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COA: Rentals not restricted by covenants

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In a case of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined today the rental of cabins in a subdivision was allowed under its restrictive covenants because the rental property was for "residential use."

At issue in William Applegate, et al. v. Earl F. Colucci, et al., No. 62A05-0802-CV-112, was whether Earl Colucci violated three of the subdivision's restrictive covenants when he built cabins on his lots and rented them through a business he maintained on one of the lots. Applegate and other landowners filed a complaint against Colucci and Vince Hubert - who used Colucci's company to rent his cabin - seeking monetary damages and to enjoin them from any activity that violates the covenants.

The trial court enjoined Colucci for violating paragraph 2 of the covenant, which says no lot should be sub-divided any smaller than the original size, because he had placed multiple cabins on one lot. The trial court found in favor of Colucci in regards to the "interpretation" of paragraph 4, which states no commercial business shall be carried on upon any parcel and "nothing herein contained shall prevent the leasing or renting of property or structures for residential use."

The landowners argued the renting of cabins was a commercial business and violates paragraph 4. This exact issue is one of first impression, so the appellate court turned to past cases dealing with what constitutes residential use as guidance. It used Stewart v. Jackson, 635 N.E.2d 186 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), and Lewis-Levett v. Day, 875 N.E.2d 293 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007) - both of which dealt with day cares in neighborhoods with restrictive covenants - to determine the short-term rental of Colucci's cabins constitute a residential use.

Also, the covenants don't expressly prohibit the short-term rental of the lots in the neighborhood and appear to allow any type of rental as long as it is for residential use, wrote Judge James Kirsch.

"The people who rent Colucci's cabins use the structures for eating, sleeping, and other typical activities associated with a residence or dwelling place," he wrote. "Although we recognize that the renters' occupation of the cabins is only on a temporary basis and the definition of residential seems to contemplate a more permanent presence, we find that this definition is at odds with the covenant language explicitly allowing the rental or lease of property."

Whether or not Colucci's maintenance of a real estate office to support the cabin rentals on one of the lots violates paragraphs 1 and 4 is a material question of fact. The appellate court reversed summary judgment in favor of the landowners on this issue and remands for further proceedings.

The trial court also erred in entering the injunction against Colucci based on paragraph 2 because although Colucci had built separate structures on the same lot, there was no evidence he was planning on dividing the lots into separate tracts of land to sell, wrote the judge.

The appellate court also denied requests from both parties for attorney fees at this time.

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  1. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  2. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  3. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  4. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

  5. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

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