Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Joliet condemned a housing complex managed by New West and paid $15 million. HUD rent subsidies for low-income tenants provided almost all of the money for operating the development. A $2.7 million fund had been established by New West and HUD, to cover necessary maintenance and repairs in the event of a default by New West. HUD refused to release that account to New West, contending that it now holds the account to cover Joliet’s obligations.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of New West’s suit to recover the account. New West cannot establish conversion of the fund without first establishing ownership. HUD’s lien on the fund does not establish ownership of the fund and New West has not established its ownership by showing that it treated deposits into the fund as taxable income. View "New West, L.P. v. Fudge" on Justia Law

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Paradigm Investment Group, LLC, and HR IV, LLC ("the tenants"), entered into a written lease agreement, which was ultimately assigned to Dewey Brazelton ("the landlord"). The lease obligated the tenants to make rental payments to the landlord from the operation of a fast-food franchise on the leased premises. When the tenants failed to remit rental payments, the landlord sued the tenants for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the landlord, finding that the tenants had breached the lease agreement and were obligated to pay the landlord $113,869.44. The tenants appealed, arguing the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of the landlord because they abandoned the leased premises; the lease agreement does not address abandonment; and, therefore, as a matter of law, common-law principles of abandonment, rather than the terms of lease, govern the landlord's available remedies. The tenants assert that, had the trial court correctly applied common-law principles of abandonment, it would not have awarded contract damages under the lease. Finding summary judgment was properly granted in favor of the landlord, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Paradigm Investment Group, LLC and HR IV, LLC v. Brazelton" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review was whether a landlord who had no knowledge that a tenant’s dog had dangerous propensities could be held liable for injuries the dog causes to individuals who enter the property with tenant’s permission. Plaintiff Katherine Higgins, who was badly injured by a tenant’s dog while on the leased property, challenged the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant landlords. When he was showing the house on landlords’ behalf after tenant moved in, a realtor who was representing landlords in marketing the property observed obvious signs around the house that a dog lived there, including door casings that were badly scratched by the dog. The realtor did not see the dog and did not know its size or breed or whether it had ever acted aggressively towards any person or other animal; based on the sound of the dog, he opined that it was “tough and loud.” Plaintiff, a neighbor, was attacked and seriously injured by tenant’s dog, an American Pitbull Terrier, while visiting tenant on the rental property. On appeal, plaintiff renews her argument that landlords have a general duty of care to the public, and that this duty includes a duty of reasonable inquiry concerning tenants’ domestic animals. In addition, she argues that landlords were on notice of the dog’s dangerous propensities on the basis of the observations made by realtor, acting as landlords’ agent. Finally, she contends that landlords are liable to plaintiff on the basis of a municipal ordinance. Finding no reversible error in granting summary judgment to the landlords, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Higgins v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Robert St. Onge appealed a circuit court order dismissing his claim brought under RSA chapter 540-A against defendant Oberten, LLC, on the ground that the sober living facility it operated, and in which the plaintiff lived, was a “group home” under RSA 540:1-a, IV(c) and, therefore, exempt from RSA chapter 540-A.Plaintiff was one of 12 residents at defendant’s Manchester, New Hampshire location. All program participants agreed to certain rules for living at the home. The contract plaintiff signed explicitly provided that it was not a lease and that “residents of Live Free Structured Sober Living have no tenant rights.” Despite being aware of, and agreeing to, the home's rules, plaintiff violated them and, as a result, was discharged from the program and required to vacate the sober living facility. He subsequently filed a petition alleging defendant violated RSA chapter 540-A by using “self-help” to evict him. Defendant moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that because its facility was a “group home,” it was not a “landlord” required to bring an eviction proceeding under RSA chapter 540, and plaintiff was not a “tenant” entitled to the protections of RSA chapter 540-A. The trial court agreed with defendant. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "St. Onge v. Oberten, LLC" on Justia Law

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Duncan moved into a San Francisco apartment in 1994. Duncan’s wife moved into the unit in 2010, and they lived together with their daughter. Duncan never missed a rent payment and was never late with his rent. Duncan’s unit was subject to San Francisco’s rent-control ordinance. During his tenancy, the maximum that stabilized rent could be increased was a total of 31 percent, whereas the market rent for a two-bedroom unit in San Francisco increased by 254 percent. In 2014, the building was sold. For the next 14 months, until Duncan was forced to rent a new apartment, the landlords took away various benefits, ignored or delayed responding to maintenance issues, were uncommunicative, and became increasingly hostile in imposing new rules. Duncan contacted the building department. Violations were noted. At different times, the water and power were turned off for nonpayment. Duncan and other residents formed a tenants union.Duncan filed a notice with the Rent Board. The next day, Duncan was served with a 60-day notice of termination of tenancy as an owner move-in. Duncan filed suit under San Francisco’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance. The city also sued the landlords. Jurors found that the landlords engaged in a wrongful eviction and tenant harassment. After damages were trebled, Duncan's recovery was $2.7 million. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting challenges to evidentiary rulings and the sufficiency of the evidence. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of the landlords’ conduct at other properties. View "Duncan v. Kihagi" on Justia Law

