Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Broadly speaking, Seattle's First-In-Time ("FIT") rule requires Seattle landlords when seeking to fill vacant tenancies to provide notice of rental criteria, screen all completed applications in chronological order, and to offer the tenancy to the first qualified applicant (subject to certain exceptions). Plaintiffs were Seattle landlords who claimed the FIT rule facially violated their state constitutional rights. The trial court ruled the FIT rule was unconstitutional on its face because: (1) the rule facially effected a per se regulatory taking for private use; (2) the rule facially infringed on plaintiffs' substantive due process rights; and (3) the rule facially infringed plaintiffs' free speech rights. The Washington Supreme Court determined the FIT rule was constitutional, "[t]he FIT rule is unquestionably an experiment." The Court adopted the definition of regulatory takings set forth in Lingle v. Chevron U.S.A., 544 U.S. 528 (2005) for the purposes of Washington Constitution article I, section 16, and held plaintiffs did not meet their burden of showing the FIT rule facially met this definition. The Court also clarified the rational basis review applied in substantive due process challenges to laws regulating the use of property, and held plaintiffs did not meet their burden of proving the FIT rule failed rational basis review on its face. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that on its face, the FIT rule required only factual disclosures, and the City met its burden of showing the rule survived deferential scrutiny. View "Yim v. Seattle" on Justia Law

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Since November 2012, LNM1, LLC, operated a gasoline station and convenience store in Greensboro, Alabama under a lease agreement with the owner of the property, TP Properties, LLC. In August 2017, TP Properties sued LNM1 and its owner Mohamed Alsahqani seeking to terminate the lease because LNM1 had not maintained all the required insurance coverages. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of TP Properties, holding that LNM1's failure to maintain the insurance required by the lease agreement constituted a material breach of that agreement, thus entitling TP Properties to terminate the lease. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "LNM1, LLC, and Mohamed Alsahqani v. TP Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Magic City Capital, LLC ("Magic City"), appealed the grant of summary judgment entered by the Madison Circuit Court in favor of Twickenham Place Partners, LLC ("Twickenham"). Because the Alabama Supreme Court determined events that occurred during the trial-court proceedings rendered the action moot and the trial court, therefore, was divested of subject-matter jurisdiction, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Magic City Capital, LLC v. Twickenham Place Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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CityR Eagle Landing, LLC ("CityR"), and Foresite Realty Management, LLC ("Foresite"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate its order appointing Kia Scott as guardian ad litem for certain minor parties to the underlying action against CityR and Foresite. In 2016, residents of Eagle Landing Apartments, an apartment complex owned by CityR and managed by Foresite, sued CityR and Foresite, among others. They asserted claims of breach of contract, breach of implied warranty, negligence, wantonness, premises liability, negligent hiring, trespass, and nuisance, all arising out of conditions at the apartment complex. The residents were adults living in the apartments with their minor children, who were represented in the action by their parents. All the residents were represented by legal counsel. The Supreme Court determined the trial court exceeded its discretion in appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the minor residents when there was no conflict of interest between the minor residents and their parents. "At this point in the proceedings . . . the parents' interests are aligned with those of their children. . . . [W]ith nothing before us to reflect a conflict of interest between any parent and child involved as parties in the litigation, and no proposed settlement agreement currently before the trial court for review, there is no need for a guardian ad litem for the remaining minors at this stage of the proceedings." Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ, directing the trial court to rescind its order of April 4, 2019, appointing the guardian ad litem to represent the remaining minor residents. View "Ex parte CityR Eagle Landing, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division modifying Supreme Court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' amended class action complaint by denying the part of the motion seeking dismissal of the class action claims against Defendants except to the extent those allegations addressed the cause of action for violation of N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law 349, holding that the claims for class relief should not have been dismissed without a judicial determination as to whether the prerequisites of N.Y. C.P.L.R. 902 had been satisfied. Plaintiffs, current and former tenants in buildings within multiple apartment buildings, alleged that individual corporate defendants that owned various buildings at issue were owned or controlled by a single holding company and that Defendants, in an effort to extract additional value from the properties, engaged in improper and illegal conduct" by, among other things, inflating rents above the amounts Defendant were legally permitted to charge. Before an answer was filed, Supreme Court dismissed the complaint, concluding that there was no basis for class relief. The Appellate Division modified Supreme Court's order, concluding that dismissal at this stage was premature. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that dismissal of class claims based on allegations of a methodical attempt to illegally inflate rents was premature. View "Maddicks v Big City Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Nine individual tenants prevailed in a jury trial against former owners of an illegally operated building on claims stemming from uninhabitable conditions in the building. Defendants were owners of a two-family residential building that they rented as 12 separate units. The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that the owners forfeited their argument that plaintiffs failed to introduce evidence of net worth; substantial evidence supported the jury's finding that defendants engaged in conduct warranting punitive damages; the punitive damages were not excessive; sufficient evidence supported the jury's award of noneconomic damages; the trial court acted within its discretion in declining to offset damages with the amounts from prior settlements; and defendants failed to show that the jury's verdict was a result of misconduct or unfair prejudice. View "Garcia v. Myllyla" on Justia Law

