Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries
Spinette v. University of Vermont, et al.
Plaintiff Sarah Spinette sought summer housing for herself and her minor child at the Redstone Apartments located on the campus of the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College (UVM). The Redstone Apartments were owned by Catamount/Redstone Apartments, LLC (Redstone), which leased the land from UVM. Catamount Commercial Services, Inc. (Catamount) managed the apartments. In March 2018, Catamount denied plaintiff’s application to sublet a two-bedroom apartment for herself and her daughter. Two years later, plaintiff filed a complaint against UVM, Redstone, and Catamount, alleging in relevant part that defendants violated the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), and the Vermont Public Accommodations Act (VPAA), “by refusing to allow her to sublet an apartment because she intended to live in the apartment with her minor child.” In March 2021, following discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment, explaining that the Redstone Apartments were for students only and plaintiff’s housing application was denied because she intended to live with a nonstudent, not because she intended to live with her child. Defendants noted that student status was not a protected category under the FHA or VPAA. Plaintiff opposed the motion but did not identify any disputed material facts. She characterized defendants as arguing that the FHA and VPAA did not apply to their dwellings and claimed that this argument failed as a matter of law. Defendants' motion was granted, and Plaintiff appealed. But finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Spinette v. University of Vermont, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Civil Rights, Landlord - Tenant, Vermont Supreme Court
NCR Properties, LLC v. City of Berkeley
Landlords purchased two derelict Berkeley single-family homes and converted them into triplexes. One house had been operated as an unpermitted rooming house and the other had been registered as a rooming house since 2000. After the units were rented, a dispute arose as to whether the properties were subject to Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization and Eviction Ordinance. Landlords contended the new units were exempt from local rent control under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, Civil Code 1954.50, which provides an exemption for residential units that have a certificate of occupancy issued after February 1, 1995. Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board disagreed as to four of the six units. The Board concluded two units in each building were carved from space that had been rented for residential use before the current certificates of occupancy were issued; those units reflect a mere conversion from one form of residential use to another, rather than an expansion of the housing stock. Only an attic unit in one building and a basement unit in the other are exempt from local rent control as new constructionThe court of appeal agreed. Because the four units in dispute were converted from space long dedicated to residential use, precedent indicates that Costa-Hawkins does not exempt them from local rent control as new construction. View "NCR Properties, LLC v. City of Berkeley" on Justia Law
Boutrous, et al. v. Transform Operating Stores, et al.
Transform Operating Stores, LLC d/b/a Transformco Operating Stores LLC; Transform SR Brands LLC d/b/a Transformco d/b/a Kmart; and Transform KM LLC (collectively, “Transform”) appealed after a North Dakota district court entered an order awarding damages to Ted J. Boutrous, L.L.C. and The Boutrous Group, LLP and entered a [second] amended judgment of eviction. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err finding a material breach of the lease and in exercising jurisdiction as a summary eviction. "While the court abused its discretion in bifurcating the eviction action, that error was harmless." The Court further concluded Transform failed to timely appeal the court’s contempt order for the untimely turnover of the property. View "Boutrous, et al. v. Transform Operating Stores, et al." on Justia Law
Fleurrey v. Department of Aging and Independent Living, et al.
Plaintiff Tina Fleurrey appealed the dismissal of her negligence claim against defendant landlord 3378 VT Route 12 LLC. In her complaint, she alleged that landlord was responsible for the drowning death of decedent Scott Fleurrey, a fifty-four-year-old man with developmental disabilities, on the property that landlord leased to decedent’s caretakers, Upper Valley Services (UVS) and Azwala Rodriguez. The question on appeal was whether the civil division properly dismissed plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff argued the civil division erred by misunderstanding the controlling law because landlord owed decedent a duty to protect and because the civil division drew inferences favorable to landlord. The Vermont Supreme Court held that the civil division properly granted landlord’s dismissal motion because: (1) Vermont precedents required an invitee to seek redress for injuries sustained on negligently maintained property from the land possessor who invited the injured invitee to the defective property, rather than from the absentee landlord; (2) §§ 343 and 343A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts were inapplicable here because those Restatement sections addressed only land possessors, and plaintiff did not allege that landlord was the possessor of the subject property; and (3) no duty could arise where, as here, a plaintiff did not allege that a legal relationship existed between a decedent and a landlord. View "Fleurrey v. Department of Aging and Independent Living, et al." on Justia Law
Dacey v. Burgess
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the housing court's entry of judgment in favor of Landlord in this landlord-tenant dispute and the denial of Tenant's motion to revise, revoke, or vacate that judgment, holding that Landlord could seek to enforce the parties' voluntary stipulation following mediation and attempt to recover possession of the leased premises.Following mediation in early 2020, Tenant entered into a stipulation to voluntarily dismiss all claims against Landlord. Tenant further agreed to vacate Landlord's apartment. Because of an emergency eviction moratorium imposed pursuant to COVID-19, Landlord was unable to seek judgment on the stipulation and execution on such judgment until October 2020. The housing court judge entered judgment in favor of Landlord. Tenant filed a motion to revise, revoke, or vacate the judgment, which the housing court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the judge had the authority to award possession of the premises to Landlord under the circumstances of this case. View "Dacey v. Burgess" on Justia Law
SVAP III Poway Crossings, LLC v. Fitness Internat., LLC
Defendant and cross-complainant Fitness International, LLC (Fitness) appealed a judgment entered in favor of plaintiff and cross-defendant SVAP III Poway Crossings, LLC (SVAP) on SVAP’s breach of contract claim for Fitness’s non-payment of rent under the parties’ lease. Fitness contended the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because its obligation to pay rent was excused due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government orders prohibiting it from operating its fitness facility for several months. Specifically, Fitness contended the court should have found that the obligation to pay rent was excused based on: (1) SVAP’s own material breach of the lease; (2) the force majeure provision in the lease; (3) Civil Code section 1511;1 (4) the doctrines of impossibility and impracticability; and (5) the doctrine of frustration of purpose. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded these contentions lacked merit and affirmed the judgment in favor of SVAP. View "SVAP III Poway Crossings, LLC v. Fitness Internat., LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Civil Procedure, Landlord - Tenant
Guilford v. Weidner Investment Services, Inc., et al.
