Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the determination that time of entry into a lot rental agreement does not render the renters dissimilar under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 32L(2), holding that the requirement that renters pay ninety-six dollars per month in additional rent for essentially the same lots was a violation of the statute.Defendants, the new owners of a manufactured home community, charged those who had rented their lots after Defendants purchased the community ninety-six dollars per month more for lot rent than those who had rented their lots before the change in ownership, despite the lots being essentially the same. A group of people brought suit, and a class was certified. A housing court judge determined that Defendants violated section 32L(2). The Supreme Court affirmed but reversed and remanded the case for reconsideration of a different judge's class certification decisions, holding that the judge erred in requiring class members to opt in. The Court further held that the judge who conducted a trial on damages considered improper factors, and therefore, the subclassifications for damages calculations also required reconsideration. View "Blake v. Hometown America Communities, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, the lessee under a lease for commercial premises, filed suit against defendants, alleging causes of action for premises liability and negligence after he fell down a staircase after hitting his head on a beam in the doorway at the top of the staircase. Plaintiff alleged that his fall was caused by the inherently dangerous condition of the staircase due to numerous building code violations.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the exculpatory clause in the lease. In this case, plaintiff alleges ordinary, passive negligence -- the failure to discover a dangerous condition or to perform a duty imposed by law. The court held that the exculpatory clause shields the lessor from liability for ordinary negligence; its language is clear that the lesser shall not be liable for injury to the person of lessee; and these circumstances make this a case where, when the parties knowingly bargain for the protection at issue, the protection should be afforded. View "Garcia v. D/AQ Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the summary judgment entered by the superior court ejecting Defendant from real property pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 6701-7053, holding that the trial court properly entered judgment for Plaintiffs, the property owners.Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking to eject Defendant from the property and obtain a writ of possession. The trial court granted Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment for their claim of ejectment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) correctly interpreted Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 6961 and the legal framework governing real actions for ejectment; (2) did not err in entering partial summary judgment for Plaintiffs granting them a writ of possession; and (3) did not err in concluding that its judgment rendered Defendant's counterclaim for declaratory judgment moot. View "Ogden v. Labonville" on Justia Law

by
Under the Santa Cruz Mobilehome Ordinance, a park owner may make an annual general rent adjustment without notice to the county, based on specified criteria. An owner who believes the annual adjustment does not provide for “a just and reasonable return” may petition for a special rent increase. Pinto, a 177-space mobile home park, filed a special petition seeking to increase rents by 47 percent. Notice was provided to the residents, who hired counsel and submitted objections. A hearing officer denied the proposed increase. Pinto filed a petition for administrative mandamus and complaint for declarative relief naming the county and the hearing officer as respondents. The county argued that Pinto failed to join the mobile home park residents as indispensable parties under Code of Civil Procedure section 389. Instead of amending its complaint/petition, Pinto elected to stand on the original pleadings. A judgment of dismissal was entered.The court of appeal remanded The trial court, citing Code of Civil Procedure section 389(a), concluded that the residents are necessary parties but did not address section 389(b)--whether the case should be dismissed due to the residents’ absence. The parties disagreed about whether the statute of limitations had run on joinder and the owner’s election to stand on its original pleading truncated the process. The court granted the unopposed motion to dismiss without deciding whether the residents could be made parties or whether the lawsuit could continue without them. View "Pinto Lake MHP LLC v. County of Santa Cruz" on Justia Law

by
In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Allstate Indemnity Company, holding that property loss from Plaintiffs' tenants' producing or using methamphetamine indoors was not a covered peril under the insurance policy.Plaintiff filed an insurance claim alleging that his tenants damaged his rental house by producing or using methamphetamine indoors. Allstate denied the claim. Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint against Allstate alleging breach of contract and bad faith. The district court granted summary judgment for Allstate, concluding that Plaintiff's property loss was excluded from coverage under certain portions of the insurance policy and was not covered by other portions of the policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's assignments of error were without merit. View "Kaiser v. Allstate Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

