Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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The case involves Edward A. Cianci and Raymond Frechette, who purchased a foreclosed property and initiated a summary process action in the Housing Court against the occupants, including Elizabeth D'Andrea. The Housing Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs for possession. D'Andrea appealed and sought to waive the appeal bond due to her indigency. The Housing Court found D'Andrea to be indigent and waived her appeal bond, but required her to make monthly use and occupancy payments of $1,275 to the plaintiffs to maintain her appeal. D'Andrea appealed this order to the Appeals Court, which reported questions of law to the Supreme Judicial Court.The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that use and occupancy payments required of an indigent party under G. L. c. 239, § 5 (e), may not be waived, substituted, or paid by the Commonwealth under the indigency statute because use and occupancy payments are not an "extra fee or cost" as defined in the indigency statute. The court further concluded that the order setting use and occupancy payments in this case did not violate D'Andrea's constitutional rights, even if the order requires her to make payments that potentially exceed her ability to pay. The court reasoned that the summary process statute reasonably imposes a fair balancing of interests between the owner of the property and the party in possession, and the Housing Court performed the fair balancing required. View "Frechette v. D'Andrea" on Justia Law

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The case involves Marshall and Tiffany Todman, who were evicted from their rental property in Baltimore. According to the Baltimore City Code, any personal property left in or around the premises after eviction is immediately considered abandoned, and the landlord takes ownership. The Todmans were evicted earlier than expected and lost their belongings under this ordinance. They sued the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, alleging that the city had deprived them of their personal property without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the Todmans.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the Todmans were owed more process than they received and that the city was responsible for that failure of process. The court held that the city's Abandonment Ordinance violated the Todmans' constitutional rights by depriving them of their property without due process of law and that the city is liable for that violation. The court also dismissed the Todmans' conditional cross-appeal, which asked the court to review the district court's dismissal of their takings claim if the court found their due process claims lacked merit. View "Todman v. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Roy Padilla and Ray Torres, where Padilla, the landlord, filed a petition in the metropolitan court under the Uniform Owner-Resident Relations Act (UORRA), alleging that Torres, his tenant, had not paid rent. The metropolitan court ruled in favor of Padilla, ordering Torres to pay past-due rent and costs amounting to $927. Torres appealed this judgment to the Second Judicial District Court, but the appeal was dismissed because Torres had failed to request a recording of the metropolitan court’s trial.The district court held that without a record of the trial, it could not effectively review Torres’s appeal. The court also rejected Torres’s assertion that he had a right to a recording, explaining that Torres, as appellant, was required to provide an adequate record on appeal. Torres then appealed the dismissal to the Court of Appeals, arguing that the metropolitan court’s practice of not recording civil proceedings except on a party’s request was inconsistent with Section 34-8A-6(B) (1993) and violated his state and federal constitutional rights.The Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico held that the failure to record the trial in this matter is contrary to Section 34-8A-6(B) (1993). The court concluded that the statute imposes a duty on the metropolitan court to create a record of its proceedings that will be sufficient to permit appellate review in this case. The court further held that Rule 3708(A) and other similar rules impermissibly conflict with Section 34-8A-6(B) to the extent that the rules condition the creation of this record on a party’s request. The court directed its committee for the Rules of Civil Procedure for the State Courts to correct the rules in conformance with its opinion. Finally, the court reversed and remanded this matter to the metropolitan court for a new trial. View "Padilla v. Torres" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Crystal Kaye Coan purchased a property in Lauderdale County, which was subject to a mortgage. Coan defaulted on the mortgage, leading to a foreclosure by Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC, the mortgage assignee. Carrington sold the property to Championship Property, LLC in an online auction in May 2018. Championship then filed an ejectment action against Coan, claiming it was the title owner and seeking possession of the property. Coan countered that the foreclosure sale was void, and therefore, Championship had not acquired the title. In January 2023, Championship requested the trial court to require Coan to deposit $2,000 per month with the court clerk pending a final ruling in the ejectment action. The trial court, over Coan's objection, ordered her to deposit $800 per month.Coan failed to deposit the court-ordered payments for March, April, and May 2023, leading Championship to move the trial court to hold her in contempt. The trial court found Coan in contempt and, as a sanction, ruled in favor of Championship on its ejectment claim, awarding it possession of the property. Coan appealed this decision.The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the trial court's decision to