of the most common country of origin of legal immigrants (excluding Mexico):


June 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Singer on Public Accommodations Law

SingerJoseph Singer (Harvard) has posted We Don't Serve Your Kind Here: Public Accommodations and the Mark of Sodom (Boston University Law Review) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

As part of a symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this article considers the role of public accommodations law in a free and democratic society. Public accommodations law is fundamental to a society that ensures equal rights of access to both private property and the free market. A society that allows businesses to choose their customers because of race or other factors such as sexual orientation can result in a caste system that is as rigid as any such systems imposed by statutory regulations. That is why a statute that allows businesses to choose customers without limit (such as the law in effect to this day in Mississippi) should be deemed unconstitutional if it enables businesses to engage in invidious discrimination.

Racial discrimination remains a significant problem in public accommodations today even though it is (almost) universally deplored. We are, however, living through a time when discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is being vigorously debated and religious reasons for such discrimination are commonplace. Sorting out the rights of patrons versus the rights of businesses requires a full understanding of the role of public accommodation law in ensuring that access to social and economic life not be denied on the basis of race or sexual orientation.

June 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saxer on Bargaining for Development Post-Koontz

SsaxerShelley Saxer (Pepperdine) has posted To Bargain or Not to Bargain? A Response to Bargaining for Development Post-Koontz (Florida Law Review Forum) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

In this essay, Dean Saxer responds to Sean F. Nolon’s Bargaining for Development Post-Koontz: How the Supreme Court Invaded Local Government. The Supreme Court held, in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, that proposed local government monetary exactions from property owners to permit land development are subject to the same heightened scrutiny test as imposed physical exactions. In his article, Nolon explores whether such heightened scrutiny for proposed exactions will chill permit negotiations between local governments and developers. Nolon predicts that the Koontz decision will “impede developers’ ability to improve their projects in the development review process.” Saxer responds that the consequences of this decision are not as dire as predicted by Nolon and that developers and local officials will continue to work together for the benefit of both the developer and the community.

June 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Affordable Housing in Marin County

 Marketplace takes a look at the fight over affordable housing in the Bay Area. 

June 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Klass on The Public Trust Doctrine

Klass-alexAlexandra Klass (Minnesota) has posted The Public Trust Doctrine in the Shadow of State Environmental Rights Laws: A Case Study (Environmental Law) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

This Article looks at the relationship between state environmental rights statutes and the common law public trust doctrine. In addressing this issue, it focuses on the state of Minnesota, where, in the early 1970s, the state legislature enacted a far-reaching environmental rights statute, the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA), that served to codify many public trust principles. Beginning in the early 1970s and for the next forty years, litigants in Minnesota that might otherwise have brought common law public trust doctrine claims for environmental protection purposes instead channeled that litigation through MERA. As a result, Minnesota courts have rarely been asked to interpret or use the common law public trust doctrine at all in the context of environmental protection. And, more importantly, they did not have an opportunity to use and develop the doctrine during the time the environmental protection movement was at its height in the 1970s and early 1980s. Instead, the lyrical language many courts used in public trust doctrine cases in other states during that era to protect natural resources and expand the scope of the doctrine is found, in Minnesota, in MERA cases, not in public trust doctrine cases. This Article explores the implications of the underuse of the common law public trust doctrine in Minnesota by focusing on a 2012 case, White Bear Lake Restoration Association v. Department of Natural Resources, which is the first case to begin a new conversation on the common law public trust doctrine in the state — one that never took place in the 1970s. This case involves traditional public trust resources — a lake and a lakebed — as well as efforts by private citizens to compel the state to protect those resources for present and future generations, thus coming squarely within the purview of MERA and even the most narrow reading of the public trust doctrine. The state argued in part that MERA had replaced the common law public trust doctrine in Minnesota and that the doctrine on its own could not be used for environmental protection purposes, citing the lack of any relevant public trust doctrine cases. While the district court rejected these contentions, the arguments of the parties and the court’s analysis sheds light on the important relationship between the common law and state legislation in the context of public trust resources and environmental protection.

