Remainderman Was Entitled to the Tax and Insurance Payments Made on Behalf of the Holder of the Life Estate/Life Estate Should Have Been Extinguished as a Matter of Equity
Plaintiff is the remainderman of defendant’s life estate in real property. Defendant refused to pay the real estate taxes and insurance for the property. Plaintiff paid the taxes and insurance and sued for those payments and to have the life estate extinguished. The Second Department determined Supreme Court should have granted summary judgment to the plaintiff:
“The essential inquiry in any action for unjust enrichment or restitution is whether it is against equity and good conscience to permit the defendant to retain what is sought to be recovered” … . A plaintiff must show that (1) the other party was enriched, (2) at the plaintiff’s expense, and (3) that it is against equity and good conscience to permit the other party to retain what is sought to be recovered … .
The plaintiffs established their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on their first cause of action, which alleged unjust enrichment and sought restitution, and their second cause of action, which alleged waste and sought to extinguish the defendant’s life estate. As life tenant, the defendant was obligated to pay the property taxes and hazard insurance on the subject property, and the intentional failure to do so constitutes waste … . It is undisputed that the defendant intentionally failed to pay the property taxes and hazard insurance on the subject property, and he has clearly expressed his intention not to do so in the future. Under these circumstances, the remainder interest in the subject property is in constant danger of forfeiture in a tax lien sale, unless the plaintiffs continue paying the property taxes and hazard insurance premiums the defendant is otherwise obligated to pay. The plaintiffs therefore demonstrated, prima facie, that the defendant was unjustly enriched by the plaintiffs’ payment of these expenses for the defendant, and that equity warrants extinguishing his life estate in the subject property. In opposition, the defendant failed to raise a triable issue of fact … . Main Omni Realty Corp v Matus, 2015 NY Slip OP 00341, 2nd Dept 1-14-15