require Coan to deposit $800 per month with the court clerk, stating that the trial court had the authority to enter the escrow order. The court also affirmed the trial court's finding of contempt against Coan for failing to comply with the escrow order. However, the court reversed the trial court's sanction awarding Championship possession of the property, stating that the sanction was not appropriate given the current posture of the litigation. The case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Coan v. Championship Property, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a residential eviction dispute between a landlord, MIMG LXXIV Colonial, LLC (Colonial), and a tenant, TajReAna Ellis. Colonial initiated eviction proceedings against Ellis for failing to pay rent, providing a seven-day notice as required by Nebraska’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA). Ellis, however, argued that the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) imposed a 30-day notice requirement, superseding the state law. The county court rejected Ellis' argument and ruled in favor of Colonial. Ellis appealed to the district court, which reversed the county court's decision, agreeing with Ellis that the CARES Act required a 30-day notice.The case was then brought before the Nebraska Supreme Court. However, by this time, Ellis' lease had expired, and she had vacated the property. The court found that the case was moot as the relief sought by Colonial, a judgment for restitution of the premises, would have no practical effect since Ellis no longer resided in the property. Colonial argued that the case was not moot due to its interest in knowing whether it violated the law and the financial interest related to the district court's taxing of costs. The court rejected these arguments, stating that claims for costs are generally insufficient to avoid mootness.The court also considered whether to reach the merits of the case under the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine. However, it declined to do so, noting that the primary question in the case was a matter of federal statutory interpretation, over which the U.S. Supreme Court has final authority. The court also declined to apply the collateral consequences exception, which is typically used in criminal cases. Consequently, the appeal was dismissed. View "MIMG LXXIV Colonial v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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Harold Wallace, a tenant of the Housing Authority of the City of Talladega, fell while descending the back-porch stairs of his apartment due to missing handrails. Wallace sued the Housing Authority for negligence and wantonness. The Housing Authority moved for a summary judgment, arguing that the lack of handrails was an "open and obvious" danger and that Wallace had conceded in his deposition that he was aware of this. The trial court granted the Housing Authority's motion for a summary judgment. Wallace appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals.The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the Housing Authority. The Housing Authority then petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama for certiorari review, arguing that the Court of Civil Appeals' decision conflicts with a prior decision in Daniels v. Wiley, where the court affirmed a summary judgment for the defendant landlord after concluding that the landlord had no duty to the plaintiff tenant with respect to risks created by the muddy condition of a sidewalk within her apartment complex because the danger was "open and obvious."The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the decision of the Court of Civil Appeals, concluding that the decision does not conflict with Daniels. The court clarified that while the Daniels decision is sound, it should not be interpreted as rejecting a landlord's duties under the circumstances described in §§ 360 and 361 of the First Restatement and the Second Restatement. The court found that the Housing Authority failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the principles set forth in §§ 360 and 361 apply to the circumstances in this case, and therefore, the Housing Authority was not entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. View "Ex parte The Housing Authority of the City of Talladega" on Justia Law

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Westwood Motorcars, LLC leased commercial property in Dallas to operate an automobile dealership. The lease was set to expire in 2013, but an addendum allowed Westwood to extend the lease for two additional 24-month terms. In 2015, ownership of the property changed hands and Virtuolotry, LLC became the new landlord. Westwood sought to exercise its option to extend the lease for the second additional term, but Virtuolotry’s lawyers refused, asserting that Westwood had breached the lease in numerous ways. Amidst this dispute, Westwood claimed that Virtuolotry and its manager, Richard Boyd, harassed Westwood at the premises, interfering with its business operations. Westwood sued Virtuolotry in district court, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had not breached the lease and that it had properly extended the lease for another two years. Virtuolotry sued in justice court to evict Westwood for unpaid rent, lease violations, and holding over unlawfully.The justice court ruled in favor of Virtuolotry, awarding it "possession only." Westwood appealed the judgment to the county court at law. However, a few weeks before the trial date, Westwood formally withdrew its appeal in county court, and the county court entered a “stipulate[d] and agree[d]” judgment ordering “that possession of the Premises is awarded” to Virtuolotry. Westwood fully vacated the property, but continued its pending suit in district court, adding claims for breach of contract (against Virtuolotry) and constructive eviction (against Virtuolotry and Boyd). The district court ruled in favor of