Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff, cross-defendant, and appellant Tufeld Corporation (Tufeld) is the landlord. Defendant, cross-complainant, and cross-appellant Beverly Hills Gateway L.P. (BHG) is the tenant. The subject lease, as amended, has a term greater than 99 years. This contravenes Civil Code section 718,1, which provides in the relevant part: “No lease or grant of any town or city lot, which reserves any rent or service of any kind, and which provides for a leasing or granting period in excess of 99 years, shall be valid.” The main issue on appeal is whether a lease that violates section 718 is void or voidable.   The Second Appellate District affirmed in part and reversed in part and the matter is remanded for the trial court to consider whether to grant BHG prejudgment interest on restitution. The court held that the part of the lease exceeding 99 years is void. The court reasoned that here contrary to BHG’s assertion, section 718 does not only protect tenants; it protects landlords too. Moreover, the legislative purpose of section 718 serves to promote a public benefit. The private benefit exception does not apply to section 718. View "Tufeld Corp. v. Beverly Hills Gateway, L.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted a writ of mandamus sought by real parties in interest (the Paus) in this action brought against Relators (collectively, Auburn Creek) seeking $33 million in damages allegedly caused by carbon-monoxide exposure in a dwelling the Paus leased from Auburn Creek, holding that the trial court clearly abused its discretion in denying Auburn Creek's motion to compel.Auburn Creek filed a motion to compel a neuropsychological exam for each of the Pau family members. The trial court denied the motion with prejudice on the grounds that the scope of the exams was not sufficiently circumscribed and subsequently denied Auburn Creek's request for mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by concluding that Auburn Creek had not shown good cause for the exams. View "In re Auburn Creek Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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The 1985 “Manning Lease” granted the lessee rights to oil and gas on an approximately 100-acre tract of land in Bowling Green that is adjacent to a quarry. There is a long-expired one-year term, followed by a second term that conditions the maintenance of the leasehold interest on the production of oil or gas by the lessee. Bluegrass now owns the property. Believing that lessees were producing an insufficient quantity of oil to justify maintaining the lease, Bluegrass purported to terminate the lease and sought a declaration that the lease had terminated by its own terms while asserting several other related claims.The district court found that Bluegrass’s termination of the lease was improper and granted the lessees summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. There is a factual dispute regarding whether the lease terminated by its own terms. The trier of fact must determine if the lessee has produced oil in paying quantities after considering all the evidence. There is a material factual dispute about whether the lessee ceased producing oil for a period of time, and, if so, whether that period of time was unreasonable. View "Bluegrass Materials Co., LLC v. Freeman" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Pacific Grove authorized “transient use of residential property for remuneration,” subject to licensing. One-year “STR” Licenses were subject to revocation for cause. In 2016, the city capped the number of short-term rental licenses citywide at 250 and established a density cap of “15 [percent] per block.” In 2017, the city prohibited more than one license per parcel and required a 55-foot buffer zone between licensed properties. The changes provided that a license could be withdrawn, suspended, or revoked for any reason and that renewal was not guaranteed. The city resolved to “sunset” certain licenses using a random lottery. In 2018, Pacific Grove voters approved Measure M, to prohibit and phase out, over an 18-month sunset period, all existing short-term rentals in residential districts, except in the “Coastal Zone,” as defined by the California Coastal Act. Measure M did not restrict short-term rentals in nonresidential districts or otherwise modify existing rules.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of a suit by licensees. The Plaintiffs’ economic interest in renting their homes for transient visitors was not an entitlement subject to state or federal constitutional protection. The curtailment of short-term rental licenses is related to legitimate state interests. View "Hobbs v. City of Pacific Grove" on Justia Law

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Ramirez, a self-employed contractor, was hired by a shopping center’s tenant to remove an exterior sign after the tenant vacated its space. While searching for the sign’s electrical box, he entered a cupola on the shopping center’s roof and fell through an opening built into the cupola’s floor, sustaining serious injuries. In a suit against Kimco, which owns and operates the shopping center, the trial court granted Kimco summary judgment based on the Privette doctrine, which creates “a strong presumption under California law that a hirer of an independent contractor delegates to the contractor all responsibility for workplace safety[,] . . . mean[ing] that a hirer is typically not liable for injuries sustained by an independent contractor or its workers while on the job.”The court of appeal reversed and remanded. Kimco did not hire its tenant or Ramirez to perform the work. Kimco did not delegate its own responsibility for the roof’s condition to Ramirez through an employment relationship, as contemplated by Privette. Nor did Kimco delegate such responsibility by virtue of its landlord-tenant relationship. The court acknowledged “the strong possibility that Kimco will prevail under general principles of premises liability. “ View "Ramirez v. PK I Plaza 580 SC LP" on Justia Law

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In 2016 in the Lee County Justice Court, Julio Gordon obtained an eviction order and a money judgment for back rent against his tenant Christy Dickerson. Dickerson appealed to the County Court in September 2016, providing notice to Gordon under Uniform Civil Rule of Circuit and County Court Practice 5.04. In May 2018, the county clerk sent Dickerson a notice of intent to dismiss the case as stale. In response, Dickerson filed an “Appellant’s Counterclaims” in June 2018, with a certificate of service indicating that a copy of the counterclaims had been sent to Gordon’s mailing address. Gordon filed no response, and Dickerson applied for and received an entry of default in January 2019. Dickerson then moved for default judgment and a determination of compensatory and punitive damages. The county court held a hearing on the motion. Both parties appeared at the hearing; Dickerson was represented by counsel, and Gordon appeared pro se. The county court found that Gordon had been served properly with the counterclaims in accordance with Rule 5 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, that Rule 4 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure was inapplicable, and that Gordon had forfeited his right to challenge liability by failing to answer the counterclaims. The county court held a trial to determine if punitive damages should be awarded, after which the county court awarded Dickerson $10,800 in compensatory damages and $39,200 in punitive damages. Gordon, through counsel, timely moved to set aside the default judgment under Rule 60(b) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, or, alternatively, for a new trial, along with a requested stay of judgment pending the post-trial motions. Pertinent here, Gordon argued Dickerson did not comply with Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 13(k)’s requirement that counterclaims be filed within thirty days after the perfection of her appeal from justice court. And she had not been granted leave of the court to file her counterclaims as required by Rule 15. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the rule was misinterpreted and misapplied to the exclusion of Civil Procedure Rule 15(a), and that the county court erred by not setting aside the default judgment against Gordon. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision, reversed the circuit court, vacated the judgment of default, and remanded this case to the county court for further proceedings on the merits. View "Gordon v. Dickerson" on Justia Law

