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Burkhalter Kessler Clement & George LLP (Burkhalter) subleased a portion of its office space to the Eclipse Group LLP (Eclipse). The sublease contract had a provision for an award of reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party in the event of a lawsuit. Burkhalter later filed a complaint against Eclipse alleging breach of contract; Burkhalter also named Jennifer Hamilton, a managing partner of Eclipse, as an alter ego defendant. The two defendants were jointly represented by Avyno Law P.C. (Avyno). Burkhalter prevailed against Eclipse on the breach of contract claim; Hamilton prevailed against Burkhalter on the alter ego theory (she was dismissed with prejudice). The trial court granted Burkhalter’s motion for its attorney fees, but denied Hamilton’s motion for her attorney fees. There was no explanation for the court’s denial. Hamilton appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed: here, both Burkhalter and Hamilton were prevailing parties on the contract. On remand, the trial court was directed to award Hamilton reasonable attorney fees that were incurred by Avyno solely in her defense, subject to the court’s sound discretion. View "Burkhalter Kessler Clement & George, LLP v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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Notestine, a nonprofit corporation with 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) status as a charitable institution, owns the 11-unit residential rental property developed as low-income housing under 12 U.S.C. 1701q. Construction costs were $1.5 million. The federal capital advance was $1.3 million. The “project rental assistance” contract requires tenants to be at least 62 years old and have income under 50 percent of the area median. Rent is tied to tenant income at $407 per month, including utilities, with any overage payable to HUD. Tenants pay up to 30 percent of their adjusted gross income on rent, with HUD subsidizing any difference. Capital Advance Program Use and Regulatory Agreements were recorded on title, in effect at least 40 years from 2013, unless released by HUD. An auditor valued the property at $811,120 for 2013, a Logan County reappraisal year. Notestine sought a reduction, arguing that the building's value was $165,000, based on actual rent and expenses. The Board of Tax Appeals adopted the opinion of Notestine’s appraiser, who valued the property at $75,000. The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed. Although market rents and expenses constitute a “rule” when valuing low-income government housing generally, that rule is presumptive, not conclusive. In this case, the rents are minimal, and federal subsidization is strictly controlled by HUD-imposed restrictions on the accumulation of surpluses. There is no evidence that any adjustment from contract rent to market rent would eliminate the “affirmative value” of government subsidies. View "Notestine Manor, Inc. v. Logan County Board of Revision" on Justia Law

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In this commercial dispute over an exclusive use clause in a lease for space in a shopping center, the Nevada Supreme Court held that the doctrine of claim preclusion did not prevent the tenant from suing its landlord for contract damages after having won an earlier suit against the landlord for declaratory judgment, where both suits concern the same underlying facts. The court explained that the preclusion doctrine makes an exception for declaratory judgment actions, which are designed to give parties an efficient way to obtain a judicial declaration of their legal rights before positions become entrenched and irreversible damage to relationships occurs. Furthermore, in a case involving a continuing or recurrent wrong, a party may sue separately for after-accruing damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment awarding contract damages to the tenant. View "Boca Park Marketplace Syndications Group, LLC v. Higco, Inc." on Justia Law

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Richard Turley appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States, acting on behalf of the United States Postal Service, awarding specific performance of an option to purchase real estate from Turley. The purchase option was contained in a lease of the premises that the Postal Service had renewed on several occasions. Turley argued on appeal: (1) the lease had expired when the Postal Service attempted to exercise the purchase option because he had not received notice that the government was exercising its final option to renew the lease; (2) even if the lease was renewed, the Postal Service did not properly exercise the purchase option because it continued to negotiate for a new lease after it purported to exercise the option; and (3) equity precluded enforcement of the purchase option because the Postal Service attempted to use the purchase option as leverage to negotiate a better lease agreement. The Tenth Circuit was not persuaded. The Court found the lease-renewal option was properly exercised when the notice was delivered to the proper address, even though Turley refused to retrieve it. And Turley has presented no legal or equitable doctrine that would forbid a party who exercises (and is bound by) an option to purchase from pursuing an alternative arrangement. View "United States v. Turley" on Justia Law