June 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Map of the Day: If Westeros Was Real

For the Game of Thrones fans:


June 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dernbach on the Public Trust Doctrine

DernbachJohn Dernbach (Widener) has posted The Potential Meanings of a Constitutional Public Trust (Environmental Law) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth (Robinson Township) has lawyers looking at the state’s constitutional Environmental Rights Amendment (Amendment) — including its public trust provision — as if it magically appeared in the state constitution on the date of the decision. The Amendment had been so thoroughly buried by judicial decisions that most lawyers had never given the text much thought. This Article describes the origin of the Amendment, the two primary cases decided shortly after it was adopted that effectively buried the Amendment, and the Robinson Township decision. It then surveys the wide range of issues that have arisen in the courts and other adjudicatory bodies in the immediate aftermath of Robinson Township and provides suggestions for how some of them should be resolved. Taken together, these cases provide a glimpse of what constitutionally protected environmental rights, including a constitutional public trust, could mean if the Pennsylvania courts continue to treat the Amendment as constitutional law.

June 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"The Most Litigious Neighborhood Spat in Recent Memory"

The Washington Post chronicles a truly remarkable feud between two neighbors in the D.C. suburbs:

Thus passed another tense moment in what local officials say has become the town of Chevy Chase’s lengthiest, costliest, and most litigious neighborhood spat in recent memory. What began as a contested building permit six years ago has spiraled into a clash of wills, spawning five lawsuits, two misdemeanor convictions, arrests, anger-management classes, and a court order that Vollmer steer clear of the Schwartzes — or risk spending 18 months in the slammer.

[...] This squabble, silly though it may be, nonetheless explains big things around town. The town of Chevy Chase has undergone significant changes in aesthetic over the past 15 years as it has transitioned from a wealthy enclave of 1,000 homes into an evenwealthier enclave of 1,000 homes. In the “mansionization” of Chevy Chase, contractors have demolished dozens of smaller homes — called teardowns — to make way for palatial structures.

(HT: Ezra Rosser)

June 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bell on Sea Level Rise in Australia

BellJustine Bell (Queensland) has posted Planning for Climate Change and Sea Level Rise: Queensland's New Coastal Plan (Environmental and Planning Law Journal) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Climate change is projected to cause sea level rise, and an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. As most of Queensland's population is settled in coastal areas, these events pose a major threat to development. The Queensland government has recognised this threat, and recently released a new Coastal Plan and associated legislative amendments. This plan seeks to minimise new development along the coast, and increase the resilience of existing development. This article will analyse the new regime for coastal management in Queensland, and conclude that it represents a positive step forward in safeguarding against the predicted impacts of climate change.

June 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bronin on Energy Production in Cities

BroninSara Bronin (Connecticut) has posted Energy in the Ecopolis (Environmental Law Reporter) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Climate change, resource scarcity, and environmental degradation demand a paradigm shift in urban development. Currently, too many of our cities exacerbate these problems: they pollute, consume, and process resources in ways that negatively impact our natural world. Cities of the future must make nature their model, instituting circular metabolic processes that mimic, embrace, and enhance nature. In other words, a city must be a regenerative city or, as some say, an “ecopolis.”

So, how to get there — to ecopolis — from here? In this Comment, I propose a partial answer by focusing on certain legal frameworks that must be reenvisioned to enable the ecopolis. Part II defines the ecopolis, drawing on accounts from leading thinkers. It then differentiates between regenerativity and the better-known concept of sustainability. That part also identifies the many facets of regenerativity, including food production, brownfield revitalization, integration with nature, waste management, water use, transportation, building considerations, and energy.

Part III then focuses on one of those facets: energy. The ecopolis must not only use less energy than our cities do today, it also must produce energy in a way that positively contributes to its surroundings. This means taking advantage of new generating technologies that harness renewable resources, such as biomass, sun, and wind, and that cleanly convert trash to energy. In addition, it means embracing distributed generation, located near the end-user it is intended to serve. Distributed generation, whether for individual end-users or for community energy projects, is an essential element of energy in the ecopolis.

