The National Association of Realtors is lauding two unanimous U.S. Supreme Court rulings in May that significantly boost the rights of private property owners while curbing government overreach.
In one case, Tyler v. Hennepin County, the court ruled that Minnesota tax law violated the constitutional rights of the homeowner by seizing her property without paying her “just compensation.” In the other case, Sackett v. EPA, the Court's ruling brought more clarity to the rules and regulations on building on personal land under the scope of the Clean Water Act.
Both landmark cases mark a huge victory for property rights across the country.
"The National Association of Realtors applauds the Supreme Court for … further protecting the rights of property owners," Kenny Parcell, president of the Realtors association, said in a statement issued after the court's rulings on May 25.
Parcell said the Supreme Court's decision in Tyler v. Hennepin County, which the National Association of Realtors filed an amicus brief in support of, "confirms that the equity homeowners build in their properties is a constitutionally protected right and cannot be unduly or unfairly seized by the government."
"We also appreciate the clarity provided by the Sackett ruling, which helps property owners utilize their land to the fullest extent possible. This ruling has lifted a burden from homebuilders across the country, reinforcing that the government should not create excessive barriers in the homebuilding sector, especially when the United States currently has a housing shortage of 5.5 million units," Parcell said.
The Silicon Valley Association of Realtors, which serves as a local advocate for homeownership and homeowners and represents the interests of property owners, also hailed the court's decisions.
"We join the National Association of Realtors in supporting the Court's decision protecting the home equity of property owners," said Jim Hamilton, president of the local Realtor group. "The National Association of Realtors is part of ongoing litigation related to an EPA rule defining Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act, which will be directly impacted by the Court's decision."
States must provide 'just compensation'
The case of Tyler v. Hennepin County, centered on Geraldine Tyler, a 94-year-old Minnesota woman who owed $2,300 in unpaid property taxes on her one-bedroom condominium, plus interest and penalties totaling $15,000. The county took title and kept the entire $40,000 when it sold her condominium. Under Minnesota law, local jurisdictions are allowed to keep the excess money.
The Supreme Court decided Tyler was protected by the Constitution’s Takings Clause in the Fifth Amendment, which states private property cannot “be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
In the unanimous decision, Chief Justice John Roberts stated while Hennepin County had the right to recover unpaid taxes, "it could not use the toehold of the tax debt to confiscate more property than was due.”
Minnesota was among more than a dozen states that follow what some call "home equity theft" laws that unfairly harm communities of color, according to the Pacific Legal Foundation, which argued Tyler's case in front of the Supreme Court. California is not among the states that allow this practice, but its law does include a loophole permitting local jurisdictions to retain surplus equity from seized properties in certain situations, according to the foundation.
In Sacket v. EPA, Idaho residents Chantell and Mike Sackett owned a parcel of land located 300 feet from Priest Lake, which is one of the state’s largest lakes. The property was once part of a large wetlands area.
In 2007, the Sacketts prepared to build a house on the property. They secured a building permit from the county and began clearing brush and hauling gravel to fill the site. The Environmental Protection Agency issued an order indicating the land contained wetlands and required the Sacketts to restore the site. The Sacketts sued, arguing their property was not a wetland. They claimed road construction altered the area’s hydrology, cutting off the flow of water to their property.
In an opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the court found that the EPA's interpretation of the wetlands is inconsistent with what's covered by the Clean Water Act.
Overturning a lower court decision, the Supreme Court ruled federal protection of wetlands encompasses only those wetlands that directly "adjoin" rivers, lakes and other bodies of water.
The ruling significantly curtails the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the nation's wetlands and waterways but brings more clarity to the rules and regulations on building on personal land under the scope of the Clean Water Act.
“The decision represents a victory against federal overreach and a win for common-sense regulations and housing affordability," Alicia Huey, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders said in a statement.
The Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR) is a professional trade organization representing 5,000 Realtors and affiliate members engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. SILVAR promotes the highest ethical standards of real estate practice, serves as an advocate for homeownership and homeowners, and represents the interests of property owners in Silicon Valley.
The term Realtor is a registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and who subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.