Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs-landlords Richard and Janice Horton appealed a circuit court order dismissing their petition to evict defendants-tenants David Clemens and April Hanks, for nonpayment of rent on the ground that the eviction notice failed to comply with RSA 540:5, II because it did not contain the same information as was provided on the judicial branch form eviction notice. It was undisputed the language on the eviction notice at issue here was legally insufficient. According to the landlords, the information in the quoted paragraph “is outside the scope of any language necessitated by law and beyond the scope of the Circuit Court’s authority to create forms that comply with existing law.” The landlords asserted the missing quoted paragraph “essentially functions to provide tenants with unsolicited legal advice,” and “disrupts the careful statutory balance and the self-help provisions of RSA [chapter] 540 by informing the tenants that they are under no obligation to vacate the premises.” Alternatively, the landlords contend that even if the information from the quoted paragraph is required, dismissal of the eviction proceeding is not the proper remedy for their failure to include it in the eviction notice. The New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed with the landlords' interpretation of the statute, and affirmed the circuit court. View "Horton v. Clemens" on Justia Law

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Defendants-tenants John and Rosa Castro (the tenants) leased a residential property from plaintiff-landlord Fred Graylee. The landlord brought an unlawful detainer action against the tenants, alleging they owed him $27,100 in unpaid rent. The day of trial, the parties entered into a stipulated judgment in which the tenants agreed to vacate the property by a certain date and time. If they failed to do so, the landlord would be entitled to enter a $28,970 judgment against them. The tenants missed their move-out deadline by a few hours and the landlord filed a motion seeking entry of judgment. The trial court granted the motion and entered a $28,970 judgment against the tenants under the terms of the stipulation. The tenants appealed, arguing the judgment constituted an unenforceable penalty because it bore no reasonable relationship to the range of actual damages the parties could have anticipated would flow from a breach of the stipulation. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Graylee v. Castro" on Justia Law

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The Bachner Company leased office space to the State of Alaska. The lease stipulated that the State would occupy 15,730 square feet of space but would not have to pay rent on 1,400 square feet of that space during the lease’s initial ten-year term. The lease further specified that if it was extended beyond the initial term the parties would negotiate a rate for the free space and the State would pay for it. Toward the end of the initial term the State exercised its first renewal option and opened negotiations with the company over the free space’s value. The parties retained an expert to value the space, but the State questioned his methods and conclusions. The State also resisted the company’s claim that the State should begin paying rent for additional space, not identified in the lease, that the company contended the State had been occupying. The parties failed to reach agreement, and the State did not pay rent for any of the extra square footage. Eventually the State executed a unilateral amendment to the lease based on the expert’s valuation and, ten months after the end of the lease’s initial term, paid all past-due rent for the formerly free space identified in the lease. The company filed a claim with the Department of Administration, contending that the State had materially breached the lease, the lease was terminated, and the State owed additional rent. A contracting officer rejected the claim, and on appeal an administrative law judge found there was no material breach, the lease had been properly extended, and the company had waived any claim regarding space not identified in the lease. The Commissioner of the Department of Administration adopted the administrative law judge’s findings and conclusions. The superior court affirmed the Commissioner’s decision except with regard to the space not identified in the lease; it directed the company to pursue any such claim in a separate action. Both parties appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the administrative law judge's findings were supported by substantial evidence, and because the lease did not terminate under the Supreme Court's interpretation of it, the Court affirmed the Commissioner's decision except with regard to the company's claim to rent for space not identified in the lease. The Court concluded that, to the extent it sought rent after the end of the initial term, it was not waived by the document on which the administrative law judge relied to find waiver. Only that issue was remanded to the Commissioner for further consideration. View "Bachner Company, Inc. v. Alaska Department of Administration" on Justia Law

