Real EstateA recent Enquirer article highlighted Specific Performance as a remedy in real estate contracts. Specific Performance, as opposed to money damages, means that the judge will order the parties to a
contract to complete the contract. This is a rarely used remedy. In the case covered by the Enquirer, the seller is seeking an order from the Judge to force the buyers to go through with the sale and purchase his property.

Finney Law Firm recently represented buyers in seeking specific performance after the woman they contracted to purchase a home from informed the buyers that the she would not go through with the sale.

Our clients were beside themselves. They had hunted throughout the area for the perfect home and finally found it, negotiated and executed a contract for the home, and sold their home in reliance on that contract. Their dreams of settling into their new home were dashed in an instant.

The seller had gotten cold feet and found an attorney who suggested that there never was a valid contract because she hadn’t returned the accepted contract until a few hours after the time for acceptance set forth in the contract.

After reviewing the case law we determined that the contract was a valid notwithstanding the seller’s argument.

Explaining the costs and risks of litigation, we worked with our clients to weigh their options. They could walk away from the purchase and begin the house-hunt anew; they could offer more money in the hopes of warming the seller’s cold feet; or they could bring suit for specific performance on the contract. As with almost every case, litigation was offered as a last resort.

Ultimately, believing that the seller would not negotiate and they could not find a comparable home, our clients decided to sue to enforce the contract.

It took thirteen months to get to summary judgment, but eventually we prevailed and Judge Nadel ordered specific performance of the contract (for the first time in his judicial career).

After Judge Nadel ordered specific performance we were able to negotiate a settlement payment for damages and attorney fees and finally close on the sale. We’ve never seen two people happier to sign mortgage documents.

Let us know how we can make a difference for you and your real estate needs.

Title expansionConstruction on our next expansion is underway!

On Monday, October 13, the Finney Law Firm will launch Ivy Pointe Title, LLC, performing residential and commercial title, escrow and  closing services.  On that date we welcome three new employees to quickly and efficiently process your real estate purchases and loan closings.

Our title company motto is “accurate and on time, every time,” and our goal is to be consistently accessible to all closing participants, and to close their transactions on time and without error.

This is our latest opportunity to expand our services to our many lender, investor, Realtor, and business clients, and is responsive to the confidence you have placed in our firm to date.

Our attorneys and staff are united in striving to “make a difference” for our clients every day.  This is one more facet — a pillar for the success of your business — in advancing that singular objective.

Thank you to everyone who has been “on board” with us in this venture.

It’s old news, as the law was enacted in 2000, but we are asked this from time to time: Are electronic signatures just as enforceable as physical or “inked” signatures?

Yes.  The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) passed in 2000 specifically proves that a contract or signature “may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.”

SignatureMany of those engaging in commerce of all sorts are commonly using electronic signatures today, including on real estate contracts and other documents.  Documents that require an “acknowledgement” or “notary seal” still must be signed in-person, but otherwise, the act makes the e-signature just as effective.

Because of proof of signature, there may still be instances in which we want personal signatures, but for many of not most commercial arrangements, e-signatures suffice.


In 2008 two firefighters perished while answering an emergency call to a house fire in Colerain Township.

Investigators determined the source of the fire was a fan used in a basement orchid cultivation room. In another part of the basement was a marijuana cultivation room. The family of one of the firefighters brought a wrongful death suit against the homeowner alleging that the orchids were being used as a subterfuge to camouflage the illegal marijuana operation. The suit also included claims against the manufacturers of the radio and other equipment used by the firefighters.

In Ohio, property owners are generally immune from liability for such suits. The “Firefighter’s Rule” is a judicial rule that provides a general immunity to property owners from liability to injuries or death to firefighters incurred in the call of duty.

Imagine if a property owner was afraid to call 911 to report a fire for fear of being sued if the firefighters were injured. As a society, we want to encourage people to report fires and utilize our emergency services to combat fire. Indeed, we spend a great deal of money to provide those services and make sure that firefighters are prepared to fight fires. We teach our children to dial 911.

Firefighting is a dangerous job; that danger is accounted for via financial compensation and benefits, as well as life insurance for the firefighter’s family.

The Firefighter’s Rule provides four exceptions to the broad immunity for property owners: (1) where the injury resulted from the owner’s willful or wanton misconduct or affirmative negligent act; (2) where the injury is a result of a hidden trap on the premises; (3) where the injury resulted from the owner’s violation of a duty imposed by law enacted for the benefit of firefighters; or (4) where the owner knew of the firefighter’s presence on the premises but failed to warn the firefighter of a known, hidden danger on the premises. Hack v. Gillespie, 74 Ohio St.3d 362, 365, 658 N.E.2d 1046, 1049 (Ohio, 1996) quoting Scheurer v. Trustees of Open Bible Church (1963), 175 Ohio St. 163, 23 O.O.2d 453, 192 N.E.2d 38.

