Justia Landlord – Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Landlord brought a summary process action against Tenant for possession of the premises. Tenant counterclaimed, alleging violations of the security deposit statute and other causes of action. The Housing Court found in favor of Landlord on all but the security deposit claim, ruling that Tenant could properly assert a violation of the security deposit statute as a counterclaim for damages but that a counterclaim on this basis was not a defense to Landlord’s claim for possession. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the Housing Court judgment granting possession to Landlord, holding that a counterclaim or defense on the basis of a violation of the security deposit statute may be asserted as a defense to a landlord’s possession in a summary process action under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 239, 1A. View "Meikle v. Nurse" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, tenants on property owned by Baird Properties, were required to vacate the premises they leased and to remove their belongings when the property was condemned due to a lack of electricity, heating and water. Plaintiffs brought an action under the Residential Landlord and Tenants Act alleging that Baird Properties and Michael Baird purposely sabotaged utility services to the property in order to set events in motion that would force Plaintiffs to vacate the premises. After a trial, the superior court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice correctly found that a landlord-tenant relationship existed between Plaintiffs and Baird Properties; (2) the trial justice did not err in determining that Baird tampered with essential services to the property; and (3) the award of attorney’s fees was reasonable. View "Gregoire v. Baird Props., LLC" on Justia Law

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Leonard and Judith Peverieri and Peverieri Investments, LLC (landlords) appealed a trial court’s judgment confirming an arbitration award in favor of Couch Investments, LLC (tenant). Landlords argued that the arbitrator exceeded his powers when he found not only that landlords were liable for the cost of storm water drainage improvements required by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), but also ordered remedies. Landlords argued on appeal that the trial court erred in denying their petition to vacate the arbitration award, and that the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the trial court’s judgment. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the outcome, but on different grounds from the Court of Appeals. View "Couch Investments, LLC v. Peverieri" on Justia Law

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The Blanchards agreed to sell Marathon County property to the Hoffmans, who paid $30,000 up front. The land contract balance was due in 2015, with an option to close early by paying off the Blanchards’ new $142,000 mortgage, obtained as part of the agreement. The parties signed a separate “rental agreement,” under which the Hoffmans paid $500 per month. The land contract was not recorded. The lender obtained an Assignment of Leases and Rents as collateral, but did not obtain an Assignment of Land Contract. The bank recorded its mortgage and the Assignment. In 2014, the Blanchards filed a bankruptcy petition. The trustee filed an adversary proceeding against the lender under 11 U.S.C. 544(a)(3), which grants him the position of a bona fide purchaser of property as of the date of the bankruptcy, to step ahead of the mortgage and use the Blanchards’ interest in the land contract for the benefit of unsecured creditors. The trustee argued that a mortgage can attach a lien only to real property and that the Blanchards' interest under the land contract was personal property. The district court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the bank. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A mortgage can attach a lien to a vendor’s interest in a land contract under Wisconsin law; this lender perfected its lien by recording in county land records rather than under UCC Article 9. View "Liebzeit v. Intercity State Bank, FSB" on Justia Law

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Defendants, the principals and owners of Burbank Apartments (Burbank), decided not to renew Burbank’s project-based Section 8 housing assistance payments contract (HAP) with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development when its mortgage subsidy contract expired. Instead of the project-based subsidies, Defendants chose to accept from its tenants Section 8 enhanced vouchers. Plaintiffs, current and potential Burbank tenants, filed a complaint alleging subsidy discrimination in violation of Massachusetts antidiscrimination law and the Federal Fair Housing Act. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants’ decision not to renew the HAP was discriminatory based on both disparate treatment and disparate impact on members of otherwise protected classes of citizens. The motion judge granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss both counts for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) even where the property owner has acted in accord with statute, regulation, and contract, a disparate impact claim can be brought under the fair housing statutes, subject to “rigorous pleading requirements”; but (2) Plaintiffs in this case failed sufficiently to plead a prima facie case of disparate impact discrimination. View "Burbank Apartments Tenant Ass’n v. Kargman" on Justia Law