by
For several years Miller provided Dix with living space in her basement, without payment of rent. Miller told Dix to move out so she could sell the house. He refused; Miller called the police. Officers told Miller that she could not evict Dix without a court order. Miller called the police again the next day. Officers arrived, allegedly knowing that there had been no domestic disturbance. They prevented Dix from entering the house while Miller hauled Dix’s things outside. Dix protested and yelled insults. Officers threatened to arrest him for disorderly conduct. Eventually, Dix left and got a moving van. When he returned, the officers allowed him inside to retrieve his property but refused him access to certain rooms and took his keys.Dix a pro se suit, with 12 causes of action against nine defendants. The district court struck the pleading citing “redundant, impertinent, and scandalous allegations.” Dix amended his complaint. adding seven causes of action and five defendants, including Fourth Amendment claims against the officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. With respect to the Fourth Amendment claims, the court noted that Dix was free to leave at any time and that Miller maintained complete possession and control over her home but had granted Dix a revocable license. When a license is revoked, the licensee becomes a trespasser. A seizure of property occurs when there is meaningful interference with an individual’s possessory interests; here there was none. Even if there were a seizure, it was reasonable. View "Dix v. Edelman Financial Services, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The tenant operated a medical marijuana outlet on commercial premises. The landlord received complaints from neighbors, related to parking issues, loitering, and littering and that the city’s code enforcement contacted her about violations and noncompliance with requests for inspection. The landlord’s first eviction effort faltered. Her second eviction effort was based on the delinquency in rent that had accrued during the pendency of the earlier attempt to evict, during which time the landlord had not accepted rent payments. The tenant testified that she never received any cash that the landlord had purportedly returned after the rent was paid by direct deposit. The trial court granted judgment in favor of the landlord. The appellate division reversed, finding that the tenant had timely paid rent through the period covered by the three-day notice by direct deposit.The tenant then sued the landlord for breach of contract by wrongful eviction. The trial court granted the landlord’s special motion to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute, Code Civ. Proc., 425.16) and dismissed the suit. The court of appeal dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The statute makes an order granting a motion to strike immediately appealable and the appeal as to the order on the anti-SLAPP motions was untimely. View "Reyes v. Kruger" on Justia Law

by
Mohamed Aljabban appeals from an adverse judgment after a bench trial in the lawsuit that he and his wife, Jacqueline Carrasco, filed against defendants Fontana Indoor Swap Meet, Inc. (FISM), Jonathan Shapiro and Victor Ramirez. Aljabban and Carrasco operated a beauty salon on the premises of an indoor swap meet managed by FISM and its president, Shapiro. Aljabban contended: (1) the trial court erred in concluding that he and Carrasco were not permitted to remove a sink/cabinet unit, a water heater and some decorative molding when vacating the premises of the beauty salon; (2) FISM and Shapiro improperly withheld $680.00 of the security deposit to cover expenses it incurred to repair damage to the premises; (3) the trial court should have found that FISM and Shapiro breached the parties’ agreement under which Aljabban and Carrasco occupied the premises because they wrongfully failed to renew it; and (4) he did not receive a fair trial because of alleged misbehavior during trial by Shapiro. After review, the Court of Appeal determined only one of Aljabban’s contentions had merit: FISM was not entitled to withhold $680.00 of the security deposit to cover the expense of repairing damage to the premises, as the parties did not specifically agree that the security deposit could be used to cover repairs. Accordingly, the Court reversed in part the trial court's judgment with respect to this contention, but affirmed in all other respects. The matter was remanded for further proceedings on the issue of attorney fees and costs. View "Aljabban v. Fontana Indoor Swap Meet, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting a money judgment for Landlord after Tenant breached its leases on two commercial properties, holding that there was no merit in Tenant's arguments on appeal.After a trial, the jury returned a special verdict in Landlord's favor, finding that Landlord met its burden of proving that Tenant breached the lease agreement, causing Landlord damages of $1,657,800 for unpaid rent and late fees and for unpaid taxes. The court entered judgment on the verdict and further awarded prejudgment interest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Landlord had standing in this action and was not required to produce the actual assignment of the leases; (2) there was no error in the award of prejudgment interests or in the special verdicts awarding late fees; and (3) the court had inherent authority to award Landlord its actual expenses as a condition of sustaining Tenant's motion for continuance of trial. View "AVG Partners I, LLC v. Genesis Health Clubs of Midwest, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In 2008, appellants Robert and Linda Shivers rented a residential property in La Habra from respondent Wilfred Rivera. Almost seven years later, Rivera filed an unlawful detainer action against the Shivers, alleging they had not paid rent. He later amended his pleading to add causes of action based on the allegation they had damaged the property and taken appliances when they vacated it. The Shivers filed a cross-complaint, alleging Rivera had failed to make repairs to the property and had left it untenantable. The case was originally assigned to limited civil jurisdiction but was later reclassified to unlimited civil. Upon reassignment, the new trial judge ordered counsel to meet and confer regarding the appointment of a referee under Code of Civil Procedure section 638, and a status conference on the subject was scheduled for March 19, 2018. At the status conference, the parties advised the court they could not agree on a referee. The court took the matter under submission, but warned that a referee would be appointed if the parties could not agree on one. Thereafter, in a minute order dated one month later, the trial court, instead of appointing a referee, sua sponte ordered the matter to judicial arbitration. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether the arbitration, originally statutory in nature, morphed into a contractual arbitration as the result of a vague stipulation by counsel for the parties. Neither side ever seemed to have entertained the notion that the completed arbitration was anything but binding, and treated it as such. The trial judge, however, decided on his own that the arbitration was not what the parties intended, a conclusion derived from their actions rather than their explicit words. As a result, the trial court denied the appellants’ petition to confirm, vacated the award, and set a trial date in the case. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in not confirming the arbitration award and reversed it. View "Rivera v. Shivers" on Justia Law