In this case, the firefighter’s family alleged that the marijuana growing constituted willful or wanton misconduct, but failed to establish (a) that cultivating marijuana is per se willful or wanton conduct or (b) that the marijuana cultivation caused the firefighter’s death.

In reviewing the facts of the case and the above exceptions to the Firefighter’s Rule, the trial court found that none of the exceptions applied and granted summary judgment to the homeowners.

While the trial court’s decision may seem like harsh justice, the Firefighter’s Rule represents a public policy choice that recognizes that Firefighters have dangerous jobs, and as such, the cost of that risk is spread across the entire community and in effect “prepaid” in the form of salaries and benefits, rather than assessed against individual property owners via lawsuits after the fact.

The case is currently before the Hamilton County Court of Appeals, Case No. C 1400274.



It is a fundamental principle of eminent domain law that the entity taking the property must pay the property owner the sum of (i) the value of the property taken plus (ii) the diminished value to the remainder left to the property owner.

Somehow the City of Westerville not only misunderstood that law in the taking of land in that burb, but they also failed to understand the “damage” done to the remainder arising from the easement rights left to the property owner.  The result: a Jury awarded the landowner $182,000 for the land taken and $1.14 million for damages to his residue.  That’s a pretty hefty miscalculation by the City’s attorneys.

We litigated a similar claim against the City of Springboro years ago.  There, the Ohio Supreme Court thoroughly misunderstood the real property rights at issue.  We had to proceed in to Federal Court to vindicate the rights of our client, but did so successfully.

Back to the Westerville case: Read a good story in today’s Columbus Dispatch about the taking here; you can read the decision here.

The residential landlord-tenant relationship is among the most regulated areas of commerce in Ohio. From remedies for breach by both parties to statutory provisions for making rent payments into an escrow account, it is crucial for both residential landlords and tenants to understand the legal implications of each phase of the landlord-tenant relationship.

The attorneys of Finney Law Firm have represented both landlords and tenants in disputes under Ohio’s Landlord Tenant Law (O.R.C. § 5321).

RentalWhile there is a common belief that the Landlord Tenant Law tilts in favor of the tenant and against the landlord, to the extent that this is true, the “tilt” reflects a policy choice that recognizes the unequal bargaining power that generally exists between landlords and tenants.

Recently, we represented a tenant who was having difficulty recovering his security deposit. Ohio law requires the landlord return the deposit (or an itemized list of deductions for damages made by the tenant or use for payment of rent) within thirty days of the termination of the leasehold. If the landlord fails to refund the security deposit (or provide the itemized list) within the thirty-day period, the tenant is entitled to double damages and reasonable attorney fees.

However, before the tenant can recover he must have provided the landlord with a forwarding address. Additionally, tenants should consider whether they caused damages to the home beyond “normal wear and tear.” If you left holes in the walls, damaged the appliances, or have unpaid rent, the security deposit may not be enough to cover those damages – leaving you exposed to a claim by the landlord for those repairs.

In our case, our client had fully complied with his lease, had proof of payment for every month of his tenancy (four years!), and proof that he had provided a forwarding address.

The security deposit in this case was $725.00. Perhaps a small amount to some; but for our client, a new homeowner, every dollar counts. Utilizing Ohio’s landlord tenant law, we were able to secure a judgment of $1,450.00 for our client. The only question left for the judge was the amount of attorney fees to award. We negotiated a full settlement for $4,500.00. Meaning the landlord’s failure to comply with the statute cost him an additional $3,775 (plus his own attorney fees) and our client was made whole without incurring any legal expenses.

Not every case is as straightforward as this client’s. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, Finney Law Firm can help you understand your responsibilities and secure your rights under Ohio’s Landlord Tenant Law. Read about potential landlord liability for the safety of tenants’ guests here.

In the past decade, businesses, particularly restaurant chains have been utilizing real estate sale-leasebacks as a financing tool. The sale-leaseback typically involves an above market purchase price followed by an above market lease; providing current cash to the seller/lessee and an income stream for the buyer/lessor. Federal tax law encourages this system with favorable tax treatment.

However, this system tends to clash with Ohio’s property valuation scheme mandating that an arm’s-length purchase price was the “market value” for property tax purposes. Thus, much of the federal tax benefit of the sale-leaseback was eaten up by the increased property taxes.

Two recent changes to Ohio law recognize the nature of sale-leasebacks; allowing businesses the carrot of the federal tax advantages without the stick associated with Ohio’s prior tax law.

First, the auditor is now required to determine the value of real property “as if unencumbered,” meaning that the value of the leaseback portion of the sale-leaseback is to be disregarded in determining the value of the real estate (i.e., to the extent the price paid is elevated by consideration of the income stream).

Second, purchase price is no longer dispositive of market value, underscoring the necessity of recognizing the hybrid nature of the sale-leaseback and allowing a proper allocation between the financing tool and the real estate purchase.

Finney Law Firm’s property valuation team is versed in these changes, assisting our clients achieve fair values for properties before local Boards of Revision.