Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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In this summary process eviction action, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the housing court judge's order for use and occupancy payments, holding that a court has statutory and equitable authority to order use and occupancy payments that become due pending trial to be paid into the court, into private escrow accounts, and directly to the landlord. Specifically, the Court held (1) to exercise its authority to order a tenant at sufferance to make interim use and occupancy payments during the pendency of an eviction action the judge, on motion by the landlord, must hold a use and occupancy hearing where the factors and circumstances described in this opinion are considered; and (2) payment into an escrow account maintained by the court or counsel for one of the parties will typically provide adequate protection to the landlord, but a judge may order payments directly to the landlord if certain factors are present. Based on the foregoing, the Court held that the order for use and occupancy payments in this case was deficient in two respects, and the case is remanded for further proceedings. View "Davis v. Comerford" on Justia Law

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Tenants alleged that their former landlord, Lau, violated the owner move-in provisions of the San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance when he instigated eviction procedures against them. Tenants were awarded more than $600,000 in damages. The trial court entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict, finding no substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The court of appeal affirmed. The “good faith,” “without ulterior reason,” and “honest intent” requirements do not trigger a wide-ranging inquiry into the general conduct and motivations of an owner who seeks to recover possession of a unit. These terms serve a specific function: to determine whether the owner harbors a good-faith desire to occupy the apartment as his primary residence on a long-term basis. Lau was under no legal obligation to evict another instead of the Tenants and may not be barred from enjoying the benefits of an apartment he owns and wishes to occupy as his primary residence simply because it had rented more cheaply than another, noncomparable unit in his building. View "Reynolds v. Lau" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court in this landlord-tenant dispute, holding that the parties' rent-to-buy agreement was not a land-sale contract but a rental agreement subject to Indiana's residential landlord-tenant statutes. Plaintiffs and Defendants entered into a purported rent-to-buy contract regarding a house. When Defendants fell behind in their payments, Plaintiffs tried to evict them. The case resulted in a small claims court order allowing Plaintiffs to retake possession. On appeal, Plaintiffs sought damages and attorney's fees, plus costs to clean and re-rent the property. Defendants asserted various counterclaims, including failure to meet landlord obligations under the residential landlord-tenant statutes. The trial court entered judgment for Defendants, concluding, inter alia, that the agreement was unlawful and unenforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the parties' agreement was subject to the protections afforded by the residential landlord-tenant statutes; and (2) Defendants' claim that Plaintiffs violated Indiana's Deceptive Consumer Sales Act was without merit. View "Rainbow Realty Group, Inc. v. Carter" on Justia Law

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Shalalah Saunders (Tenant) sued her landlord Marcella Smothers (Landlord) who left Tenant's hot water heater inoperable for more than a week. Tenant leased a house from Landlord where Tenant lived with her two children, ages three and seven years old. Both Landlord and Tenant were participants in the Oklahoma Housing and Finance Agency (OHFA) program. Landlord admitted that she was subject to the rules and regulations of the OHFA and its programs with respect to the home leased by Tenant. For a hot bath, Tenant boiled water on the kitchen stove. While carrying the water from the kitchen to the tub, Tenant slipped and fell, causing the hot water to spill on her; she received third degree burns and was hospitalized for a month due to her injuries. Tenant alleged that Landlord owed her a duty of care to provide hot water, Landlord breached that duty, and this breach was the proximate cause of her subsequent injuries. Landlord denied owing any such duty to Tenant, asserting that providing running hot water in a leased home was a mere convenience. Landlord argued that because she had no legal duty to provide hot water, Landlord could not be liable to Tenant in negligence. The district court granted Landlord's motion for summary judgment finding that she owed no duty to Tenant to maintain the hot water heater and further that Landlord's failure to repair was a mere condition and not the proximate cause of Tenant's injuries. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the summary judgment on the ground that Landlord owed no duty to Tenant under the circumstances of this case, but the appellate court did not address any other findings made by the district court. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the district court, vacated the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion, and held that Landlord owed a general duty of care to Tenant to "maintain the leased premises, including areas under the tenant's exclusive control or use, in a reasonably safe condition." Under these facts, Landlord's general duty of care to Tenant specifically included maintaining a hot water heater in an operable condition. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held it was a fact question for the jury to decide: (1) whether Landlord breached that duty, and if so, (2) whether the landlord's failure to repair was the proximate cause of Tenant's accident and subsequent injuries. View "Saunders v. Smothers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the new owners of the building in which they rented an apartment, alleging that the purported reason for their eviction was a pretext for the true motivation of increasing the rental value of the unit. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs and the owners appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the litigation privilege did not bar this action. The court rejected the owners' challenge to the relative move-in provisions of the Rent Ordinance as unconstitutionally vague, and held that there was substantial evidence demonstrating that the owners violated the Rent Ordinance. Finally, the court affirmed the damages award, rejecting the owners' claims that the award was not supported by substantial evidence and violated their substantive due process rights. View "DeLisi v. Lam" on Justia Law

