Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed with prejudice a land developer’s claim against a county commissioner in his official capacity, holding that the developer did not have standing to pursue its claim for injunctive relief against the county commissioner. In its complaint, the developer sought mandamus relief requiring the county engineer to submit the developer’s completed plat application to the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court for approval. At issue in this appeal was the injunctive relief the developer sought against the commissioner, alleging that the commissioner inappropriately instructed the county engineering department to delay processing the submitted plat and construction plans. The commissioner filed a plea to the jurisdiction claiming that the developer’s suit against him in his official capacity was barred by governmental immunity. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because an individual county commissioner in Fort Bend County lacks legal authority to receive, process, or present a completed plat application to that county’s commissioners court for approval, the developer failed to show a substantial likelihood that the injunction it sought will remedy its alleged injury. View "Meyers v. JDC/Firethorne, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Robin Goldsmith, a Louisiana resident, did not purposefully avail herself of the state of Texas such that Texas courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over her as to Old Republic National Title Insurance’s Company’s claim under the Texas Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act. This dispute arose from a series of money transfers between Lisa Bell, a Texas resident, and Goldsmith in connection with the sale of Texas Property. Alleging that the transfers were fraudulent, Old Republic sued Bell and Goldsmith. In response to Old Republic’s suit, Goldsmith filed a special appearance objecting to the court’s jurisdiction over her. The trial court granted Goldsmith’s special appearance. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Goldsmith’s contacts with the state of Texas were insufficient to confer specific or general jurisdiction over her with respect to Old Republic’s fraudulent transfer claim. View "Old Republic National Title Insurance Co. v. Bell" on Justia Law

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The Parker County Appraisal District did not employ a facially unlawful means of appraising Taxpayers’ property, which appeared to derive much of its market value from saltwater disposal wells in which wastewater from oil and gas operations could be injected and permanently stored underground. When valuing for tax purposes Taxpayers’ tracts of land in Parker County, the Parker County Appraisal District assigned one appraised value to the wells and another appraised value to the land itself. Taxpayers argued before the trial court that the Tax Code did not permit the County to appraise the wells separately from the land itself where both interests are owned by the same person and have not been severed into discrete estates. The trial court granted summary judgment for Taxpayers. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was nothing improper in the District’s decision to separately assigned and appraise the surface and the disposal wells, which were part of Taxpayers’ real property and contributed to its value; and (2) the Tax Code does not prohibit the use of different appraisal methods for different components of a property. View "Bosque Disposal Systems, LLC v. Parker County Appraisal District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s decision that a homeowner violated certain restrictive covenants that limit tracts to residential purposes and single-family residents by operating a business on a residential tract and engaging in multi-family, short-term vacation rentals. The court of appeals concluded that the rental agreements contracted the residential-purpose limitation because the renters’ stays were merely temporary. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the unambiguous restrictive covenants did not restrict the homeowner from renting his single-family residence to occupants to use his home for a “residential purpose,” no matter how short-lived; and (2) therefore, the homeowner did not violate the restrictive covenants by entering into short-term vacation rental agreements. View "Tarr v. Timberwood Park Owners Ass’n, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s ruling that TRO-X, LP was entitled to a back-in percentage of the working interest in five mineral leases under which Anadarko Petroleum was lessee. TRO-X sued Anadarko, asserting claims for breach of contract and trespass to try title and seeking a declaratory judgment that the leases were top leases and therefore subject to TRO-X’s back-in interest. The trial court concluded that the leases were top leases, in which TRO-X retained a back-in interest, rather than new leases, which washed out TRO-X’s interest. In reversing, the court of appeals concluded that the leases were not top leases. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the leases at issue were not top leases subject to TRO-X’s back-in interest. View "TRO-X, L.P. v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law