June 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Beautiful Buildings Close Up


Slate profiles the photographs of Roland Fischer, who takes disorienting (and stunning) pictures of building facades.

June 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Garnett on Inner Ring Suburban Communities

GarnettNicole Garnett (Notre Dame) has posted Old Suburbs Meets New Urbanism on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

This essay examines the growing popularity among inner ring suburban communities of new urbanist regulatory tools, including transect zoning and form-based codes. Given the demographic realities facing these communities, the essay raises concerns about the temptation to use legal regulation to "upscale" older suburbs and argues for more-organic, deregulatory approaches to redevelopment. The essay will be included in an edited volume entitled Infinite Suburbia (Alan Berger and Joel Kotkin, eds.).

June 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Smith on Housing Migrant Labour in Ontario

AsmithAdrian Smith (Osgoode) has posted The Bunk House Rules: Housing Migrant Labour in Ontario (Osgoode Hall Law Journal) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The paper tackles the recent controversy surrounding an application to convert an abandoned school into housing for migrant agricultural workers in Ontario, Canada. It examines how the written reactions of community residents to a proposed municipal zoning by-law amendment convey and invoke understandings of the legal regulation of temporary labour migration. When viewed through a legal consciousness analytic lens, reconstituted to attend to the material practices and context underpinning residents’ discursive and ideological responses, what I term a ‘materialist legal consciousness studies’, it is evident that the residents’ submissions intervene in the organization and regulation of agricultural production. While framed in opposition to the proposed amendment and the rules on siting bunk houses, residents’ responses -- which rehearse well-worn, racist colonial tropes -- (re)produce material outcomes affecting the working and social lives of migrant agricultural workers in southwestern Ontario. I argue that residents’ overwhelming opposition to the bunk house proposal re-inscribes and even extends the unfree labour relations and conditions in which these workers toil and dwell. In so doing, residents perpetuate growers’ control not merely of labour power but in fact over racialized labouring bodies, deepening the regulatory immobilization and hyper-exploitation of migrant workers.

June 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 5, 2015

An Update on the Law of Signs


Over at Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh walks through a recent Fourth Circuit case on signs, Central Radio Co. v. City of Norfolk.  The court held that a sign law that exempts governmental and religious emblems (as well as "works of art") is content-neutral.  Volokh thinks the ruling is clearly wrong-headed:

Like Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 707 F.3d 1057 (9th Cir. 2012), cert. granted, 134 S. Ct. 2900 (2014), this should have been an easy case. A sign ordinance is content-based if it “distinguishes … between permissible and impermissible signs … by reference to their content.” Metromedia, Inc. v. City of San Diego, 453 U.S. 490, 516 (1981) (plurality opinion). Norfolk’s sign code imposes size restrictions on some signs, like Petitioner’s, but exempts from regulation (1) “flag[s] or emblem[s]” of foreign and domestic governments and of “religious organizations,” and (2) “works of art.” Norfolk, Va., Code app. A, §§ 2-3; 16-5.2(a)(3), (a)(9).1 Such distinctions are facially content-based. Norfolk’s sign ordinance might not be motivated by disagreement with Petitioner’s ideas or turn on the viewpoint of speech. But under this Court’s precedent, such content classifications make a law content-based, even in the absence of improper legislative motive.

Nevertheless, the Fourth Circuit panel majority treated this facially content-based law as content-neutral — the exact opposite of the result reached by the Eighth Circuit in Neighborhood Enterprises, Inc. v. City of St. Louis, 644 F.3d 728 (8th Cir. 2011), and the Eleventh Circuit in Solantic, LLC v. City of Neptune Beach, 410 F.3d 1250, 1266 (11th Cir. 2005), which dealt with ordinances nearly identical to the Norfolk ordinance. Moreover, the Sixth and Ninth Circuits join the Fourth Circuit in treating similar facially content-based sign ordinances as content-neutral, while the First and Second Circuits join the Eighth and Eleventh Circuits in treating them as content-based.

June 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)