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Gene Wong was employed by Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. (HAL) as a pilot until he retired. Upon retiring, Wong became eligible to receive medical insurance paid for by HAL. Wong claimed that, as a result of misinformation he received from the employee benefits director, he did not complete the necessary forms to enroll in Medicare Part B coverage for almost a decade. Wong filed suit against HAL, alleging negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and unfair or deceptive practice (UDAP). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of HAL, concluding that (1) Wong’s negligence and negligent misrepresentation claims were preempted by the Railroad Labor Act (RLA) because any duty HAL owed would be derived from HAL’s obligations to retired pilots under a collective bargaining agreement between HAL and the Airline Pilots Association, and (2) the UDAP claim failed because the deceptive act did not occur in the conduct of any trade or commerce. The Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the record in this case did not support federal preemption of Wong’s negligence and negligent misrepresentation claims because these claims were not dependent on the Pilots Agreement; and (2) summary judgment was correctly granted on Wong’s UDAP claim. View "Wong v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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Gene Wong was employed by Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. (HAL) as a pilot until he retired. Upon retiring, Wong became eligible to receive medical insurance paid for by HAL. Wong claimed that, as a result of misinformation he received from the employee benefits director, he did not complete the necessary forms to enroll in Medicare Part B coverage for almost a decade. Wong filed suit against HAL, alleging negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and unfair or deceptive practice (UDAP). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of HAL, concluding that (1) Wong’s negligence and negligent misrepresentation claims were preempted by the Railroad Labor Act (RLA) because any duty HAL owed would be derived from HAL’s obligations to retired pilots under a collective bargaining agreement between HAL and the Airline Pilots Association, and (2) the UDAP claim failed because the deceptive act did not occur in the conduct of any trade or commerce. The Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the record in this case did not support federal preemption of Wong’s negligence and negligent misrepresentation claims because these claims were not dependent on the Pilots Agreement; and (2) summary judgment was correctly granted on Wong’s UDAP claim. View "Wong v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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The apartment building in which Tenants lived was damaged by a fire. For purposes of this appeal, the parties agreed that the fire was caused by Tenants’ negligence. Landlord’s insurer paid for the repairs to the building and then brought this subrogation action against Tenants in the name of Landlord to recover the money it paid to repair the damage caused by the fire. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Tenants, determining that the parties did not reasonably expect that Tenants would be liable for the damage they caused. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the lease agreement clearly reflected the parties’ intention that Tenants would reimburse Landlord for any damage caused by their negligence. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, it is reasonable that Tenants should be liable for negligence they caused to the leased premises; but (2) the parties would not reasonably have expected that Tenants would be liable for damage to other property belonging to Landlord. Remanded. View "Melrose Gates, LLC v. Moua" on Justia Law

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The apartment building in which Tenants lived was damaged by a fire. For purposes of this appeal, the parties agreed that the fire was caused by Tenants’ negligence. Landlord’s insurer paid for the repairs to the building and then brought this subrogation action against Tenants in the name of Landlord to recover the money it paid to repair the damage caused by the fire. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Tenants, determining that the parties did not reasonably expect that Tenants would be liable for the damage they caused. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the lease agreement clearly reflected the parties’ intention that Tenants would reimburse Landlord for any damage caused by their negligence. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, it is reasonable that Tenants should be liable for negligence they caused to the leased premises; but (2) the parties would not reasonably have expected that Tenants would be liable for damage to other property belonging to Landlord. Remanded. View "Melrose Gates, LLC v. Moua" on Justia Law

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Great Lakes, which automotive service stores throughout the Midwest, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The unsecured creditors’ committee filed an adversary action against T.D., which had leased two oil-change stores to Great Lakes. Great Lakes had negotiated the termination of the leases 52 days before it declared bankruptcy, and the creditors’ committee contends that the termination was either a preferential (11U.S.C. 547(b)) or a fraudulent (11 U.S.C. 548(A)(1)) transfer of the leases to T.D. The bankruptcy judge rejected that claim. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded for determination of the value of Great Lakes’ transfer to T.D. and whether T.D. has any defenses to the creditors’ claims. View "In re: Great Lakes Quick Lube, LP" on Justia Law