Justia Landlord – Tenant Opinion Summaries

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A Landlord leased separate properties to two different sets of Tenants using nearly identical written documents. This appeal concerned a dispute between the Landlord and Tenants regarding whether the leases were enforceable for their stated five-year terms or whether a clause providing for “annual review of rental rates” resulted in unenforceable “agreements to agree.” The Landlord sued the Tenants in separate actions, seeking a declaratory judgment to determine its rights under the leases. The district court concluded that the leases were valid and enforceable for their five-year terms. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that the terms of the leases were clear and unambiguous and contemplated only an annual review without requiring an annual agreement.View "Gibbons Ranches, LLC v. Bailey" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Getty Properties Corp. leased certain properties to Getty Petroleum Marketing, Inc. by way of a master lease. Getty Marketing sublet the properties to Green Valley Oil, LLC. Thereafter, Green Valley entered into an individual sub-sublease with each Defendant, the owners of retail gasoline stations. Getty Properties subsequently terminated the master lease. Getty Marketing then filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court rejected the master lease and ordered that Getty Marketing relinquish possession of the properties to Getty Properties. Getty Properties and NECG Holdings Corp. served Defendants with notices to quit, but Defendants refused to vacate the properties. Plaintiffs subsequently commenced summary process actions against Defendants. The trial court rendered judgment of immediate possession for Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in (1) determining that Plaintiffs’ notices to quit were valid; (2) admitting into evidence the lease between Getty Properties and Getty Marketing, as well as the sublease between Getty Marketing and Green Valley; (3) interpreting the various pleadings in Getty Marketing’s bankruptcy case as terminating the lease and the sublease; (4) finding that Plaintiffs proved a prima facie case for summary process; and (5) failing to dismiss the summary process action as premature.View "Getty Props. Corp. v. ATKR, LLC" on Justia Law

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Mosser’s nine-unit residential apartment building is subject to rent control under the San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance, which limits rent increases to tenants in occupancy. Under Civil Code section 1954.53, which provides that “an owner of residential real property may establish the initial rental rate for a dwelling or unit,” local jurisdictions are authorized to impose rent control limiting rate increases until “the original occupant or occupants who took possession of the dwelling or unit pursuant to the rental agreement with the owner no longer permanently reside there.” Brian, then age 13, moved into the apartment with his parents in 2003. When his parents and siblings left the apartment in 2013, Brian remained, with the landlord’s consent. The San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board and the trial court concluded that Brian, although a minor when the rental agreement was entered and not a signatory to the rental agreement, was an “original occupant” entitled to the continued protection of the rent control provision. The court of appeal affirmed; the law, as written, does not permit vacancy decontrol until all lawful occupants vacate the premises.View "Mosser Co. v. San Francisco Rent Stabilization & Arbitration Bd." on Justia Law
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By Justia Inc
Appellant had leased the same apartment at a San Juan, Puerto Rico housing cooperative (Cooperative) for several years. While living at the cooperative, Appellant received benefits under the Section 8 federal housing assistance program, which enabled her to pay her rent. When the Housing Finance Authority concluded that Appellant’s apartment unit was “over-housed” for Section 8 purposes, the Cooperative informed Appellant that she would have to pay market-rate rent without the Section 8 assistance. Appellant subsequently submitted a request to the Cooperative for reasonable accommodation on account of her disability, stating that she could not move to a different unit without compromising her health. The Cooperative denied Appellant’s request. After filing an administrative complaint without success, Appellant filed suit in federal court, alleging that the Cooperative had violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to provide the requested accommodation, by engaging in a pattern of discriminatory actions against her, and by retaliating against her because she had recently prevailed in a separate HUD proceeding against the Cooperative. The district court (1) found in the defendants’ favor regarding the reasonable accommodation and disparate treatment claims; and (2) concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the retaliation claim. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the reasonable accommodation and disparate treatment claims; and (2) reversed the district court’s decision to dismiss Appellant’s retaliation claim, holding that the district court had jurisdiction to decide this claim.View "Batista v. Cooperativa de Vivienda" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
A shopping center owner challenged provisions in its commercial lease with Ross, conditioning Ross’s obligation to open a store and pay rent on Mervyn’s operating a store in the shopping center on the lease’s commencement date and allowing Ross terminate the lease if Mervyn’s ceased operations and was not replaced by an acceptable retailer within 12 months. Mervyn’s filed for bankruptcy and closed its store. Ross took possession of the space, never opened for business, never paid rent, and terminated the lease after the 12-month cure period. The trial court found the provisions unenforceable. The jury awarded $672,100 for unpaid rent and $3.1 million in other damages. The court of appeal held that there was no procedural unconscionability. The parties were sophisticated and experienced concerning commercial leases. The rent abatement and termination provisions must be examined separately because they involve separate consequences triggered by different conditions. The determination that rent abatement constituted an unreasonable penalty was supported by findings that Ross did not anticipate it would suffer any damages from Mervyn’s not being open on the lease’s commencement date and the rent forfeited was $39,500 per month. There is no reasonable relationship between $0 of anticipated harm and forfeiture of $39,500 in rent per month.View "Grand Prospect Partners, L.P. v. Ross Dress for Less, Inc." on Justia Law