A landlord tried to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent. The tenant counterclaimed under Alaska’s Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA), seeking damages for a variety of alleged harms: retaliatory eviction; failure to return her security deposit; intentional misrepresentation of certain fees; and personal injury and emotional distress caused by mold in the apartment, which the tenant alleged was a violation of the landlord’s duty under URLTA to maintain fit premises. The eviction was denied; the court entered summary judgment against the tenant’s damages claim for personal injury on the ground that the tenant failed to provide expert opinion evidence supporting the link between mold exposure and her health problems. After trial, a jury awarded the tenant modest damages for misrepresentation and for emotional distress caused by mold exposure. The jury found in the landlord’s favor on the retaliatory eviction and security deposit claims. The superior court awarded the tenant partial attorney’s fees, using a “blended analysis” that relied on both Alaska Civil Rule 82 and on URLTA’s provision for full reasonable fees and then discounting the award due to the tenant’s limited success. The tenant appealed the grant of summary judgment on her personal injury claim and the attorney’s fees calculation. The landlord cross-appealed, arguing the superior court erred in a number of its evidentiary decisions, by permitting the tenant to recover emotional distress damages for a breach of URLTA’s duty to maintain fit premises, and by awarding the tenant attorney’s fees as the prevailing party. After its review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s evidentiary rulings. It also affirmed its decision to permit recovery of emotional distress damages caused by violations of the duty to maintain fit premises. But the Court reversed summary judgment against the tenant’s personal injury claim. Medical records in which the tenant’s treating physician suggested that mold exposure may have been the cause of her health problems amount to sufficient expert medical opinion that, when viewed in the light most favorable to the tenant as the non-moving party, created a genuine issue of material fact that had to be resolved at trial. View "Guilford v. Weidner Investment Services, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Alaska Supreme Court, Civil Procedure, Landlord - Tenant
Dolly Investments, LLC v. MMG Sioux City, LLC
In this case stemming from a commercial lease dispute between Landlord and Tenant the Supreme Court held that both parties breached the lease agreement but that only the tenant's breach was material.At issue in this case was which party was first to materially breach the lease agreement at issue and whether the other's material breach discharged either party's obligations to perform under the agreement. The district court ruled for Landlord on breach of contract claims and awarded her damages. On reconsideration, the district court determined that Landlord materially breached the lease and reduced her damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) both Tenant and Landlord breached the commercial lease; (2) Tenant's breach was material, and Landlord's breach was not; and (3) Tenant's material breach suspended Landlord's duty to perform during a cure period, and once that period ended, Landlord's duty to perform was discharged. View "Dolly Investments, LLC v. MMG Sioux City, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Iowa Supreme Court, Landlord - Tenant
Tiffany Bass v. Weinstein Management Co., Inc.
Plaintiffs brought suit against Weinstein Management Co., Inc., and WMCI Charlotte XIII, LLC (collectively, Defendants). In relevant part, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants violated the North Carolina Residential Rental Agreements Act (RRAA), and the North Carolina Debt Collection Act (NCDCA), by charging them out-of-pocket costs for summary ejectment proceedings, including filing fees, service fees, and attorney’s fees (collectively, out-of-pocket expenses). The district court granted Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings on these claims, and Plaintiffs appealed. At issue on appeal is whether he 2021 amendment applies retroactively without violating vested rights, thereby extinguishing Plaintiffs’ RRAA and NCDCA claims. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here, the 2021 amendment’s text provides that it “is effective when it becomes law and is intended to apply retroactively to all pending controversies as of that date.” The court wrote that given this explicit language from the General Assembly, the intent of the legislature to apply the 2021 amendment retroactively could not be clearer. The North Carolina Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the General Assembly cannot retroactively invalidate common-law rights, which Plaintiffs do not seek to vindicate here. Therefore, the district court was not precluded from applying the 2021 amendment retroactively. View "Tiffany Bass v. Weinstein Management Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Griffith v. Hemphill, et al.
A landlord leased a commercial building to two tenants who operated an automotive repair business on the property. The landlord refused to adhere to provisions in the lease requiring him to maintain and repair the property and to cover the property insurance, so the tenants paid for the property insurance and for substantial repairs that were needed after the roof failed. The landlord initiated a forcible entry and detainer action after the tenants held over at the end of the lease term; the tenants counterclaimed for breach of contract. After trial, the superior court ruled that the landlord had breached the lease and awarded the tenants damages. The superior court also awarded the tenants attorney’s fees. The landlord appealed, arguing: (1) the tenants did not file their counterclaim within the applicable statute of limitations; (2) the evidence did not support the damages award; and (3) the attorney’s fees award was an abuse of discretion. Seeing no error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decisions. View "Griffith v. Hemphill, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Alaska Supreme Court, Business Law, Landlord - Tenant