Justia Landlord – Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Arthur Kinnan lived in a residence as part of a substance abuse treatment program operated by Sitka Counseling. Funding for that program ended, and Sitka Counseling informed Kinnan that he would be required to vacate. Kinnan filed suit against Sitka Counseling and two of its staff members, unsuccessfully alleging several torts based on the defendants’ conduct when removing him from the premises, violations of Alaska’s Landlord Tenant Act, and deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Kinnan argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that the superior court wrongfully denied a continuance to allow him to seek counsel, wrongfully excluded the testimony of a late-disclosed witness and two affidavits, and improperly facilitated questioning regarding Kinnan’s mental disability. The Supreme Court concluded that any error resulting from the exclusion of Kinnan’s witness was harmless and saw no abuse of discretion in the superior court’s denial of Kinnan’s continuance, its exclusion of the affidavits as hearsay, or its consideration of Kinnan’s mental disability. Furthermore, the Court also rejected Kinnan’s argument that the superior court’s adverse rulings created an appearance of judicial bias. View "Kinnan v. Sitka Counseling" on Justia Law

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After a late night out, Jillian Groh brought a group of friends back to a room she rented at the Westin Hotel. Security guards confronted the group about the noise level in the room, and ultimately evicted them, even though Groh and her companions advised the guards they were drunk and could not drive. On the way out, one of the friends asked if the group could wait in the lobby for a taxi (because it was cold outside). The guard blocked the door. Seven people then got into Groh's car, with a drunk driver behind the wheel. Fifteen miles away they rear-ended another vehicle, resulting in a crash that killed one man and left Groh in a persistent vegetative state with traumatic brain injuries. Groh's parents sued the Westin for their daughter's injuries, because of the manner in which the security guards evicted her. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was one of first impression: what duty of care, if any, does a hotel owe a guest during a lawful eviction? A divided appellate panel held that the hotel had a duty to evict a guest "in a reasonable manner," noting that this precludes ejecting a guest into a "foreseeably dangerous circumstance" that result from either the guest's condition or the environment. It also held that the Colorado Dram Shop Act did not apply because the hotel did not serve Groh alcohol. The Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court's analysis, and affirmed. View "Westin Operator, LLC v. Groh" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Barbara Jordan sued respondent Panorama Orthopedics and Spine Center, PC for negligence and premises liability. After receiving medical treatment at the Center, Jordan tripped over uneven sidewalk slabs near Panorama's main entrance. She fell and suffered a concussion and an orbital fracture. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the Colorado pRemises Liability Act (PLA) applied to a commercial tenant defendant for injuries plaintiff sustained in a common area. Specifically, the case turned on whether the tenant qualified as a "landowner" under the PLA. A jury ultimately found in favor of petitioner. The clinic appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed. After its review, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court, concluding that because the clinic neither was in possession of the sidewalk where petitioner fell, it was not legally responsible for the condition of the sidewalk or for the activities conducted or circumstances existing there, so it was not a landowner as defined by the PLA. View "Jordan v. Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Ctr., PC" on Justia Law

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Tenant was the successor lessee to a thirty-year lease on a commercial property in Brattleboro. The lease was executed in 1987. The lease established a basic annual rent of $26,500 in paragraph 8, and then set forth how the rent would increase in subsequent years. Pursuant to the rent-increase provision, each year landlords calculated the annual rent increase and sent a notice to tenant. The increase was calculated as the percentage change in the CPI from the previous year to the current year multiplied by the previous year's rent. This increase was then added to the prior year's rent to arrive at the new annual rent. In March 2007, tenant assumed the lease. From 2008 to 2012, landlords sent rent-increase notices and tenant paid rent annually adjusted for increases, calculated according to this method, without objection. In 2013, landlords sent the annual rent increase notice to tenants. The notice reflected the new 2013 rent as $54,060. Tenant objected to the amount of rent and the calculation method for rental increases. The parties were unable to resolve their dispute, and tenant filed an action seeking both a declaration that its interpretation of the lease language was correct and damages for overpaid rent. Tenant appealed the court's order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant landlords on the parties' dispute concerning a rental-increase provision of the lease. Tenant argued on appeal that the court erred in using extrinsic evidence to interpret a portion of the lease tenant believed was unambiguous, and in reaching an inequitable result. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "B&C Management Vermont, Inc. v. John, Ringey & Beck" on Justia Law

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In 2004 and 2007, two fires broke out in two separate buildings of the Village Green Apartments. Plaintiffs, tenants of the apartment complex, filed suit against the apartment complex’s landlords, claiming that the buildings had been negligently constructed. The landlords were found liable. The jury awarded compensatory damages of $582,146, punitive damages of $2,000,000, and attorney fees of $1,040,000. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme court affirmed with respect to all issues except the award of punitive damages, holding (1) the amount of punitive damages exceeded the limit prescribed by Ohio Rev. Code 2315.21(D)(2)(a); (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the issue of punitive damages to go to the jury; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the jury to determine that the landlords had failed to comply with Ohio Rev. Code 5321.04 for failure to correct defects occurring in electrical wiring. View "Sivit v. Village Green of Beachwood, L.P." on Justia Law

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The Milwaukee City Housing Authority brought an eviction action against Defendant, who lives in federally subsidized housing, because Defendant violated the terms of his lease by engaging in “drug-related criminal activity” - i.e., smoking marijuana inside his apartment. Defendant argued that he could not be evicted because Wis. Stat. 704.17(2)(b) required the notice of eviction to provide him with an opportunity to remedy his lease violation. The circuit court issued a restitution order and writ of eviction. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, holding that 42 U.S.C. 1437d(1)(6) preempts the right-to-remedy provision of section 704.14(2)(b) when a public housing tenant is evicted for engaging in “drug-related criminal activity” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. 1437d(1). View "Milwaukee City Housing Auth. v. Cobb" on Justia Law
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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

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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

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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

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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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