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This appeal and cross-appeal involved a residential lease agreement with an option to purchase executed by Tony Hiett, Sr., and his wife Kelly Hiett ("the tenants") and Beverlye Brady ("the landlord"). According to the tenants, they accepted the first option to purchase the property presented in the landlord's email and began making monthly holdover rental payments of $2,500. And, in April 2017, they informed the landlord that they had obtained financing and were ready to close on the property by April 30, 2017. The landlord, however, refused to convey title to the property because, she claimed, the tenants had never responded to her email; thus, according to the landlord, the option to purchase had expired. The tenants thereafter stopped paying rent under the lease agreement, but continued to occupy the property, and sued the landlord, seeking specific performance of the option to purchase. The landlord counterclaimed, asserting a claim for ejectment and a claim of breach of contract, based on unpaid rent and late fees owed under the lease agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgment entered on the jury's verdict in favor of the tenants on their specific-performance claim and against the landlord on her ejectment claim. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment entered on the jury's verdict in favor of the landlord on her breach-of-contract claim based on the inadequacy of damages awarded, and the Court remanded the case with directions to the trial court to grant a new trial as to only that claim, unless the tenants consented to an additur. View "Hiett v. Brady" on Justia Law

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In November 2019, Landlords served Tenants with a 120-Day Notice of Termination of Tenancy and half of the relocation assistance due under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. Both Tenants then claimed disability status; Landlord provided one-half of the additional relocation assistance payment for disabled tenants. Landlords filed a Notice of Intent to Withdraw Residential Units from the Rental Market with the Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board and served Tenants with Notice to Tenant of Filing of Notice of Intent to Withdraw Residential Units from the Rental Market. Tenants exercised their right under the Act to a one-year extension of the withdrawal date based on their claimed disabilities; they did not vacate the premises by November 15, 2020. Landlords filed an unlawful detainer suit, Ellis Act, Gov. Code 7060. Tenants argued that the termination notice was defective in quoting a superseded version of the ordinance as the ground for eviction and therefore not properly advising them concerning relocation assistance payments.The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of Tenants, rejecting arguments that the Act preempts the ordinance, that Tenants cannot assert a defense under the Act for purported failure to comply with the ordinance, that the trial court improperly found that the notice of termination had to strictly comply with the ordinance, and that Landlords should be allowed to amend their complaint to state a claim for ejectment. View "2710 Sutter Ventures, LLC v. Millis" on Justia Law

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Northfield issued a policy to insure an apartment complex. The coverage excludes liability for violations of the insured’s duty to maintain habitable premises; this exclusion also encompasses coverage for “any claim or ‘suit’ ” that also alleges habitability claims. Tenants sued the insured, alleging multiple habitability claims and other causes of action that were arguably not based on habitability. Northfield declined to defend the tenants’ lawsuit. After settling the underlying action, the insured sued Northfield for breach of its duty to defend. The trial court concluded the case presented a “mixed” action containing both potentially covered and uncovered claims, and that Northfield was obliged to provide a defense.The court of appeal reversed. The policy exclusion is plain and clear. The court rejected arguments that claims for retaliation, conversion, and trespass to chattels did not arise from the duty to provide habitable premises. The retaliation concerned complaints about habitable conditions and the claims are alleged in a suit that also alleges habitability claims. View "24th & Hoffman Investors, LLC v. Northfield Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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This appeal and cross-appeal involved a residential lease agreement with an option to purchase executed by Tony Hiett, Sr., and his wife Kelly ("the tenants") and Beverlye Brady ("the landlord"). The landlord leased to the tenants a house ("the property") located in Auburn for a term of five years, beginning September 1, 2011, and ending August 31, 2016, for $2,000 per month. By letter dated August 29, 2016, the tenants informed the landlord that they were exercising their option to purchase the property. According to the tenants, they accepted the first option to purchase the property presented in an email from the landlord and began making monthly holdover rental payments of $2,500. In April 2017, they informed the landlord that they had obtained financing and were ready to close on the property by April 30, 2017. The landlord, however, refused to convey title to the property because, she claimed, the tenants had never responded to her email; thus, according to the landlord, the option to purchase had expired. The tenants thereafter stopped paying rent under the lease agreement, but continued to occupy the property, and sued the landlord, seeking specific performance of the option to purchase. The landlord counterclaimed, asserting a claim for ejectment and a claim of breach of contract, based on unpaid rent and late fees owed under the lease agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed judgment on a jury’s verdict in favor of the tenants on their specific performance claim, and against the landlord on her ejectment claim. The Supreme Court reversed judgment entered on the jury’s verdict in favor of the landlord on her breach-of-contract claim based on the inadequacy of damages awarded, and the Court remanded the case with directions to the trial court to grant a new trial only as to that claim unless the tenants consented to an additur. View "Brady v. Hiett" on Justia Law