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In 2010, a nine-month-old infant, J.H., suffered permanent scarring when he was burned by an uncovered, free-standing cast iron loop radiator in an apartment owned and managed by defendants R&M Tagliareni, LLC, and Robert & Maria Tagliareni, II, LLC. J.H.’s father placed J.H. in a twin bed to sleep with his ten-year-old stepsister. The bed did not have rails and was adjacent to a steam-heated radiator that did not have a cover. The next morning, J.H. was discovered lying on the floor with his head pressed against the hot radiator. As a result of the seriousness of J.H.’s injuries, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office launched a child abuse investigation. Detectives spoke with the building’s superintendent, who explained that while the individual apartments were not equipped with thermostat controls, the radiators in each room of the apartments could be shut off by the tenants through valves located at the base of each radiator unit. J.H. and his guardian ad litem filed suit, alleging defendants’ negligence was the cause of J.H.’s injuries. The New Jersey Supreme Court was unpersuaded that N.J.A.C. 5:10-14.3(d) imposed any regulatory duty on landlords to cover in-unit radiators with insulating material or a cover. The Court also found the tenants in this case maintained exclusive control over the heat emanating from the radiator, therefore, the Court declined to impose on landlords a new common law duty to cover all in-unit radiators. View "J.H. v. RM Tagliareni" on Justia Law

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Trinity Property Consultants, LLC ("Trinity Property"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals holding that Trinity Property failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that Brittony Mays had been properly served in an eviction and unlawful-detainer action filed by Trinity Property pursuant to the Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, section 35- 9A-101 et seq., Ala. Code 1975. In 2018, the District Court entered a default judgment against Mays in the eviction and unlawful-detainer action filed by Trinity Property. Mays moved the district court, pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4), Ala. R. Civ. P., to set aside the default judgment on the basis that she had not been served with the complaint in the action; that motion was denied. Mays appealed the denial of the Rule 60(b)(4) motion to the Shelby Circuit Court; that court dismissed her appeal as untimely filed. Mays moved the circuit court, pursuant to Rule 59(e), Ala. R. Civ. P., to reinstate the appeal and to stay the execution of the default judgment. Trinity Property responded with an affidavit from the process server, who averred in relevant part he posted and mailed the summons and complaint when he did not receive a response from knocking on Mays’ front door. Mays's position was that merely knocking on the door, without more, was not a "reasonable effort" at personal service. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the process server’s effort at obtaining personal service was reasonable, the alternative method of service satisfied the requirements of due process. The Court reversed judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Trinity Property Consultants, LLC." on Justia Law

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The trial court found that the parties to this landlord-tenant dispute had an oral rental agreement. Plaintiff-landlord was awarded plaintiff landlord back rent and reimbursement for electric bills. The court granted one tenant damages to compensate him for work he performed on landlord’s properties and another tenant compensatory and punitive damages for breach of the implied warranty of habitability and illegal eviction. Landlord appealed, arguing the trial court erred by: (1) finding there was an oral rental agreement between the parties and that defendants were tenants; (2) awarding rent for only a portion of the period tenants occupied the property; (3) awarding tenant Edson damages because the claim was not properly pled; and (4) awarding tenant Well punitive damages. Tenants cross appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in finding there was an agreement to pay rent once the building was compliant with the housing code and erred in awarding landlord back rent based on a theory of unjust enrichment. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the evidence supported the trial court’s finding that the parties entered an oral agreement allowing tenants to stay in landlord’s apartment rent-free for some portion of time. The record did not support the court’s findings as to the terms of that agreement: that tenants agreed to pay rent after the building became compliant with the housing code and that the building did not become code-compliant until the third week of November 2016. Consequently, the award of back rent and reimbursement for electrical costs to landlord was stricken, and that issue remanded back to the trial court to make new findings regarding the nature of the parties’ agreement and to enter any revised judgment if supported by the facts. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s award of damages to tenant Edson for the work he performed for landlord, concluding that the issue was tried by implied consent. Finally, the Supreme Court concluded an award of punitive damages was allowable as damages for breach of the warranty of habitability and affirmed the award of punitive damages to tenant Well. View "Kwon v. Edson" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss this action brought by a former tenant of a public market in Baltimore City, holding that the tenant was not a "displaced person" as that term is defined in Md. Code Ann. Real Prop. (RP) 12-201(e)(1)(i), and therefore, the tenant was not wrongfully denied moving and relocation expenses and there was no unconstitutional taking. After a rental agent for the public market advised the tenant that its business did not fit in the redevelopment plans for the market and that it should pursue other options, the tenant vacated the market. The tenant sued seeking compensation for moving and relocation expenses as a displaced person and for an unconstitutional taking. The trial court dismissed the action, concluding that the tenant did not qualify as a "displaced person" because the exemption in RP 12-201(e)(2)(iii) applied. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the tenant was both not a displaced person under RP 12-201(e)(1)(i) and exempt from qualifying as a displaced person under RP 12-201(e)(2)(iii). View "Wireless One, Inc. v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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Landlords challenged a Hammond ordinance that they either obtain a city license or hire licensed contractors to perform repairs and renovations to their properties. Obtaining a license involves a test, payment of a fee, and a criminal background check. The ordinance does not apply to individual homeowners working on the properties in which they reside. On summary judgment, the district court rejected their argument that the ordinance impermissibly burdens owners who do not reside in Hammond. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The ordinance does not discriminate against non-residents and is supported by a rational basis. The court noted the significant differences between resident owners and landlords and the city’s interests in safety and the habitability of dwellings. View "Regan v. City of Hammond" on Justia Law