Justia Landlord – Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs, residents of privately-owned Chicago building, received housing vouchers from the Chicago Housing Authority to enable them to rent apartments. They claimed that the Authority is complicit in and responsible for a deprivation of their constitutionally protected privacy by the building owners. The owners require their tenants to be tested annually for illegal drugs; passing the test is a condition of a tenant’s being allowed to renew his or her lease for another year. The requirement applies to all tenants, not just those who might be suspected of using illegal drugs. The district court denied a preliminary injunction on the ground that the drug-testing policy was private rather than state action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. None of the plaintiffs had requested transfer from the drug-testing building in which he or she currently resides to a building that does not require drug testing. A CHA representative testified that his agency would have approved such a request. That the CHA may encourage or even request testing does not constitute state action. View "Stubenfield v. Chicago Hous. Auth." on Justia Law

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The federal government provides low-income housing tax credits that are distributed to developers by state agencies, including the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The Inclusive Communities Project (ICP), which assists low-income families in obtaining affordable housing, brought a disparate-impact claim under Fair Housing Act sections 804(a) and 805(a), alleging that allocation of too many credits to housing in predominantly black inner-city areas and too few in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods resulted in continued segregated housing patterns. Relying on statistical evidence, the district court ruled in favor of ICP. While appeal was pending, HUD issued a regulation interpreting the FHA to encompass disparate-impact liability and establishing a burden-shifting framework. The Fifth Circuit held that disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the FHA, but reversed, concluding that the court had improperly required proof of less discriminatory alternatives. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded. Disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the FHA. The Court noted that the statute shifts emphasis from an actor’s intent to the consequences of his actions. Disparate-impact liability must be limited so that regulated entities can make practical business choices that sustain the free-enterprise system. Before rejecting a business justification—or a governmental entity’s public interest—a court must determine that a plaintiff has shown “an available alternative . . . that has less disparate impact and serves the [entity’s] legitimate needs.” A disparate-impact claim relying on a statistical disparity must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a policy causing that disparity. Policies, governmental or private, are not contrary to the disparate-impact requirement unless they are “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers.” When courts find disparate impact liability, their remedial orders must be consistent with the Constitution and should concentrate on eliminating the offending practice. Orders that impose racial targets or quotas might raise difficult constitutional questions. View "Texas Dep't of Hous, & Cmity Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc." on Justia Law

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Developer filed suit against the University after the University terminated the lease agreement between the parties because Developer failed to make a rental payment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the University. The court vacated and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that there is a genuine dispute whether a rental payment was due on May 30, 2013, and therefore whether the University was entitled to terminate the lease and to collect damages. View "Howard Town Center Developer v. Howard University" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on a dispute between the Chegwiddens, as tenants, and Mitch Evenson, and Evenson Properties, LLP, as landlord. In November 2011, the parties entered into a one-year written lease for a residential apartment in Minot. The parties did not enter into a subsequent written lease, and it was undisputed that, after November 2012, it converted to a month-to-month tenancy. Michael and Jean Chegwidden appealed the district court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of Elda Evenson Living Trust, Mitch Evenson, and Evenson Properties, LLP (collectively "Evenson"). The Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in granting Evenson's summary judgment motion, in denying the Chegwiddens' motion to amend, and in denying the Chegwiddens' summary judgment motion. View "Chegwidden v. Evenson" on Justia Law
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Appellants were the owners of multi-unit apartment buildings located in Montana and the property management companies that managed Owners’ apartment complexes during the time relevant to this suit. Appellees were current or former tenants of Owners’ apartment complexes who signed leases for those apartments through the property management companies. Appellees filed a complaint on behalf of themselves and other unnamed plaintiffs alleging that certain provisions included in the leases were prohibited by law. The district court granted Appellees’ motion for class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by certifying the class under Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). View "Worledge v. Riverstone" on Justia Law
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Husband and wife (who did not speak English) entered into a written one-year lease, took possession of the apartment, and tendered the security deposit and first month’s rent. Ten days into the lease, they received “an official 30 days notice” of eviction, stating that “[c]onstruction begins June 10,” and that they did not qualify for an unspecified “new program.” Several additional efforts to force the family to move followed; their tender of rent was refused. They purportedly sought legal advice and were told that the landlord could not unilaterally terminate the lease. They reported feeling discriminated against and harassed; they were confused, depressed, and anxious. Demolition began while the family was occupying the apartment. Husband allegedly told wife that he could not tolerate the situation any longer. The following day, he committed suicide in the apartment. Wife sought damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful eviction, breach of contract; under the Wrongful Death Act; and under the survival statute. The trial court dismissed the wrongful death and related survival actions, finding that “wrongful death via suicide” is not cognizable in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Despite an ostensible connection between severe emotional distress and suicide, suicide may result from a complex combination of factors. It is “rare” that suicide would not break the chain of causation and bar a wrongful death action, even where the plaintiff alleges the defendant inflicted severe emotional distress. Husband’s suicide was not a reasonably foreseeable result of defendant’s alleged conduct in breaking the lease and pressuring the family to vacate. View "Turcios v. DeBruler Co." on Justia Law

