Justia Landlord – Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Two trial courts invalidated San Francisco ordinances increasing the relocation assistance payments property owners owe their tenants under the Ellis Act, Gov. Code 7060, finding the ordinances facially preempted by the Act. The Ellis Act prohibits a city or county from “compel[ling] the owner of any residential real property to offer, or to continue to offer, accommodations in the property for rent or lease.” The ordinances, intended to mitigate the impact of evictions on low-income tenants, required the greater of either an inflation-adjusted base relocation payout per tenant of $5,555.21 to $16,665.59 per unit, with an additional payment of $3,703.46 to each elderly or disabled evicted tenant or “the difference between the tenant’s current rent and the prevailing rent for a comparable apartment in San Francisco over a two-year period.” In a consolidated appeal, the court of appeal affirmed, stating that “a locality may not impose additional burdensome requirements upon the exercise of state statutory remedies that undermine the very purpose of the state statute.” View "Coyne v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Between 2012 and 2014, three University of Michigan students (plaintiffs) rented rooms from Alawi, which collected $2550 in security deposits from the three. When they moved out, they received their security deposits back, minus small deductions for minor damages to the properties. Plaintiffs believed that Alawi had not complied with Michigan law, which requires landlords to deposit security deposits in a regulated financial institution and to provide the address of that institution to the tenant. The plaintiffs sued Alawi for $6.6 million on behalf of a putative class of six years’ worth of tenants, alleging violations of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Michigan law; alleging that Alawi was not entitled to hold security deposits at all (given these alleged breaches of Michigan law), and that knowingly taking security deposits anyway constituted a pattern of federal wire, mail, and bank fraud. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal, finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the RICO claim. The complaint failed to articulate any concrete injury; its allegations were too vague to meet the particularity requirement of fraud allegations under Civil Rule 9(b). View "Wall v. Michigan Rental" on Justia Law

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Landlord leased commercial real estate to Tenant, a third party. The lease agreement provided on option to purchase with a condition precedent. At the time Tenant assigned this purchase option to Assignees, Tenant had fully performed all obligations under the lease. When Assignees attempted to exercise the purchase option, Landlord denied the attempt, arguing that because of certain rental underpayments, which were later paid in full, Tenant had failed to satisfy the condition precedent. Assignees filed a complaint seeking specific performance of the purchase option. Landlord later moved for specific performance of the terms and provisions of the purchase option. The district court sustained Landlord’s motion, and Assignees purchased the property. The district court then entered judgment in Assignees’ favor and awarded equitable monetary relief for lost rentals. Landlord appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) Landlord was judicially estopped from asserting the condition precedent in avoidance of equitable monetary relief; and (2) Landlord was entitled to offset the monetary award with the interest on the unpaid purchase price. View "O'Connor v. Kearny Junction, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Bayal Restaurant Inc. entered into a lease agreement with the predecessor in interest to plaintiff to rent certain commercial property. Aly Diene (Defendant), in consideration of the lease, executed a personal guaranty. In 2013, title to the premises was conveyed to OSJ of Providence, LLC (Plaintiff). In conjunction with the conveyance, all rights of the seller were transferred to Plaintiff. After Bayal defaulted on the terms of the lease, Plaintiff demanded overdue rent, interest, and fees. When Plaintiff did not receive the full amount requested, Plaintiff filed a complaint for eviction for nonpayment of rent. The parties entered into a stipulated judgment, but Bayal failed to make any payments pursuant to the stipulated judgment. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant for default on the guaranty. Summary judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff as to Defendant’s liability under the guaranty. After a hearing, judgment was entered for Plaintiff in the amount of $37,760.04. The Supreme Court denied Defendant’s appeal, holding (1) Plaintiff’s claim was not time-barred; and (2) the hearing justice properly granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. View "OSJ of Providence, LLC v. Diene" on Justia Law

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The property owners, participants in the “Section 8” federal rental assistance program (42 U.S.C. 1437f(a)), sued the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority for allegedly breaching the contracts that governed payments to the owners under the program, by failing to approve automatic rent increases for certain years, by requiring the owners to submit comparability studies in order to receive increases, and by arbitrarily reducing the increases for non-turnover units by one percent. Because Wisconsin Housing receives all of its Section 8 funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Authority filed a third-party breach of contract claim against HUD. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Wisconsin Housing and dismissed the claims against HUD as moot. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the owners’ Section 8 contracts were renewed after the challenged requirements became part of the program. “The doctrine of disproportionate forfeiture simply does not apply,” and Wisconsin Housing did not breach any contracts by requiring rent comparability studies in certain circumstances or by applying a one percent reduction for non-turnover units. View "Evergreen Square of Cudahy v. Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority" on Justia Law

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Shalizi purchased an apartment building and wanted to move into unit four. Geraghty had been renting unit four for 22 years and was paying $938 a month. Shalizi’s attorney sent a letter informing Geragthy that Shalizi intended to commence an owner move-in eviction (Ellis Act “no fault” eviction), but suggested a voluntary buyout agreement. Shalizi and Geragthy entered into an agreement that promised Geraghty $25,000 and gave him several months to depart. Geraghty released Shalizi from “any and all claims which have or may have arisen from Tenant’s occupancy of the Premises at any time or any and all claims related to the Premises, including, but not limited to, claims for wrongful eviction, non-compliance with or violations of the provisions of the San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance [SFRRSAO] and Rules and Regulations, . . . [or the] right to reoccupy the Premises.” Geraghty vacated and Shalizi paid. Shalizi began $70,000 in renovations and occupied the unit. Months later, Shalizi lost his job. Months later, Shalizi found new work, but had to relocate. He rented unit four to a new tenant for $3,700 a month. After discovering Shalizi was again renting out unit four, Geraghty sued for violation of the San Francisco rent ordinance, negligence, fraud, and rescission. The trial court granted Shalizi summary judgment. The court of appeal affirmed, finding Geraghty’s waiver valid and enforceable. View "Geraghty v. Shalizi" on Justia Law

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Bahig Bishay brought an action bringing various claims arising from Plaintiff’s eviction from his home. Bishay named as defendants National Investigations, Inc. and its principals (collectively, National), Harvard 45 Associates, LLC and its principals (collectively, Harvard), and Allied Finance Adjusters Conference, Inc. (Allied). Allied’s motion to dismiss was allowed. Also allowed was Harvard’s motion for summary judgment as to both the claims against it and a counterclaim it asserted against Bishay. Thereafter, Bishay and National (collectively, Petitioners) settled their dispute and moved for entry of final judgment. The motion was denied. Petitioners then filed a petition seeking relief in the nature of mandamus and requesting that the clerk of the superior court be ordered to enter final judgment as Petitioners proposed. A single justice denied relief without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice neither erred nor abused her discretion by denying extraordinary relief, as Petitioners had other remedies available to them. View "Bishay v. Clerk of the Superior Court in Norfolk County" on Justia Law

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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