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In this case brought by a tenant against her landlord and a neighboring tenant alleging breach of the lease's no-pets provision the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing the case, holding that the landlord's accommodation of an emotional support dog was not reasonable.Plaintiff moved into an apartment building because of its no-pets policy. Afterwards, another tenant requested a reasonable accommodation to have his emotion support animal (ESA), a dog, with him on the apartment premises. The landlord allowed the ESA and tried to accommodate the two tenants, but Plaintiff still suffered from allergic attacks. Plaintiff sued, alleging breach of the lease and interference with the quiet enjoyment of her apartment. The landlord asserted in its defense that its waiver of the no-pets policy was a reasonable accommodation that it was required to grant under the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). The small claims court concluded that the landlord's accommodations were reasonable. The district court dismissed the case. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the landlord's accommodation of the ESA was not reasonable because Plaintiff had priority in time and the dog's presence posed a direct threat to her health; and (2) Plaintiff was entitled to recover on her claims. View "Cohen v. Clark" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Judicial Court held that Tenant was not entitled to personal injury damages based on Landlord's failure keep the driveway reasonably free of snow and ice.Tenant was severely injured when he slipped and fell on ice in the driveway adjacent to the premises he rented. A jury found Landlords negligent for failing to exercise reasonable care in keeping the driveway free of ice. However, the jury rendered a verdict of no liability, finding that Tenant was comparatively negligent and more responsible for the injury than Landlords. Based on the jury's finding, the judge found Landlords not liable on Tenant's additional claims alleging breach of the common-law implied warranty of habitability and violation of the statutory covenant of quiet enjoyment. Tenant appealed, arguing that he should recover personal injury damages on his remaining claims because the jury found Landlords negligent. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) a tenant may not be awarded personal injury damagers on a claim for breach of the implied warranty of habitability arising from a landlord's failure to keep common areas reasonably free of snow and ice; and (2) in this case, Tenant may not recover personal injury damages under the statutory covenant of quiet enjoyment. View "Goreham v. Martins" on Justia Law

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In this ejectment action, the Supreme Court granted Appellant's motion for in forma pauperis (IFP) status on appeal, vacated the Intermediate Court of Appeals' (ICA) order dismissing appeal, and remanded this case to the ICA for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, holding that the ICA abused its discretion in ordering Appellant to file IFP motions in the district court, in denying Appellant's second IFP motion based on Haw. Rev. Stat. 607-3 and Haw. R. App. P. 24, and then in dismissing her appeal.Appellant, a self-represented defendant in a residential ejectment case, appealed a judgment and writ of possession filed by the district court. Appellant filed two motions to proceed IFP. The ICA denied both motions and ordered Appellant either to file an IFP motion in the district court within ten days or pay the filing fees in full. When Appellant did neither, the ICA dismissed Appellant's appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that when courts have discretion in applying court rules or statutes, they must consider the access to justice principle of reducing barriers to the civil justice system for self-represented litigants. View "Estate Administrative Services LLC v. Mohulamu" on Justia Law

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Landlord's 131,000-square-foot San Francisco building has been leased to Saks for a department store since 1991. The initial 25-year lease period is followed by options to renew at “ ‘Fair Market Rent.” If the parties are unable to agree to the rent amount, they are to submit the issue to arbitration. Saks exercised its option to renew the Lease. The parties were unable to agree on rent and selected arbitrator Kleczewski. Kleczewski reviewed the evidence and briefs. Landlords’s rent determination was $13,917,364; Saks’ determination was $6,250,000. Kleczewski’s own fair market rent determination was approximately $10.9 million. Pursuant to the principles of “baseball” arbitration, he ruled the annual rent would be $13,917,364.The trial court vacated the award, finding that the parties carefully defined the scope of the arbitrator’s authority but Kleczewski violated that agreement by visiting New York properties that influenced his decision. The parties participated in a second arbitration hearing before a different arbitrator who found in favor of Saks. The trial court confirmed the award. The court of appeal affirmed. Code of Civil Procedure section 1286.25 provides that courts “shall vacate” awards that are the product of procedural irregularities. The parties were clear from the outset that Kleczewski was not authorized to perform his own due diligence. View "California Union Square L.P. v. Saks & Co. LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that B.E.B. Properties reserved the right to receive future rental payments for leased land underneath a cell tower when it conveyed the property, holding that the deed did not contain such a reservation.B.E.B. Properties leased a portion of commercial property it owned to a cellular telephone company, and a cellular tower was erected on the site. B.E.B. subsequently sold the property to Keith Baker and Joseph Cyvas. Thereafter, two of the general partners in B.E.B. sold their interests in the partnership to Bruce and Sheila Bird, who believed this transaction included the assignment of the right to receive rental payments for the tower. When LRC Realty, Inc. acquired the property it sought a declaratory judgment that it was entitled to the annual rental payments. The trial court granted summary judgment for LRC Realty. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Birds were entitled to rental payments based on the language contained in the deed transferring the property from B.E.B. to Baker and Cyvas. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) absent a reservation in the deed conveying the property, the right to receive rents runs with the land; and (2) the deed here did not create such a reservation. View "LRC Realty, Inc. v. B.E.B. Properties" on Justia Law

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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