Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Owens owns and resides in a single-family Oakland house. He rented individual rooms to three unrelated tenants. Tenant Barghout filed a petition under Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program alleging her housing became unsuitable due to disruptive construction work and hazardous conditions and that Owens failed to provide the required notice of the Rent Adjustment Program and retaliated by terminating her lease when she complained and sought a reduction in rent. Owens filed an unlawful detainer complaint, identifying Barghout as a month-to-month housemate with “sole use of one or more rooms and shared use of common areas.” A hearing officer rejected an argument that Barghout’s rental was not subject to the Ordinance because the rooms she rented were in a single-family home that was “alienable, separate from the title of any other dwelling unit,” exempt under the Costa-Hawkins Act from local rent control. The Rent Board, trial court, and court of appeal affirmed. The term “dwelling unit” has different meanings under building and planning codes and rent control ordinances. Under landlord-tenant law, “a dwelling or a unit” is not the entire property to which an owner holds title; it is any area understood to be committed to the habitation of a given tenant or tenants to the exclusion of others. The relevant dwelling unit is not Owens’s home but each of the rooms he rented to tenants. View "Owens v. City of Oakland Housing, Residential Rent & Relocation Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court denying Plaintiffs' complaint for relief in the nature of mandamus and for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice correctly denied relief on all of Plaintiffs' claims. Each plaintiff is or was a defendant in a post-foreclosure summary process action. After an adverse judgment, each plaintiff was required to post an appeal bond or to make periodic use and occupancy payments during the pendency of each plaintiff's summary process appeal. The appellate division affirmed the bond or use and occupancy order in each case. Plaintiffs then collectively filed this complaint for relief in the nature of mandamus and for extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking relief from the bond and use and occupancy orders. The single justice denied all substantive relief sought. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not demonstrate the absence of an adequate and effective alternative remedy. View "Bigelow v. Massachusetts Courts Promulgator of Official Forms" on Justia Law