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The owners of multifamily housing rental projects in Wisconsin that are assisted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program under Section 8 of the Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 1437f sued the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), alleging WHEDA breached certain Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contracts by failing to approve annual rent increases,as required by federal law, and by requiring the owners to submit rent comparability studies as a prerequisite to receiving rent increases. WHEDA filed a Third-Party Complaint against HUD, alleging that, if WHEDA is found to have breached the HAP contracts, then those breaches resulted from WHEDA following congressional and HUD directives. The district court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting that the district court’s order was entered without the benefit of the parties’ full briefing on jurisdiction. While state law may create the breach-of-contract causes of action, the only disputed issues involve the proper interpretation of Section 8 and HUD’s implementing guidance. The issues are “capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress.”View "Wis. Hous. & Econ. Dev. Auth. v. Castro" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who leased commercial property from Defendant, filed a complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau, alleging that Defendant violated the Montana Human Rights Act (MHRA) by sexually harassing her. The Montana Human Rights Commission ruled that Plaintiff could proceed with her claim because the MHRA “prohibits unlawful discrimination in commercial property transactions, as well as all other real estate transactions.” The district court vacated the Commission’s decision and reinstated the hearing officer’s, ruling that the Commission violated Defendant’s right to due process by analyzing Plaintiff’s action under the MHRA’s real estate provisions. The Supreme Court remanded, directing the district court to resolve the issue that formed the alternate basis for Defendant’s challenge to the Commission’s decision - whether the MHRA’s real estate provisions applied to Plaintiff’s commercial lease. On remand, the district court ruled that the MHRA’s real estate provisions prohibit discrimination in commercial real estate transactions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the MHRA applies to Plaintiff’s commercial lease.View "Bates v. Neva" on Justia Law

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Gail and Scott Helm filed a personal injury action against Gallo Realty, Inc., one of its real estate agents, and 206 Massachusetts Ave, LLC (owner of the property). The Helms rented a beach house at 206 Massachusetts Avenue in Lewes for a week in 2010. As Gail descended the stairs, she fell and sustained injuries. Gail sought to recover damages based on claims of negligence and breach of contract; Scott claimed loss of consortium. The Superior Court granted defendants' motions for summary judgment, dismissing the Helms' claims. The Helms appealed, arguing: (1) the Superior Court erred in granting defendants' motion for summary judgment on the issue of primary risk assumption and comparative negligence as a matter of law; (2) the Superior Court erred in holding that an indemnification clause provision in the lease protected defendants from liability; and (3) the Superior Court erred in granting summary judgment on the contract claims. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court applied both the doctrine of primary assumption of risk and the doctrine of comparative negligence incorrectly. The record reflected that the Superior Court never specifically based its decision on the indemnification clause. The Superior Court's initial ruling in favor of defendants was only on the negligence claims. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found that the record reflected that the Superior Court's dismissive rulings on the Helms' contract claim was "cursory and inextricably intertwined" with its erroneous rulings on the negligence claims. As such, the Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court and remanded this case for further proceedings.View "Helm v. 206 Massachusetts Avenue,LLC" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
SmartLease USA, LLC was a limited liability company with three principals, Kent Guthrie, Tony Marshall, and Steve Furst, which described itself in a business proposal as an entity seeking "to capitalize on the demand for quality housing [in the Williston Basin] by providing a high quality, exceptionally clean and professionally managed RV/mobile park" in partnership with a landowner. The Abelmanns owned farmland in the Williston Basin. They executed a written agreement to lease approximately 110 acres of their farmland to SmartLease for the stated purpose of "use as a short/long term RV (recreational vehicle), mobile home, cabin units, and truck parking." According to the Abelmanns, SmartLease agreed to develop the leased land into a high quality, clean, and professionally managed full service RV and mobile home park for housing and accommodations for the labor force in northwestern North Dakota. They claimed SmartLease started to develop the land, but thereafter neglected its obligations under the written lease. They claimed SmartLease failed to pay them rent or the security deposits required by the lease and failed to provide proper management for the land. According to them, a property manager hired by SmartLease, Aaron Smith, failed to provide proper on-sight management for the property and eventually quit, which resulted in no on-site management for the property. The Ablemanns claimed they provided SmartLease with written notice of termination of the lease in February 2013, and claimed SmartLease refused to vacate the premises and attempted to transfer the lease to a third party. In May 2013, the Abelmanns served SmartLease with a notice of intention to evict. The Abelmanns appealed the dismissal of their eviction action against SmartLease. The Abelmanns argued the district court erred as a matter of law in construing their written lease with SmartLease and in determining any breaches of the lease by SmartLease were immaterial and of nonessential terms. The Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded. The Court concluded the district court erred in interpreting the purpose of the parties' lease and failed to make adequate findings to understand the basis for its decision.View "Abelmann v. SmartLease USA, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Pro se appellant Cody Schmitt appealed a district court's eviction order, arguing service of an amended notice of eviction was insufficient. Schmitt and Lisa Stahlberg resided in a mobile home located on property owned by Rodney and Pamela Schmitt. Stahlberg resided on the property since April 25, 2013, and Schmitt resided on the property prior to that. There was no written lease between the parties. On March 19, 2014, Rodney and Pamela Schmitt sent Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg an amended notice of eviction, directing Cody Schmitt vacate by April 15, 2014, and Stahlberg vacate within three days. Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg did not vacate the property by April 15, 2014. On April 17, 2014, the Pierce County Sheriff's Office served Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg with the notice of intention to evict them from the property. According to the notice of intention to evict, Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg had three days to vacate the property. After three days elapsed, Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg remained on the property. Accordingly, Rodney and Pamela Schmitt started this eviction action requesting the district court order Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg to vacate the property. A hearing was held on the eviction action. On May 2, 2014, the district court issued an Eviction Order requiring Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg vacate the property by May 13, 2014. Cody Schmitt appealed the district court's decision. Having no transcript to review of the district court's evidentiary hearing, the Supreme Court concluded the district court's finding that service of the notice of termination was proper was not clearly erroneous, and affirmed.View "Schmitt v. Schmitt" on Justia Law