The relationships between landlords and their tenants span the gamut from close (even familial or living in the same space) to the dreaded (and illegal) slumlord-tenant scenario. Naturally, someone considering becoming an investor in real property with the intent to engage in this active form of investment will want to become familiar with the laws in Arizona that pertain to landlord-tenant relations.
Any church has its secrets. I don’t mean the “skeletons in the closet” kind. But spiritual life can be a highly personal and even private affair. Pastors and priests come into contact with some highly sensitive information, and they are sought out to provide spiritual counsel and direction in sensitive and confidential situations. The church itself is likely to be privy to information about its members that these individuals may not want shared. In certain circumstances, a church can be held liable for invading privacy. It is therefore important that a church take measures to ensure that certain information is kept confidential.
Like any other contract, an agreement for a sale and purchase of real estate is an enforceable document, and a breach of its terms entitles the party who was harmed to damages that must be supplied by the party who breached the contract. That said, the complex nature of real estate contracts has resulted in an amount of law arising around these agreements. These include, for example, the stipulation in Arizona’s statute of frauds that a real estate agreement is only enforceable if the party claiming breach can produce a written and signed document (an oral contract for the sale of the property is not enough). And most real estate purchase agreements contain contingencies—which are elements that, should they occur, permit the parties to exit the contract without it being considered breach. (For example, if the contract is made contingent upon the potential buyer having sold their previous home by a certain date, and that date comes without the sale of that previous home, then the contract may be canceled—the seller of the home in question may go on to entertain other purchase offers and the potential buyer may move on to search for other properties.) And then there is the fact that a given parcel of real estate is such a unique form of property that, in the case that a breach (not supplied for in the contract’s contingencies) should occur, a court may determine that specific performance is called for.
Passed in 1997, the Federal Volunteers Protection Act (VPA) was crafted with the purpose of limiting the amount of legal and financial liability that volunteers to nonprofit organizations—including unpaid Directors—might have otherwise been subject to for harms caused in the course of their service. In drafting the Act, Congress made explicit its goal to “promote the interests” of churches and nonprofits by providing“certain protections from liability abuses related to volunteers serving nonprofit organizations and governmental entities” (42 U.S.C. § 14501). The passage of the Act was in response to a decrease in volunteerism in society at large, which Congress attributed in part to a belief that church and ministry volunteers were facing financial harm because they were judged to have caused some sort of harm to others in the course of their volunteer efforts.
As any property lawyer can tell you, property law is a complex area of law, whose rights and duties are often defined by interweaving and conflicting interests. A potential interest in a piece of property can be affected in the present by defects in the property’s title that are the result of a misstep made sometime in the distant past;and interest can be equally affected in the present by a conflict occurring in the present whose outcome still remains to be determined at some future date. An example of the latter is the legal concept of “lis pendens.”
As part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a new tax was imposed on churches and other nonprofits that assigned a value to the concept of providing parking to employees—essentially treating employee parking as a form of “unrelated business taxable income” (UBTI). The Act referred to this provision of parking for employees as a “qualified transportation fringe” (QTF) benefit. This new tax would have resulted in many churches having to file tax returns and pay tax who had not done so previously. This new tax was a surprise to many nonprofits—and immediately sparked a great deal of pushback. The good news is that, because of the backlash, Congress recently repealed this tax.
Failure to pay property taxes in the state of Arizona results in tax liens. Sometimes other lienholders are the ones to foreclose on the property. Among the liens applied to a property, tax liens are considered most “senior.” This means that when a property gets foreclosed upon either under the tax lien or by a more “junior” lienholder, though other liens that are “junior” to the tax liens are wiped out, the tax liens remain.
Sad though it may be, churches are not immune to the threat of lawsuit. Indeed, the ever-increasing litigious nature of our society brings the courts into the business of churches at a rather alarming rate. This may lead churches to think that it is not a matter of whether a church is likely to get sued, but when. The question is: what should you do if you find your church suddenly subject to a lawsuit.
One of the cutting-edge issues in property law, one that promises to have an increasing amount of currency in the coming years, is that of drone traffic. More and more people find themselves wondering what it means when a drone passes over their property, and whether they have a claim of trespass against those whose drones pass over their property without their permission.
Churches are subject to many external laws and rules but the law, and the Church’s constitutional rights, give a church the ability to define for itself how it will be governed. Another way to put this is to say that churches have the right to set up the rules they will abide by as they go about their business as a church. This self-definition is generally laid out in what are referred to as “bylaws.”