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Shadow Industries, LLP, appealed a district court judgment dismissing its eviction action and holding the tenants David and Chris Hoffman had timely exercised their option to extend the term of the parties’ lease agreement. Shadow argued the district court erred in finding the parties’ lease agreement to be ambiguous, finding the option to extend the lease expired on February 1, 2019, and finding the Hoffmans timely exercised their option to extend the lease. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court’s interpretation of the lease as having ambiguity as to when the lease terminated was premised upon the court’s observation that “[w]hen ‘crop years’ end and begin is undefined.” To this, the Supreme Court disagreed that the lease was ambiguous and failed to define the end of the lease. The Supreme Court found the lease terminated at the end of the 2018 crop year. "While determining when the end of the 2018 crop year occurred may be a question of fact, the term is not ambiguous simply because it requires a future event or contingency." There was testimony that the crop year ended no later than October 2018; following the harvesting of their crops and still in 2018, the Hoffmans deep ripped the land, tilled to create fall bedding, and applied fertilizer to prepare for the 2019 crop year. "On the basis of these facts, and the absence of any contrary facts in the record, we conclude as a matter of law the 2018 crop year ended and the lease terminated in 2018." Because the facts of this case compelled a finding the 2018 crop year ended in 2018 and the lease terminated at the end of the 2018 crop year, the Court found the exercise of the option in January 2019 was not timely and the lease terminated. It therefore reversed judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Shadow Industries, LLP v. Hoffman, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2018, Landlord served Tenants with a Notice of Termination of Tenancy “in furtherance of [Landlord’s] withdrawal of the Property from residential rental use.” After the withdrawal date, Landlord filed unlawful detainer (UD) actions against Tenants under the Ellis Act. (Gov. Code, 7060) as unlimited civil cases. Landlord brought summary judgment motions for restitution of the premises based on Tenants’ holdover under the Ellis Act and the San Francisco rent ordinance. Landlord waived damages, estimated at $92-105 per day. After those motions were granted, Tenants moved to reclassify the actions as limited civil cases, arguing Landlord waived all unlawful detainer damages and that it was impossible for Landlord to meet the $25,000 minimum judgment amount for an unlimited civil matter. The trial court denied the motions for reclassification and entered judgments for possession in favor of Landlord. The court of appeal denied Tenants’ petition for a writ of mandate. Under the plain language of Code of Civil Procedure section 403.040(e), a UD action, filed as an unlimited civil case, need not be reclassified as a limited civil case if the landlord waives its claim to damages for the purpose of obtaining a judgment for possession by way of a motion for summary judgment. View "Hiona v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In this commercial forcible entry and detainer action brought by 20 Thames Street LLC and 122 PTIP LLC (collectively, 20 Thames) the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to award lease-based attorney fees upon finding for Ocean State Job Lot of Maine 2017, LLC, holding that the superior court did not err. Ocean State rented a commercial retail space from 20 Thames. 20 Thames later filed its compliant for forcible entry and detainer, alleging that Ocean State breached the terms of its lease. The business and consumer docket found in favor of Ocean State. The court awarded Ocean State costs and $206,076 in attorney fees based on a provision in the lease. The superior route affirmed the judgment for Ocean State but vacated the attorney fee award, concluding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to award lease-based attorney fees. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 6017 did not provide authority for the district court to award lease-based attorney fees. View "20 Thames Street LLC v. Ocean State Job Lot of Maine 2017, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court for possession of certain property in favor of Plaintiff pursuant to the granting of summary judgment for Plaintiff, holding that when Plaintiff purchased the property at a foreclosure sale, all interests inferior to the foreclosed mortgage were extinguished and that no genuine issue of material fact remained. In 2008, MCH Realty, LLC, the then-owner of the property, entered into a lease agreement with Unetixs Vascular, Inc. to lease the property. In 2013, MCH executed a mortgage deed to DBS Bank Ltd. secured by its interest in the property. DBS later assigned its interest in the mortgage to CFS. In 2016, MCH and Unitexs extended the term of the lease. In 2017, CFS foreclosed on the mortgage and purchased the property at a foreclosure sale. CFS then filed a complaint seeking to evict Unetisx and another tenant (together, Tenants) and MCH from the property. A hearing justice granted the motion, ruling that the mortgage was superior to the Tenants' unrecorded leases and that, therefore, the leases were extinguished upon foreclosure. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that CFS was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "CFS 915, LLC v. Unetixs Vascular, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's judgment evicting Tenant and granting possession of the apartment in which she lived to Landlord based on nonpayment of rent for January 2017 and the first part of February 2017, holding that eviction was improper. The apartment complex in this case was a project-based Section 8 property. In late 2016, Landlord sought to evict Tenant by terminating her lease for alleged breaches relating primarily to her conduct. On January 9, 2017, Tenant was served with a notice to pay rent or quit, claiming Tenant was in default under the rental agreement. The district court determined that Landlord had waived its claims as to Tenant's alleged lease breaches. The court then entered a judgment evicting Tenant and granting possession of the apartment to Landlord. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Landlord did not waive his right to terminate the lease based on Tenant's alleged breaches; (2) terminating a lease or a federal subsidy for a tenant in a federally-subsidized housing arrangement requires compliance with federal law as incorporated in the terms of the lease; and (3) there were insufficient findings to support the conclusion that Landlord was entitled to possession on the basis of nonpayment of rent. View "Winston Affordable Housing, LLC v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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In this commercial landlord-tenant dispute the Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the circuit court's judgment finding that Tenant was not entitled to damages and that Tenant's claims for equitable relief were moot, holding that the ICA erred in two of its holdings. Landlords performed a self-help eviction after Tenant allegedly breached the lease. Tenant filed this complaint alleging violations of Haw. Rev. Stat. 654-1, 480-2, 480-13, and 480-13.5, and intentional infliction of emotional distress and requesting injunctive relief and damages. The circuit court concluded that Tenant was not entitled to damages because two of the breaches were material and that Tenant's equitable relief claims, including a claim for replevin seeking access to his personal property, were moot. The ICA vacated the circuit court's judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment in part, holding that the ICA (1) correctly found that the breaches were not material; (2) should not have analyzed the merits of the replevin claim because Tenant had already retrieved his personal property at the time of trial; and (3) misapplied the law of equitable relief because all the equitable claims were moot. View "Kahawaiolaa v. Hawaiian Sun Investments, Inc." on Justia Law

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Expo Properties owns an office complex in which they leased to Experient. When the lease term ended, the parties dispute the condition the premises should be in when defendant vacated, and who should pay for any work to put the premises into that condition. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Experient, holding that the Estoppel Certificate did not satisfy the requirements of Maryland contract law for modification of a contract. Therefore, contrary to Expo Properties' contention, the Estoppel Certificate did not modify the Lease under Maryland law. Furthermore, the Lease unambiguously does not allocate all costs for all maintenance and repairs, no matter what, to the tenant. Consequently, the district court properly held that Expo Properties' parol evidence was inadmissible. View "Expo Properties, LLC v. Experient, Inc." on Justia Law

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Schreiber resided in her apartment since the building was built in 1980. She was seriously injured when she fell through a skylight built into the apartment's deck. Lee built and previously owned the three-unit building. At the time of the accident, Lee’s adult children owned the property, which was managed by Golden. Before trial, Schreiber settled with the Lee children for $2.5 million. The trial court denied Lee’s motion for nonsuit on the ground Schreiber’s claims were based on a patent construction defect and barred by the statute of repose. The jury awarded Schreiber damages of over $2.6 million, allocating 12 percent of fault to Schreiber, 54 percent to Lee, 16 percent to Golden, and 18 percent collectively to the Lee children. After reducing the verdict to reflect Schreiber’s percentage of fault, the court offset the entirety of the economic damages by the amount of the settlement attributable to such damages; it denied any credit to Lee and Golden for the noneconomic damages and entered judgment against Lee for $756,000 and against Golden for $224,000. The court of appeal affirmed in all respects except as to the settlement credit, Golden, but not Lee, is entitled to a credit against both economic and noneconomic damages. The court noted the "unusual circumstances," that the Lee children were not only found independently negligent but also bore imputed liability for Golden's negligence. View "Schreiber v. Lee" on Justia Law