Justia Landlord – Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Tenants Michael Brown and Jill Wahleithner received a notice of eviction from landlords Stephen Faciszewski and Virginia Klamon, invoking Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 22.206.160(C)(1)(e). In accordance with that provision, the notice stated Landlords were terminating the tenancy because "[Landlords] seek to possess the Property so that at least one immediate family member (or, in the alternative, one of us) may occupy the [Seattle] Property as a principal residence." Landlords subsequently clarified that Faciszewski's parents would be moving into the house so that Faciszewski could care for his ailing father. Following his father's death, Faciszewski indicated that only his mother planned to move into the house. Because of an earlier dispute, Tenants believed that Landlords' stated reason was pretext. Tenants thus began researching Faciszewski's parents on the Internet and found that Faciszewski's mother: (1) owned a home in Colorado that was not listed for sale or for rent; (2) she was scheduled to teach a class at a Colorado center in the fall; (3) she volunteered at a Colorado hospital for many years and continued to do so; and ( 4) she had not informed the center or the hospital of any plans to move. Citing this information, Tenants complained to the City, and in response Landlords filed with the City a certification of intent to carry out the stated reason. Because the certification provided that "[Faciszewski] or/and ... his mother" would occupy the property, Tenants continued to believe Landlords' stated reason was a pretext. Accordingly, Tenants refused to comply. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review was whether the trial court could consider evidence challenging just cause once the landlord filed the certification allowed under Seattle Municipal Code 22.206.160(C)(4). The court commissioner presiding over the show cause hearing set the matter for trial after determining that there were issues of fact as to the landlords' stated reason for the eviction. The King County Superior Court revised the commissioner's ruling, issued a writ of restitution restoring possession of the property to the landlords, and struck the trial date because "the statutory scheme does not require ... a trial once [the landlord files a] statement under penalty of perjury." The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the law afforded the tenant to contest the eviction at the show cause hearing. View "Faciszewski v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Landlord Beach Break Equities, LLC. (Beach Break) filed an unlawful detainer action against tenant Martin Lowell. The court granted Beach Break's summary judgment motion on the possession issue, and issued a writ of possession (reserving damage issues). Lowell appealed the possession order to the appellate division of the superior court (appellate division). While the appeal was pending, Beach Break evicted Lowell under the authority of the writ of possession. The appellate division reversed the possession order, finding triable issues of fact on the possession issue and remanded for a trial. In so doing, the appellate division expressly ordered that Lowell was entitled to seek restitution for any damages caused by the premature eviction. After the matter was transferred to an unlimited civil department, the trial court ruled Lowell was not entitled to a restitution hearing because he had not filed an affirmative cross-complaint. Over Lowell's objection, Beach Break then dismissed its action and the court entered a final judgment. Lowell appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal determined the trial court erred in denying Lowell's request for a hearing on his restitution claim. Under settled law, Lowell was entitled to a restitution hearing even without filing a cross-complaint. View "Beach Break Equities v. Lowell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this class action against his former landlord (Landlord) alleging that Landlord violated several provisions of the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law by impermissibly deducting certain charges from his security deposit and failing to return the deposit within thirty days after he moved out of his leased apartment. Plaintiff sought recovery under the Security Deposit Law’s penalty provision, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, 15B(7), which includes the availability of treble damages. The district court concluded that Plaintiff was entitled to recover his security deposit but was not entitled to recovery under section 15B(7), and denied Plaintiff’s class certification motion on mootness grounds. The First Circuit certified a question regarding the relevant provisions of the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and refrained from deciding the merits of Plaintiff’s other claims until that question was resolved. View "Phillips v. Equity Residential Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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In September 2003, Bachner Company Inc. entered into a contract with the Alaska Department of Administration, to lease portions of the Denali Building in Fairbanks. After a ten-year lease term and a one-year renewal, Bachner alleged that the State was in default on its rent payments, and it filed suit in superior court to recover. The State moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the claim was governed by the Alaska State Procurement Code and that Bachner had failed to exhaust its remedies under the code before filing suit. The superior court agreed and granted the State’s motion to dismiss. Bachner appealed. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the procurement code covered a rent dispute over an ongoing lease, that the Bachner's claim fell under the procurement code, and Bachner had to exhaust its administrative remedies before filing suit in superior court. View "Bachner Company Incorporated v. State, Dept. of Administration" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case is a lease for a Gap store in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Gap argues that the lease does not require it to pay for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) expenses and a share of mall operation costs. GK, the mall's management company and owner, disagreed. The district court issued a declaratory judgment in favor of Gap. The court concluded that GK waived the argument that Gap owes it for HVAC expenses under Article 10(B) of the lease. The court also concluded that, reading the ambiguous lease language in conjunction with the extrinsic evidence, a rational factfinder can reach only one conclusion in this case: The parties intended that Gap not be obligated to pay for Center Expenses for the duration of the lease. Because GK points to no evidence that its past HVAC charges were established under Article 11(C), this modification does not affect the district court’s determination that GK breached the lease or its damages award. Accordingly, the court affirmed, modified in part, and remanded the district court's judgment. View "The Gap, Inc. v. GK Development, Inc." on Justia Law