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At issue was the function of a clause in a real property deed that “saves and excepts” one-half of “all royalties from the production of oil, gas and/or other minerals that may be produced from the above described premises which are now owned by Grantor” when the deed does not disclose that the grantor does not own all of the royalty interests and does not except any other royalty interests from the conveyance. The trial court held that the deeds did not create a Duhig problem - where the grantor owns less than he purports to convey - by construing the clause as reserving for the grantor one-half of all royalties “which [were then] owned by Grantor.” The court of appeals determined that the clause created a Duhig problem, interpreting the clause as reserving for the grantor one-half of all royalties produced from the “above described premises which [were then] owned by Grantor.” The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) instead of reserving a one-half royalty interest for the grantors, the clause merely excepted that interest from the grant, and therefore, the deeds did not create a Duhig problem; and (2) each party with an interest in the tracts owned a one-quarter interest in the royalties produced. View "Perryman v. Spartan Texas Six Capital Partners, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In this property-tax dispute regarding ownership of tangible personal property, the Supreme Court held (1) when, as in this case, an ownership correction to an appraisal roll does not increase the amount of property taxes owed for subject property in the year of the correction, an appraisal district’s chief appraiser has statutory authority under Tex. Code Ann. Prop. 25.25(b) to make such a correction even when the correction necessarily alters the taxing units’ expectation of who is liable for payment of property taxes; (2) an agreement under Tex. Code Ann. Prop. 1.111(e) may be rendered voidable if it is proven that it was induced by fraud; and (3) a purported owner challenging ownership on the appraisal roll is not entitled to attorney’s fees under Tex. Code Ann. Prop. 42.29. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that Willacy County Appraisal District lacked authority to change a property ownership determination under section 25.25(b), without reaching the issue of whether a section 1.111(e) agreement may be voided if it was induced by fraud, and remanding the case for a determination of attorney’s fees consistent with section 42.29. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the court of appeals for further proceedings. View "Willacy County Appraisal District v. Sebastian Cotton & Grain, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In this case involving competing claims to mineral-lease interests in two tracts of land, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court and court of appeals that the acreage Endeavor Energy Resources, LP and Endeavor Petroleum, LLC (collectively, Endeavor) retained under “retained-acreage clauses” in expired leases did not include the two tracts at issue. Discovery Operating, Inc., which drilled producing wells on the two subject tracts, claimed the mineral-lease interests based on leases acquired directly from the mineral-estate owners. Endeavor based its claim on prior leases with the same owners covering land that included the two subject tracts. Endeavor never drilled on the tracts, and Endeavor’s leases’ terms had expired. However, the leases included “retained-acreage clauses” providing that the leases would continue after they expired as to a certain number of acres associated with each of the wells Endeavor drilled on adjacent tracts. Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the lower courts, holding that “a governmental proration unit assigned to a well” refers to acreage assigned by the operator, not by field rules. View "Endeavor Energy Resources, LP v. Discovery Operating, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals in this case requiring interpretation of retained-acreage provisions in oil-and-gas lease instruments, holding that acreage “included within the proration unit for each well…prescribed by field rules” refers to acreage set by the field rules, not acreage assigned by the operator. XOG Operating, LLC conveyed to Chesapeake Exploration Limited Partnership and Chesapeake Exploration, LLC (collectively, Chesapeake) its rights as lessee under four oil-and-gas leases in three sections of land. Under a retained-acreage provision, the assigned interest would revert to XOG after the primary term. As relevant to appeal, Chesapeake would retain for each well drilled the acreage “included within the proration…unit” “prescribed by field rules.” The acreage not retained by Chesapeake would revert to XOG on termination of the assignment. Chesapeake completed six wells during the primary term of the assignment, five of which were located in an area for which the Railroad Commission had promulgated field rules. The sixth well was located in an area for which there were no field rules. In Chesapeake’s view, it retained all of the assigned acreage. XOG sued Chesapeake to construe the retained-acreage provision. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision that the none of the land at issue reverted to XOG under the retained-acreage provision. View "XOG Operating, LLC v. Chesapeake Exploration Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court ruling that a will bequest of a tract of land unambiguously devised a fee-simple interest, rather than a life-estate interest, to the testator’s son, entitling the son to summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment that the will granted the son a life estate and Petitioners the remainder interest in the property at issue, holding that the contested provision unambiguously conveyed a life estate. View "Knopf v. Gray" on Justia Law