Surveyor Keith Ludwig, PLS was the special guest for this episode of Title Nerds, in which he discussed with co-hosts Michael R. O’Donnell and Bethany A. Abele his experience of over 42 years in the industry. With a specialty in researching ancient deeds and surveys, Keith shared some of the more fascinating matters he has encountered while conducting land surveys, including serving as a surveyor for a defendant in Atlantic County where title had gone back and forth between the same two families numerous times over 200 years. He noted that a major misconception about surveyors is that it is their responsibility to determine if a particular easement or covenant affects the property in question. That is not true. The surveyor can only state where the easement/covenant lies physically, but cannot advise whether it affects the property; that is the responsibility of the attorney to determine.
Keith noted the importance of looking back at mother deeds when preparing boundary surveys, no matter how much time had gone by, and also discussed the interesting issue of streams and tidelands as boundary lines, when the water flow may have shifted.
Mike and Bethany were interested to hear how surveying has changed during the course of Keith’s career, with GPS revolutionizing modern surveying procedures.
Mike then interviewed Riker Danzig’s newest associate on our Title Insurance team, Kori Pruett, who provided an overview of a New York case involving Airbnbs. In West Mountain Assets LLC v. Dobkowski, the New York Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs, who were using their home as an Airbnb, were violating a deed restriction limiting use to “single family residential purposes” only. The plaintiff had brought a suit for alleged interference with its tenants’ (various Airbnb clients) free use of the property, claiming that the defendant neighbors were interfering with use of the road servicing both properties.
Defendants counterclaimed for a declaration that the plaintiff’s use of the property for short-term rentals violated the deed restrictions, which stipulated the property could only be used for single family residential purposes, could not be used for commercial activity, and could not be used for “noxious, dangerous, offensive or unduly noisy activity of any nature.” Defendants also counterclaimed for adverse possession of a portion of the road parcel.
Kori explained that the defendants were granted summary judgment on the first counterclaim, with the Court holding that the “transient living” nature of Airbnb tenants fell outside the scope of a single-family residential use. The adverse possession claim was dismissed.
Kori cautioned that this case demonstrates that property owners need to pay attention to any deed restrictions before renting out their home as an Airbnb or VRBO type of rental.
Listen in for more details and analysis.
Riker Danzig’s Title Insurance Group also produces a “Banking, Title Insurance and Real Estate Litigation Blog,” available here.