Justia Landlord – Tenant Opinion Summaries

By
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

By
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

By
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

By
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

By
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

By
Petitioners filed a petition in the magistrate court seeking to have Respondent evicted from one of their apartments. The magistrate court dismissed Petitioners’ claim as moot after a hearing. Respondent appealed. Thereafter, Respondent filed a complaint against Petitioners for, inter alia, unpaid wages and wrongful termination. The circuit court entered an order consolidating Respondent’s magistrate court appeal with his circuit court original complaint. Petitioners moved to dismiss three counts of the complaint on the grounds that the issues involved were litigated in the magistrate court proceeding. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. Petitioners then brought this writ of prohibition proceeding. The Supreme Court granted the writ as moulded, holding that the circuit court was prohibited from exercising original jurisdiction over the challenged counts in the complaint, as (1) W. Va. R. Civ. P. 42(a) allows consolidation of a magistrate court appeal with an action pending under the original jurisdiction of a circuit court; (2) Respondent’s claims for unpaid wages were not barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel, but those counts may go forward in circuit court as amendments to the magistrate court pleadings; and (3) Plaintiff’s wrongful discharge claim was a new cause of action not embraced by the magistrate cause of action for unpaid wages. View "State ex rel. Veard v. Hon. Lawrance S. Miller" on Justia Law

By
In 2011, the Hjelms leased an apartment in a large San Mateo complex from Prometheus. They signed the 24-page lease while still living in another state and without any negotiation. The lease had three one-sided provisions allowing Prometheus to recover attorney fees. Their apartment became infested with bedbugs, and the complex had an ongoing raw sewage problem. Ultimately the Hjelms and their children were forced to leave. The Hjelms sued Prometheus; a jury returned a verdict for them, awarding economic damage to the Hjelms in the amount of $11,652; non-economic damage to Christine Hjelm of $35,000; and non-economic damage to Justin Hjelm of $25,000. The trial court then awarded the Hjelms their attorney fees ($326, 475) based on Civil Code section 1717. The court of appeal affirmed, noting that a one-sided attorney’s fee provision violates Civil Code 1717(a). No challenge to the verdict could succeed and section 1717 does apply. View "Hjelm v. Prometheus Real Estate Grp., Inc." on Justia Law

By
Wilcox Investment Group, LLC, Foley Investment Partners, LLC, and Wilcox Communities, LLC ("Wilcox Communities") (collectively referred to as "Wilcox"), appealed a circuit court judgment awarding P&D, LLC, $122,291 on P&D's claims alleging the breach of two leases involving two condominium units formerly owned by P&D. P&D appealed the trial court's judgment on the grounds that the damages the trial court awarded were insufficient and that the trial court erred in failing to award it attorney fees. The Supreme Court consolidated the appeals for the purpose of writing one opinion. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that Wilcox was not bound by the leases, and it therefore could not be held liable for a refusal to pay rent under the leases. The trial court erred in concluding otherwise. This result pretermitted any need to discuss Wilcox's argument that the trial court awarded P&D a remedy to which it was not entitled under the leases. The Court's decision also mooted the issues presented by P&D's cross-appeal as to whether the trial court erred in failing to award P&D: (1) past-due rent; (2) the actual value of the two units lost as a consequence of the alleged breach of the leases; and (3) attorney fees. In sum, the trial court's judgment against Wilcox was reversed and P&D's cross-appeal was dismissed. View "Wilcox Investment Group, LLC et al. v. P&D, LLC" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiffs (landlords), challenged San Francisco Planning Code 317(e)(4) as conflicting with the Ellis Act of 1985, Government Code section 7060, which protects property owners’ right to exit the residential rental business. The ordinance was enacted in 2013 in response to a growing concern by the Board of Supervisors (and others) about the shortage of affordable local housing and rental properties. Under section 317(e)(4), certain residential property owners (those undertaking no-fault evictions) including “Ellis Act evictions” were subject to a 10-year waiting period after withdrawing a rental unit from the market before qualifying to apply for approval to merge the withdrawn unit into one or more other units. The trial court found that the ordinance impermissibly penalized property owners for exercising their rights under the Ellis Act and was facially void on preemption grounds. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the plaintiffs lacked standing. Section 317(e)(4) is preempted by the Ellis Act to the extent it requires a landlord effectuating a no-fault eviction to wait 10 years before applying for a permit to undertake a residential merger on the property. View "San Francisco Apartment Ass'n v. City & Cnty.. of San Francisco" on Justia Law

By
In 2007, Landlord entered into a written agreement for the lease of commercial real estate to Tenant. In 2009, Landlord filed a complaint against Tenant and Richard Johnson alleging that Tenant breached the lease and that Johnson breached the personal guaranty agreement in the lease. The trial court dismissed Landlord’s claims against Johnson, concluding that Johnson was not personally liable for the obligations in the lease because he did not sign the lease in his personal capacity. At issue on appeal was whether Johnson agreed to be personally liable for Tenant’s obligations when he signed the agreement a second time. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Johnson’s second signature, “which followed a paragraph clearly indicating that the parties agreed that [Johnson] would be personally responsible for [Tenant’s] obligations,” was effective to bind Johnson. Remanded. View "MLG Enters., LLC v. Johnson" on Justia Law