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Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, Los Angeles imposed an eviction moratorium during a “Local Emergency Period” with the stated purposes of ensuring housing security and promoting public health during the pandemic. Related provisions delay applicable tenants’ rent payment obligations and prohibit landlords from charging late fees and interest. A trade association of Los Angeles landlords, sued, alleging violations of the Constitution’s Contracts Clause.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of the plaintiff’s request for preliminary injunctive relief, noting that other courts, including the Supreme Court, have recently considered various constitutional and statutory challenges to COVID-19 eviction moratoria. Under modern Contracts Clause doctrine, even if the eviction moratorium was a substantial impairment of contractual relations, the moratorium’s provisions were likely “reasonable” and “appropriate” given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city fairly tied the moratorium to its stated goals. The court noted that contemporary Supreme Court case law has severely limited the Contracts Clause’s potency. View "Apartment Association of Los Angeles County, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles." on Justia Law

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Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District supplies water to about 300 households, including the public housing tenants of a Pinal County complex. Property owners like Pinal County are responsible for paying any past tenant’s delinquent water accounts. Pinal County acknowledged that responsibility but consistently refused to pay, contending it was immune to that policy based on its status as a public municipality. In response, the District imposed a new policy that increased to $180 the refundable security deposit required of new public housing customers before the District would provide water services. New non-public housing customers were subject to a $55 deposit.The Ninth Circuit rejected a challenge to the policy under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. 3604 and 3617, which bars discriminatory housing policies and practices, including those that cause a disparate impact according to certain protected characteristics or traits—race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. Although the District’s public housing customers are disproportionately African American, Native American, and single mothers, the District established by undisputed evidence that the policy served in a significant way its legitimate business interests; the plaintiffs failed to establish a triable issue of fact that there existed an equally effective, but less discriminatory, alternative. There was insufficient evidence that discriminatory animus was a motivating factor behind the District’s decision to implement its policy. View "Southwest Fair Housing Council, Inc. v. Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District" on Justia Law

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An individual bought a condominium, which she consistently rented for short terms. Sixteen years after her purchase, the owner’s association amended its governing documents to prohibit renting properties for less than 30 days. The Court of Appeal agreed with the owner that she was exempt from this prohibition under Civil Code section 4740 (a), which provided that an owner of a property in a common interest development “shall not be subject to a provision in a governing document or an amendment to a governing document that prohibits the rental or leasing of” the owner’s property unless that document or amendment “was effective prior to the date the owner acquired title” to the property. The trial court held that she was not exempt, so judgment was reversed. View "Brown v. Montage at Mission Hills, Inc." on Justia Law

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Edwin Schulz appealed a judgment following a bench trial on the damages to his barn, pole barn and shed. Schulz sued Adam Helmers for negligence and breach of contract following a fire that destroyed the barn, pole barn and shed. At the time of the fire, Schulz was leasing the farmstead to Helmers, including the three buildings. He argued the district court applied the wrong measure of damages in his breach of contract claim against Helmers. The district court concluded N.D.C.C. 32-03-09.1 applied to the breach of contract claim, which provided the measure of damages for an injury to property not arising from contract was the diminution of value. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with the district court's finding and affirmed the judgment. View "Schulz v. Helmers" on Justia Law

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Hom rented a San Francisco building to Entertainment for a restaurant. The lease allowed Entertainment to encumber its leasehold in favor of its lenders. A lender with an encumbrance could do anything required of Entertainment under the lease, foreclose on the leasehold, receive copies of notices, cure any breach by Entertainment, and enter into a new lease following any default by Entertainment; the parties were not allowed to modify or cancel the lease without the lender's consent. The lease stated that the prevailing party in any dispute is entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees. Entertainment later signed promissory notes with Lenders and pledged all of its assets as security. A dispute arose between Entertainment and Hom that resulted in litigation. Entertainment sued for breach of contract. Hom’s cross-complaint alleged that Lenders interfered with Hom’s ability to collect rent and evict Entertainment, that the loans were a sham.The court enforced a settlement between Hom and Entertainment, dismissing the cross-complaint with prejudice. Lenders sought attorney’s fees based on the lease. The court of appeal affirmed the award of approximately $150,000 in fees. Because the lease goes into such detail regarding lenders’ rights, it was reasonably foreseeable that disputes involving lenders would arise over those rights. It is natural to conclude that the landlord and tenant intended to give lenders the same rights to attorney’s fees as the direct parties. View "Hom v. Petrou" on Justia Law