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Appellants had been renting their San Francisco home to tenants for eight years when the front porch collapsed, causing injury to a tenant. When the tenants sued, appellants sought defense and indemnification from their insurance provider, respondent State Farm, which denied their claim, because appellants’ homeowners’ insurance policy excluded coverage for injuries arising out of an insured’s business pursuits or the rental of their home. Appellants sued State Farm for breach of contract and bad faith denial of their insurance claim. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of State Farm. The court rejected an argument that coverage should be restored under an exception for activities that are “ordinarily incident to non-business pursuits.” Appellants sought “to fold into a homeowners policy coverage for the commercial risks attendant to renting their home as a for-profit venture. There is a separate policy tailored to those business risks, a rental dwelling policy, that appellants eschewed in favor of a cheaper policy. Appellants’ argument, if accepted, would upend the allocation of risks and costs associated with commercial or personal activities that insurers rely upon to keep homeowners’ premiums lower than that of business enterprises.” View "Terrell v. State Farm General Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Federico Garcia, president of Mama Kio’s, entered into an agreement with Total Merchant Services (TMS) for credit-card financial services for the restaurant. Two months after opening Mama Kio’s, Garcia noticed that the bank deposits through TMS were considerably less than expected. TMS later discovered the cause was an improper code in its software that had failed to collect the tips authorized by the customers. The missing tips totaled approximately $14,000. TMS attempted to remedy the error by running the credit cards again for the uncharged tip amounts. However, the customers were charged not only for the uncollected tips but also for the entire charged amounts. More than three thousand customers’ transactions were double and/or triple billed, resulting in more than $400,000 taken from Mama Kio’s customers’ accounts. Mama Kio’s worked with the credit-card companies for more than a month to repair and mitigate the damages. Mama Kio’s was forced to close its restaurant for lack of customers. LAGB, LLC, a commercial landlord, filed suit against Mama Kio’s for breach of its lease contract and sought damages for rent, insurance, taxes, and capital improvements. LAGB also sued the companies that provided credit-card processing services to Mama Kio’s, alleging that the negligence of the credit-card processing companies caused Mama Kio’s to breach its lease with LAGB. Mama Kio’s filed a cross-claim against the credit-card processing companies, alleging misrepresentations and tortious interference with its business. The credit-card processing companies filed motions compelling LAGB and Mama Kio’s to arbitrate. The trial court granted the motions. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that while the trial court did not err by compelling Mama Kio’s to arbitrate its cross-claims, it did err by compelling LAGB to arbitrate its claims. View "LAGB, LLC v. Total Merchant Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2008, Appellants, Gamesa Energy USA, LLC and Gamesa Technology Corporation, Inc. (Gamesa), entered into a commercial lease agreement (the Lease) to rent 35,000 square feet of office space in Philadelphia (the Premises) from Appellees, Ten Penn Center Associates, L.P. and SAP V Ten Penn Center NF G.P. L.L.C. (collectively Ten Penn Center). In May 2011, following Gamesa’s submission of the information required under Article 20.2 of the Lease, Ten Penn Center approved a request to sublease approximately 15,000 square feet, or forty percent of the Premises, to Viridity Energy, Inc. (Viridity) through August of 2018. In April 2012, Gamesa informed Ten Penn Center it would be moving out of the Premises as part of a corporate consolidation, and would continue to pay its monthly rent and attempt to find a sub-lessee for the open space. Viridity remained in the Premises under the terms of its sublease with Gamesa. Gamesa was twice late with the rent after it moved out, but still paid amounts due. In 2012, Gamesa submitted a request to Ten Penn Center for consent to sublease 5,200 square feet of the Premises to Business Services International, LLC (BSI), a business entity comprised of two foreign corporations formed for the particular purpose of subleasing office space through Gamesa. Ten Penn Center responded on June 26th, informing Gamesa it was in default of the Lease for vacating the Premises and, as a result, Ten Penn Center had no obligation to entertain the request to sublease. Ten Penn Center proposed it would grant consent to the BSI sublease if Gamesa forfeited its remaining tenant improvement allowance. Thereafter, negotiations between the parties stalled, and the proposed sublease with BSI never materialized. In 2013, Gamesa filed a complaint against Ten Penn Center, asserting claims of breach of contract, tortious interference in business relationships, and unjust enrichment. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review of this commercial landlord and tenant dispute to determine whether the Superior Court erred in holding the tenant was limited to damages for breach of contract and could not also recover the rent it paid following the landlord’s breach, despite prevailing on its claims for both remedies at trial. After careful review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the Superior Court. View "Gamesa Energy USA v. Ten Penn Center, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs leased a home from Pineda, who subsequently retained the attorney-defendants to begin eviction proceedings. According to plaintiffs, there was no rent past due. Pineda and the attorney-defendants filed an unlawful detainer action. The evidence indicated that Pineda had excluded rent payments from the rent ledger and had entered into a sales contract with a third party who wanted the building to be delivered vacant. Defendants continued to prosecute the unlawful detainer for two months. Upon dismissing that action, defendants served plaintiffs with a new three-day notice demanding $9,2503 in unpaid rent. The “October notice” attached a revised rent ledger. Plaintiffs sued for wrongful eviction, alleging that defendants violated an ordinance by demanding excessive rent; that defendants violated Civil Code 1950.5(b)(1) by applying plaintiffs’ security deposit to the payment of rent when they were not in default; breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment; and malicious prosecution. The attorney-defendants filed a special motion to strike the claims (anti-SLAPP, Code Civ. Proc. 425.16), arguing the claims arose from protected activities because they were based on the first unlawful detainer action and that plaintiffs could not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits. The court of appeal affirmed denial of the anti-SLAPP motion. The attorney defendants did not satisfy the first prong of the anti-SLAPP statute; the allegation that they misused plaintiffs’ security deposit did not arise out of protected activity. The plaintiffs showed minimal merit on their remaining claims. View "Olivares v. Pineda" on Justia Law