Justia Landlord – Tenant Opinion Summaries

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The Section 8 low-income housing assistance voucher program, 42 U.S.C. 1437f(o), is administered by public housing agencies such as Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). Program regulations define “rent to [the] owner” as “[t]he total monthly rent payable to the owner under the lease for the unit. Rent to owner covers payment for any housing services, maintenance and utilities that the owner is required to provide and pay for.” Velez and Hatcher, voucher recipients, entered into one-year leases with K&D. The leases provide: “If Resident(s) shall holdover after the end of the term of this Rental Agreement, said holdover shall be deemed a tenancy of month to month and applicable month to month fees shall apply.” Velez entered into a month-to-month tenancy after her one-year term expired; Hatcher entered into month-to-month tenancies, and, later, a nine-month agreement. K&D charged fees of $35.00 to $100.00 per month. CMHA did not treat these short-term rental fees as rent under the voucher program. Velez and Hatcher were required to pay the fees and filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court granted CMHA summary judgment, holding that the fees were not rent. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Recasting the charge as a short-term fee, rather than rent, does not change that it is consideration paid by the tenant for use of the rental unit. View "Velez v. Cuyahoga Metro. Hous. Auth." on Justia Law

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Elderberry filed suit in the Western District of Virginia alleging breach of a lease for a skilled nursing facility against Living Centers, FMSC, and Continium, and breach of a guaranty contract against Mariner. Separately, in the Northern District of Georgia, Mariner filed a declaratory judgment action against Elderberry, seeking a declaration that it had no obligations under the guaranty. The two actions were consolidated in the Western District of Virginia. The district court denied the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment but held that the guaranty was enforceable against Mariner. The district court entered judgment in favor of Elderberry on all counts and found defendants jointly and severally liable for accrued and future damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest. The court held that Elderberry lost its right to rent that accrued after it terminated the lease on August 24, 2012; Elderberry is, however, entitled to any rent that accrued prior to termination of the lease; and Elderberry is entitled to non-rent damages that accrued prior to termination of the lease. Given the Georgia Supreme Court’s most recent pronouncement on that state’s statute of frauds, combined with Georgia’s parol evidence rule, the court held that the guaranty satisfies the Georgia statue of frauds. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Elderberry of Weber City, LLC v. Living Centers - Southeast" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, purchaser of a nine-unit building in San Francisco, filed a landlord's petition with the Rent Board seeking a determination that the unit was not subject to rent control pursuant to the Rent Board Rules and Regulations and the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, Civil Code section 1954.50 et seq. At issue was whether Civil Code section 1954.53,1 subdivision (d)(2) authorizes a San Francisco landlord to raise the rent without limit on an apartment otherwise subject to rent control when an occupant, who moved into the apartment as a child when his parents took possession, remained in possession of the unit after his parents vacated it. In Mosser Companies v. San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board, the panel addressed the identical issue and concluded that “the son, although a minor when the rental agreement was entered and not a signatory to the rental agreement, is nonetheless an ‘original occupant’ entitled to the continued protection of the rent control provision.” Because the current law does not permit vacancy decontrol until all lawful occupants residing in a dwelling at the start of the tenancy vacate the premises, the court affirmed the denial of the petition and the claim for declaratory relief. View "T & A Drolapas & Sons, LP v. SF Residential Rent Stabilization & Arbitration Bd." on Justia Law

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Jose Santoyo appealed a judgment that awarded damages to Darwin Savre for overpayments under the parties' lease and purchase option agreement and dismissed Santoyo's counterclaim for damages to the leased property. Savre owned and operated Savre's Heavy Truck & Auto Repair in Fargo. Santoyo owned the two parcels of real property and building that are the subject of the leases and option agreement in this case. The original lease term was from June 15, 2008, to June 15, 2010, with Savre paying rent of $2,300 per month until June 15, 2009, at which time the rent would increase to $2,708.33. About the time of the rent increase, Savre and Santoyo entered into a "Lease to Purchase Option Agreement." Although the lease and option agreement required Savre to pay his monthly rent payments on the first of each month, Savre was frequently late in his payments from the beginning of the lease. Santoyo accepted the payments and did not give Savre written notice of any intent to terminate the lease based on Savre's late payment. Savre made monthly payments in varying amounts under the option agreement, and the district court found he paid at least a total of $4,000 each month. In the fall of 2012, Savre and another individual formed JDDS, LLC, intending to use the entity to finance the purchase of Santoyo's property. The district court found, however, that Savre did not attempt to assign, convey, delegate or transfer his purchase option to JDDS. In late 2012, Savre made his first attempt to exercise his option to purchase the property with a handwritten notice to Santoyo. In early 2013, Savre made a second attempt to exercise the option with another handwritten notice to Santoyo. Santoyo did not respond to Savre. By the time of the second attempt to exercise the option, Savre had paid at least $180,000 in monthly payments, satisfying an option agreement requirement. After Santoyo did not sell him the property, Savre stopped making monthly payments. Santoyo initiated eviction proceedings against Savre in the district court. The court granted the eviction and entered judgment against Savre for unpaid rent and Santoyo's costs and disbursements. Savre vacated Santoyo's property at the end of June 2013 and began leasing a different space in Fargo. Savre subsequently commenced this action, alleging that Santoyo breached the option agreement when he failed to sell the property leased to Savre after he exercised his option and that Santoyo had been unjustly enriched. Santoyo denied the allegations and counterclaimed, alleging Savre violated his contractual and statutory duties by damaging the property upon being evicted from the premises. Santoyo argued the district court erred as a matter of law when the court concluded Santoyo had a contractual duty to sell his property to a third party that did not exist at the time of the agreement and had no rights under the agreement. The Supreme Court concluded the district court did not clearly err in finding that Santoyo had breached the agreement and that Santoyo had waived strict compliance with the option agreement's terms when he accepted Savre's late lease payments. Furthermore, the Court concluded the court failed to make sufficient findings of fact to explain dismissal of Santoyo's counterclaim for damages. The Court accordingly affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Savre v. Santoyo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, residents of privately-owned Chicago building, received housing vouchers from the Chicago Housing Authority to enable them to rent apartments. They claimed that the Authority is complicit in and responsible for a deprivation of their constitutionally protected privacy by the building owners. The owners require their tenants to be tested annually for illegal drugs; passing the test is a condition of a tenant’s being allowed to renew his or her lease for another year. The requirement applies to all tenants, not just those who might be suspected of using illegal drugs. The district court denied a preliminary injunction on the ground that the drug-testing policy was private rather than state action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. None of the plaintiffs had requested transfer from the drug-testing building in which he or she currently resides to a building that does not require drug testing. A CHA representative testified that his agency would have approved such a request. That the CHA may encourage or even request testing does not constitute state action. View "Stubenfield v. Chicago Hous. Auth." on Justia Law

