Justia Landlord – Tenant Opinion Summaries

By Justia Inc
Debtor, a New York City tenant, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and listed the value of her apartment lease on Schedule B as personal property exempt from the bankruptcy estate as a "local public assistance benefit." At issue was whether the value inherent in debtor's rent-stabilized lease as a consequence of the protections afforded by New York's Rent Stabilization Code, N.Y. Comp. Code R. & Regs. tit. 9, 2520.1, made the lease, or some portion of its value, exempt from debtor's bankruptcy estate as a "local public assistance benefit" within the meaning of New York Debtor and Creditor Law 282(2). The court certified this unsettled issue to the New York Court of Appeals, which held that a rent‐stabilized lease qualified as a local public assistance benefit. Rejecting the Trustee’s argument that “benefits” should be limited to cash payments, the court noted that the rent‐stabilization program had “all of the characteristics of a local 10 public assistance benefit” under the statute and that an exemption was consistent with the purpose of protecting a debtor’s essential needs, including housing. The Second Circuit then reversed and remanded to allow Debtor to claim the exemption from her bankruptcy estate. View "Santiago-Monteverde v. Pereira" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
In 2004, Berkeley issued a use permit for construction of a building with 51 residential rental units and ground floor commercial space. Permit condition 10 provides: “Before submission for building permit, the applicant shall submit floor plans and schedules … showing the location of each inclusionary unit and the sales or rental prices…. and that the unit rent or sales price complies with Chapter 23C.12” (Inclusionary Housing Ordinance). The Ordinance was designed to comply with Government Code section 65580, requiring a general plan to contain a housing element stating how the local agency will accommodate its share of regional need for affordable housing. The ordinance requires that 20 percent of all newly constructed residential units be reserved for households with below-median incomes and rented at below-market prices. The development took more than seven years. The city sought a declaration that the condition was valid, conceding that the ordinance has been preempted by the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (Civ. Code, 1954.50), but arguing that it may enforce the condition, the validity of which was not previously challenged. The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of the city. View "City of Berkeley v. 1080 Delaware, LLC" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Julie Conason and Geoffrey Bryant (together, “Tenants”) were the rent-stabilized tenants of an apartment in a residential building owned by Megan Holding, LLC (“Megan”). Megan was Tenants’ landlord. Almost five and a half years after she occupied the apartment under a vacancy lease, Conason asserted an overcharge claim against Megan. Civil Court dismissed the overcharge claim without prejudice, reasoning that Tenants failed to prove the amount of the overcharge. Tenants subsequently commenced this action against Megan seeking a money judgment for rent overcharge. Supreme Court granted summary judgment for Tenants and directed an assessment of damages. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that the N.Y. C.P.L.R. 213-a’s four-year statute of limitations did not bar the claim because there was significant evidence of fraud on the record. The Court of Appeals affirmed as modified, holding that, because of the unrefuted proof of fraud in the record, section 213-a merely limited Tenants’ recovery to those overcharges occurring during the four-year period immediately preceding Conason’s rent challenge. View "Conason v. Megan Holding, LLC" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Following Tenant filed a successful rent overcharge complaint, Landlord commenced a holdover proceeding against Respondent seeking to evict Tenant and regain possession of the premises. In support of its claims, Landlord alleged that Tenant breached the lease. Tenant asserted a defense of retaliatory eviction and counterclaimed for attorneys’ fees and damages under N.Y. Real Prop. Law 234, which imposes a covenant in favor of a tenant’s right to attorneys’ fees. Civil Court dismissed the proceeding, finding that Tenant had not breached the lease and that the proceeding was commenced in retaliation for Tenant’s successful rent overcharge claim. The court denied fees under section 234. The Appellate Division modified on the law by granting Tenant’s claim for attorneys’ fees pursuant to section 234 and otherwise affirmed. The Appellate Division subsequently granted Landlord’s leave to appeal, certifying the question of whether section 234 applies to a lease that authorizes the landlord to cancel the lease upon a tenant’s default, repossess the premises and then collect attorneys’ fees incurred in retaking possession. The Court of Appeals answered that section 234 applied to the lease in this case and that Tenant was entitled to attorneys’ fees as the prevailing party in this summary holdover proceeding. View "Graham Court Owner's Corp. v. Taylor" on Justia Law
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By Justia Inc
This case stemmed from a dispute over damage to a leased commercial space. The case was tried before a jury, which awarded plaintiff-landlord David Walsh, just under $11,000 in damages attributable to defendant-tenant Frank Cluba. Following the jury verdict, the trial court awarded Walsh over $44,000 in attorney's fees. Cluba appealed, arguing that the court erred by allowing Walsh to testify on the reasonableness of repair work done after Cluba vacated the property and by awarding Walsh an unreasonable amount of attorney's fees under the circumstances. Walsh cross-appealed, arguing that the court erred by dismissing his claims against defendant Good Stuff, Inc., the business that Cluba and his partner incorporated shortly after Cluba signed the initial lease of the subject property. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Walsh v. Cluba" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Wade, an apartment tenant living alone, was evicted after the City of Los Angeles determined his unit, a converted recreation room, was an illegal rental. Wade asserted he has an orthopedic disability impairing personal mobility. Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, a tenant who has lived in a rental unit for three or more years is entitled to relocation assistance of $9,650, unless the tenant is a “qualified tenant,” entitled to an enhanced payment of $18,300. A “qualified tenant” includes a tenant who is handicapped as defined in Section 50072 of the California Health and Safety Code: a family in which the head of the household is suffering from an orthopedic disability impairing personal mobility or a physical disability affecting his ability to obtain employment or a single person with such a physical disability, where the family or person requires special care or facilities in the home. The trial court held a single person with an orthopedic disability was entitled to the enhanced payment. The court of appeal vacated. Under section 50072, only a head of household with an orthopedic disability is deemed to be handicapped. Because Wade was a single person, not a head of household, he was not a “qualified tenant” for purposes of the enhanced payment. View "City of Los Angeles v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Wright was a correctional officer and lived on the San Quentin premises, in a unit he rented from his employer, the state. Living on the grounds was not mandatory and he paid market rate rent. Wright was injured when he fell in the course of his lengthy walk from his home to his actual place of work and received workers’ compensation. He then sued the state, which moved for summary judgment on the ground that workers’ compensation was Wright’s exclusive remedy, based on the “premises line” rule, which provides that the employment relationship commences once the employee enters the employer’s premises. The trial court agreed and granted the motion. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that there were triable issues of fact as to whether Wright’s injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. That the State did not intend its workers’ compensation policy would insure Wright for all injuries suffered on San Quentin grounds, even at or near the home where he lived, is evidenced by the terms of Wright’s lease agreement, which required Wright to obtain a “broad policy of comprehensive coverage of public liability insurance, naming the State as the insured.” View "Wright v. State of Cal." on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
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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