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The parties are involved in a dispute over a 12-year commercial lease of office space in Baltimore, Maryland. NCO, the lessee, claims that it properly exercised a right of early termination of the lease and that, during the course of the lease, it was overcharged for rent based on erroneous calculations of the space’s square footage. Montgomery Park, the lessor, claims that NCO failed to satisfy the lease’s specific conditions for early termination and that NCO now owes rent for the remainder of the lease term. The court reversed the district court’s ruling that NCO effectively exercised the right of early termination, and affirmed its ruling rejecting NCO’s overcharge claims. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings on Montgomery Park’s claim that NCO breached the lease agreement in failing to pay rent. View "NCO Financial Systems, Inc. v. Montgomery Park, LLC" on Justia Law

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Under the rent escrow statute, if a tenant is successful in showing that a landlord was aware of certain conditions or defects in the rental property and failed to correct them, the tenant may be entitled to an abatement or reduction of the rent or other relief. Landlord in this case filed a summary ejectment action against Tenant to collect unpaid rent and to regain possession of the unit. During trial, Tenant attempted to submit evidence of alleged defects in the rental property. The circuit court declined to accept the proffered evidence, concluding that it would be relevant only in an affirmative rent escrow action, which, according to the court, must be filed as a separate action. The circuit court proceeded to enter judgment in favor of Landlord. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment, holding that Tenant could present her evidence and contentions under the rent escrow statute in defense of the summary ejectment action brought by Landlord and was not required to present them in a separate action. Remanded. View "Cane v. EZ Rentals" on Justia Law

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The Foundation provides performing arts and social justice programs. Presidio Trust granted the Foundation a lease (through 2013) at below-market rates for Building 1158. The Foundation remodeled at a cost of over $300,000. Building 1158 offered a safe drop-off area for children, adequate parking, and exclusive use of the building. The Foundation’s operational revenues increased from $300,000 in 2007 to $464,000 in 2010. In 2009, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began to construct a south access to the Golden Gate Bridge, which required the use of property controlled by Presidio Trust. The Trust agreed to deliver specified property—including Building 1158. Caltrans informed the Foundation it would demolish Building 1158. The Foundation began to search for another location; no comparable space was immediately found. The Foundation cancelled its 2010 summer program and its Annual Benefit. It lost students, donors, staff, and partners. The Foundation vacated Building 1158 in 2011. Caltrans paid $107,000 as just compensation for the Foundation‘s lost improvements. Weeks after vacating, the Foundation leased space in Building 386, which costs more, offers less functional space, lacks a safe drop-off zone, has less parking, lacks evening public transportation, shares restrooms with a business, and is an historical building that limits configuration of space. The Foundation sought compensation for loss of goodwill. Caltrans denied the claim and sought declaratory relief. The trial court found that, although the Foundation demonstrated it had goodwill before the taking and lost goodwill due to the taking, it did not prove a calculated “quantitative” loss. The court of appeal reversed, finding that an expert‘s quantification based on a change in cash flow was sufficient for the threshold determination of entitlement to compensation. View "Department of Transportation v. Presidio Performing Arts Foundation" on Justia Law

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Contreras sued her landlords (Butterworth) and the Butterworths’ former attorneys based on their allegedly illegal entries into Contreras’s apartment. After attorney Dowling began representing the Butterworths, Contreras named him as a defendant. The trial court denied Dowling’s special motion to strike, ruling that Contreras’s action did not arise out of protected activity because she sought to hold him liable not for his activities as an attorney, but only for the underlying wrongful conduct of the Butterworths. Relying on opinions in the two prior appeals of the case, the court found Contreras had established a probability of prevailing on the merits. Finding Dowling’s motion frivolous, the granted Contreras’s motion for sanctions. The court of appeal reversed. Contreras’s claim against Dowling arises out of protected activity because the only actions Dowling himself is alleged to have taken are communicative acts by an attorney representing clients in litigation. Such acts are protected by Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. Bare allegations of aiding and abetting or conspiracy do not suffice to remove such acts from the statute's protection. Contreras cannot demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits because Dowling’s communicative acts are within the scope of the litigation privilege codified in Civil Code section 47(b). View "Contreras v. Dowling" on Justia Law

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This was a case between the owner of a manufactured homes community, Bon Ayre Land, LLC (Landowner), and an association that represented the affected homeowners, Bon Ayre Community Association (HOA) about what Delaware law required the Landowner to show to increase rent above inflation. Their dispute arose under Chapter 70 of Title 25 of the Delaware Code, commonly known as the "Rent Justification Act." To raise rent by more than inflation, the Act set out three conditions a landowner had to satisfy. One condition required the owner show that the proposed increase was directly related to operating, maintaining or improving the manufactured home community, and justified by one or more factors listed under subsection (c). The one factor at issue here was market rent: that rent which would result from market forces absent an unequal bargaining position between the community owner and the home owners. Among its many arguments, the Landowner argued that the Superior Court erred in giving effect to the word "and," and that the Landowner ought to have been allowed to justify a rent increase based on market rent alone. The Landowner admitted that it failed to present any evidence of its proposed rent increases being directly related to operating, maintaining or improving the community. But, the Landowner argued that the Act could not be read sensibly as it was plainly written and that the term "and" in section 7042(a)(2) should have been read as "or." Contrary to the Landowner's argument, the Delaware Supreme Court found nothing "absurd" about the use of "and" in joining section 7042's three conditions. "Consistent with proper principles of interpretation, the Superior Court gave effect to the clear language of the Act and gave it an interpretation that is consistent with the Act's stated purpose." Because the Landowner concededly made no showing that its proposed rental increase was directly related to operating, maintaining or improving the community, the Superior Court properly reversed the arbitrator's ruling that the Landowner could raise rents in excess of CPI-U. View "Bon Ayre Land, LLC v. Bon Ayre Community Association" on Justia Law