Westwood, awarding damages and attorney’s fees.Virtuolotry and Boyd appealed, and the court of appeals reversed the district court's decision, ruling that by agreeing to the eviction-suit judgment in county court, Westwood “voluntarily abandoned the premises” and thus “extinguish[ed] any claim for damages.” Westwood then petitioned the Supreme Court of Texas for review.The Supreme Court of Texas reversed the court of appeals' decision, ruling that the court of appeals erred by giving a judgment of possession from a court of limited jurisdiction preclusive effect over Westwood’s claim for damages in district court. The Supreme Court of Texas held that Westwood’s agreement to entry of the county-court judgment cannot reflect assent to anything more than what that judgment resolves—i.e., who receives immediate possession of the property. The court remanded the case to the court of appeals for further proceedings. View "WESTWOOD MOTORCARS, LLC v. VIRTUOLOTRY, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between a landlord, Daniel Johnson, and his tenant, Tina Vosberg. Johnson filed a complaint under Nebraska’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) seeking restitution of the premises, unpaid rent, and statutory damages for willful holdover. The primary disagreement was over the duration of the lease agreement. Johnson presented a 90-day lease, while Vosberg claimed she had signed a 1-year lease. The county court held an expedited trial on the claim for possession and ruled in favor of Johnson. Vosberg appealed this decision.Vosberg's appeal was heard by the District Court for Douglas County, which affirmed the county court's decision. Vosberg then appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court. During the pendency of the appeal, the alleged 1-year lease period passed, Vosberg vacated the premises, and she stopped paying monthly rent pursuant to the supersedeas bond.The Nebraska Supreme Court found that it had appellate jurisdiction over the case. However, it ruled that the appeal was moot because the term of the alleged 1-year lease had expired, Vosberg had vacated the premises, and she was no longer paying the monthly rent under the terms of the supersedeas bond. The court also rejected Vosberg's argument that she suffered collateral consequences from the writ because a judgment of eviction on her record made it harder for her to find landlords willing to rent to her. The court dismissed Vosberg's appeal as moot. View "Johnson v. Vosberg" on Justia Law

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Weston Bennion was injured when his apartment deck collapsed and subsequently sued his landlord, Dale Stolrow, for negligence. The parties settled, with Bennion agreeing to release Stolrow and his insurer from all claims in exchange for $150,000. The settlement was subject to related subrogation claims and healthcare liens, and Bennion promised to indemnify Stolrow from liability for any such claims and liens. Before making the payment, Stolrow informed Bennion that he intended to distribute the payment in two checks: one payable to Bennion and the other payable to a collection agency that had a healthcare lien on the settlement funds. Bennion objected and filed a motion to enforce the parties’ agreement, arguing that its terms did not allow Stolrow to issue a portion of the settlement funds to a third party.The district court disagreed with Bennion and suggested that Stolrow issue two checks: one jointly to Bennion and the third party for the amount of the lien, and another to Bennion for the remainder of the funds. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision. Bennion then petitioned for certiorari.The Supreme Court of the State of Utah granted certiorari to address whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that the parties’ agreement permitted Stolrow to issue a portion of the settlement funds jointly to Bennion and the third-party collection agency. The court agreed with Bennion, stating that the plain language of the release provides for payment to Bennion in exchange for his release of claims against Stolrow and his assumption of responsibility for third-party liens. Therefore, the court reversed the decision of the lower courts. View "Bennion v. Stolrow" on Justia Law

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The case involves Northland Investment Corporation (N Co.), a landlord of multiunit residential buildings, and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). N Co. sought a declaratory ruling from PURA that it could use ratio utility billing (RUB) to recoup utility costs from tenants in buildings without individual meters. Under RUB, N Co. would bill tenants for their proportionate share of utility usage, calculated based on factors like unit square footage and number of occupants. PURA concluded that RUB violated the statute because it prohibited charging a tenant for utilities they did not exclusively use. However, PURA suggested N Co. could use the "building in" methodology, incorporating estimated utility costs into fixed rent.PURA's decision was appealed to the trial court, which remanded the case back to PURA for further consideration of whether its decision on RUB conflicted with its conclusion on the "building in" approach. PURA reaffirmed its prior ruling, and N Co. appealed again to the trial court, which dismissed the appeal. N Co. then appealed from the trial court's judgment.The Supreme Court of Connecticut upheld the trial court's decision, agreeing with PURA's determination that the statute prohibits N Co.'s proposed use of RUB to recoup building-wide utility costs by billing tenants for their estimated proportionate share of the total cost. The court concluded that the "building in" approach was acceptable as it allowed for consistent and predictable payments each month and placed the risk of higher-than-anticipated utility usage on the landlord. View "Northland Investment Corp. v. Public Utilities Regulatory Authority" on Justia Law