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The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) terminated the Section 8 benefits of Petitioners. Petitioners commenced separate N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceedings against NYCHA seeking to annul NYCHA’s determinations as arbitrary and capricious and to reinstate their benefits. NYCHA move to dismiss the proceedings as time barred, arguing that Petitioners did not commence these proceedings within four months of their receipt of their respective “T-3 letters.” Supreme Court denied NYCHA’s motions and granted Petitioners’ petitions, concluding that the statute of limitations did not begin to run because NYCHA failed to show that it mailed all three notices - a warning letter, T-1 letter and T-3 letter - required under a federal consent judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) pursuant to the consent judgment, the statute begins to run upon the tenant’s receipt of the T-3 letter, regardless of whether NYCHA has proven that it mailed other notices required by the consent judgment to be sent before the T-3 letter; and (2) the Appellate Division found in each case that NYCHA established proper mailing of the T-3 letters, and Petitioners did not commence these proceedings within four months of their receipt of the T-3 letters. View "Banos v. Rhea" on Justia Law

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After Defendant, the owner of real property in the Town of Canton, abandoned the subject property, the Town filed a petition seeking the appointment of a receiver of rents. The trial court, finding that Defendant owed the Town taxes, granted the petition and authorized the receiver to collect all rents or use and occupancy payments. The court subsequently modified its order to allow the receiver to evict the tenant and to bring an action against the tenant for all rents due. The tenant moved to remove the receiver, asserting that the receiver had exceeded its authority under Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-163a by serving it with a notice to quit and by bring an action to collect back taxes and prior rents. The court denied the motion for removal. The Appellate Court (1) reversed insofar as the trial court granted the receiver’s motion to modify the receivership orders, but (2) affirmed insofar as it denied the tenant’s motion to remove the receiver. The Supreme Court (1) reversed as to the reversal of the trial court’s judgment granting the receiver’s motion for modification, holding that section 12-163a does authorize a receiver to use legal process to collect rent due prior to the date of the receiver’s appointment; and (2) otherwise affirmed. View "Canton v. Cadle Props. of Conn., Inc." on Justia Law

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While living at Mayor Wright Homes, a federally-subsidized Public housing project owned and operated by Hawai’i Public Housing Authority (HPHA), Fetu Kolio misappropriated approximately $1,400 in Mayor Wright Homes Tenant Association funds. HPHA evicted Kolio, asserting that Kolio’s theft of the funds violated a term in his lease that stated that a tenant shall not engage in any “criminal activity” that “threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment” of the housing premises. The circuit court and intermediate court of appeals affirmed the Eviction Board’s order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) HPHA failed to carry its burden of showing that Kolio’s theft threatened the health, safety, or peaceful enjoyment of the premises; and (2) Kolio’s theft did not meet the definition of criminal activity given in Hawai’i Administrative Rules 17-2020. View "Kolio v. Hawaii Pub. Housing Auth." on Justia Law

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In anticipation of renting an apartment from Sheldon Ashby, Jennifer Roussel gave Ashby a security deposit. Roussel never moved into the apartment and sought the return of her security deposit. When Ashby did not respond to Roussel’s demand for a refund, Roussel filed a complaint against Ashby. The superior court entered default against Ashby and entered judgment for Roussel in the amount of $24,628. Roussel appealed, and Ashby cross-appealed the denial of his motion to set aside the default. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in (1) declining to aware punitive damages to Roussel; (2) denying Roussel’s motion to amend the judgment by awarding additional attorney fees; and (3) denying Ashby’s motion to set aside the default. View "Roussel v. Ashby" on Justia Law