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The federal government provides low-income housing tax credits that are distributed to developers by state agencies, including the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The Inclusive Communities Project (ICP), which assists low-income families in obtaining affordable housing, brought a disparate-impact claim under Fair Housing Act sections 804(a) and 805(a), alleging that allocation of too many credits to housing in predominantly black inner-city areas and too few in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods resulted in continued segregated housing patterns. Relying on statistical evidence, the district court ruled in favor of ICP. While appeal was pending, HUD issued a regulation interpreting the FHA to encompass disparate-impact liability and establishing a burden-shifting framework. The Fifth Circuit held that disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the FHA, but reversed, concluding that the court had improperly required proof of less discriminatory alternatives. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded. Disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the FHA. The Court noted that the statute shifts emphasis from an actor’s intent to the consequences of his actions. Disparate-impact liability must be limited so that regulated entities can make practical business choices that sustain the free-enterprise system. Before rejecting a business justification—or a governmental entity’s public interest—a court must determine that a plaintiff has shown “an available alternative . . . that has less disparate impact and serves the [entity’s] legitimate needs.” A disparate-impact claim relying on a statistical disparity must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a policy causing that disparity. Policies, governmental or private, are not contrary to the disparate-impact requirement unless they are “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers.” When courts find disparate impact liability, their remedial orders must be consistent with the Constitution and should concentrate on eliminating the offending practice. Orders that impose racial targets or quotas might raise difficult constitutional questions. View "Texas Dep't of Hous, & Cmity Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc." on Justia Law

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Developer filed suit against the University after the University terminated the lease agreement between the parties because Developer failed to make a rental payment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the University. The court vacated and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that there is a genuine dispute whether a rental payment was due on May 30, 2013, and therefore whether the University was entitled to terminate the lease and to collect damages. View "Howard Town Center Developer v. Howard University" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on a dispute between the Chegwiddens, as tenants, and Mitch Evenson, and Evenson Properties, LLP, as landlord. In November 2011, the parties entered into a one-year written lease for a residential apartment in Minot. The parties did not enter into a subsequent written lease, and it was undisputed that, after November 2012, it converted to a month-to-month tenancy. Michael and Jean Chegwidden appealed the district court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of Elda Evenson Living Trust, Mitch Evenson, and Evenson Properties, LLP (collectively "Evenson"). The Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in granting Evenson's summary judgment motion, in denying the Chegwiddens' motion to amend, and in denying the Chegwiddens' summary judgment motion. View "Chegwidden v. Evenson" on Justia Law
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Appellants were the owners of multi-unit apartment buildings located in Montana and the property management companies that managed Owners’ apartment complexes during the time relevant to this suit. Appellees were current or former tenants of Owners’ apartment complexes who signed leases for those apartments through the property management companies. Appellees filed a complaint on behalf of themselves and other unnamed plaintiffs alleging that certain provisions included in the leases were prohibited by law. The district court granted Appellees’ motion for class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by certifying the class under Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). View "Worledge v. Riverstone" on Justia Law
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Husband and wife (who did not speak English) entered into a written one-year lease, took possession of the apartment, and tendered the security deposit and first month’s rent. Ten days into the lease, they received “an official 30 days notice” of eviction, stating that “[c]onstruction begins June 10,” and that they did not qualify for an unspecified “new program.” Several additional efforts to force the family to move followed; their tender of rent was refused. They purportedly sought legal advice and were told that the landlord could not unilaterally terminate the lease. They reported feeling discriminated against and harassed; they were confused, depressed, and anxious. Demolition began while the family was occupying the apartment. Husband allegedly told wife that he could not tolerate the situation any longer. The following day, he committed suicide in the apartment. Wife sought damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful eviction, breach of contract; under the Wrongful Death Act; and under the survival statute. The trial court dismissed the wrongful death and related survival actions, finding that “wrongful death via suicide” is not cognizable in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Despite an ostensible connection between severe emotional distress and suicide, suicide may result from a complex combination of factors. It is “rare” that suicide would not break the chain of causation and bar a wrongful death action, even where the plaintiff alleges the defendant inflicted severe emotional distress. Husband’s suicide was not a reasonably foreseeable result of defendant’s alleged conduct in breaking the lease and pressuring the family to vacate. View "Turcios v. DeBruler Co." on Justia Law