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The carbon monoxide detector in an apartment sounded. A maintenance worker replaced the batteries; the alarm later sounded again. The following morning, tenants called Virginia Natural Gas (VNG). VNG’s inspector measured the apartment’s CO levels as hazardous, turned off the gas, and “red-tagged” the furnace. A maintenance worker later declared that he had checked the furnace and vent pipes for leaks, found an attic vent pipe loose, reattached it, and rechecked the CO level, Although not licensed to make heating system repairs, he used screws to secure the sections, contrary to specifications. A code enforcement officer determined that CO levels were within the acceptable range, without visiting the attic or inspecting the equipment. Weeks later, the alarm sounded again. A VNG inspector red-tagged the furnace. With a new furnace installed, the CO levels remained high. The adjoining apartment's furnace was venting into the attic. When the flue was repaired, CO levels dropped. The tenants suffered injuries. In their suit, the court ruled that the tenants failed to establish the requisite level of negligence for punitive damages. They were permitted, over the landlord’s objection, to increase their prayers for compensatory damages. The jury awarded three tenants $200,000 each and a fourth $3,500,000. The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed in part and remanded for a new trial. The court erred in admitting the testimony of an environmental medicine specialist, which had not been disclosed under Rule 4:1(b)(4)(A)(i); erred in admitting testimony regarding alleged defects in the installation of the new furnace--such defects were after-the-fact and not relevant; in permitting amendment of the prayers for relief; in granting a spoliation instruction with regard to tenants’ inability to inspect the furnace. View "Emerald Point, LLC v. Hawkins" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the denial of Petitioner’s motion for return of her personal possessions allegedly taken during the execution of a writ of ejectment after the foreclosure sale of a house in which she resided, the Supreme Court held (1) although the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (PTFA) does not require a residential lease to be in writing, Petitioner was not entitled to PTFA protections because she did not qualify as a bona fide tenant under the PTFA; (2) generally, the landlord-tenant code applies to residential leases entered into before a lis pendens, but Petitioner was not a residential tenant; (3) Petitioner was afforded her due process rights to notice and an opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner; but (4) the circuit court erred in failing to grant Petitioner’s motion for return of possessions where the possessions included items of no financial value to the purchase of the property at foreclosure but with great sentimental value to Petitioner. View "Peak Capital Group, LLC v. Perez" on Justia Law

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The district court did not err in dismissing, for lack of jurisdiction, Tenants’ appeal pursuant to Rule 14 of the Uniform Municipal Court Rules of Appeal to District Court (U. M. C. R. App.) prior to ruling on Tenants’ previously filed motion to proceed in forma pauperis. However, the justice court err in awarding a money judgment in excess of the court’s jurisdiction limit. Tenants appealed an underlying judgment of the justice court. The justice court dismissed the appeal for failure to timely file an appellate brief pursuant to U. M. C. R. App. 14. Tenants filed the notice of appeal together with a motion and application to proceed in forma pauperis. The district court summarily dismissed Tenants’ appeal pursuant to Rule 14(c). The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the appeal for Tenants’ failure to timely file an appellate brief but reversed and remanded for entry of a corrected judgment against Tenants in the amount of $13,426, holding that the justice court erred by awarding a money judgment $8,527 in excess of the court’s $12,000 jurisdictional limit. View "Alto Jake Holdings LLC v. Donham" on Justia Law

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Despite the recent amendments to rent and possession suits, the legislature’s removal of the right to a trial de novo with the possibility of a jury at the circuit court in rent and possession cases still results in parties having the right to a jury trial in the associate division where the suit was initially filed. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant’s request for a jury trial after Defendant was sued by her landlord (Plaintiff) for defaulting on rent payments. The trial court concluded that Defendant was not entitled to a jury trial in light of the 2014 statutory amendments to rent and possession suits under Mo. Rev. Stat. chapter 535. In reversing, the Supreme Court held that parties in rent and possession actions brought under Mo. Rev. Stat. 535.040 are still entitled to a jury trial even after the 2014 amendments. View "Brainchild Holdings, LLC v. Cameron" on Justia Law

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Sayta leased a bedroom in a San Francisco apartment; renewal was on a month-to-month basis after August 2013. In 2013-2015, disputes between Sayta and the landlords were taken to the superior court and San Francisco Rent Board. In 2015, Sayta filed contract and tort claims. The landlords cross-complained. A Settlement Agreement included a mutual release, dismissal, withdrawal of pending rent board petitions, termination of Sayta’s tenancy, waiver of unpaid rent, and return of Sayta’s security deposit. The Agreement stated that it “shall remain confidential” and provided for liquidated damages of $15,000 and for summary enforcement (Code of Civil Procedure 664.6). Months later, Sayta claimed he had received only a partial refund and the landlords “had placed [the Agreement] . . . on the public record,” potential landlords had access to the Agreement, and Sayta had been denied housing as a result. The landlords acknowledged providing the Board a copy of the Agreement in response to the Board’s request concerning an earlier-filed proceeding that Sayta had not dismissed. The court of appeal held that, because the parties failed to request, before dismissal, that the trial court retain jurisdiction to enforce the settlement, or seek to set aside the dismissals, the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Sayta's motion. View "Sayta v. Chu" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's finding that defendant violated her settlement agreement with the City and permanently enjoining her from terminating tenancies at 1263–1267-1/2 North Crescent Heights Boulevard in West Hollywood. However, the court reversed the trial court's imposition of a permanent injunction because the injunction in its current state was unenforceable. In this case, defendant offered units 1265-1/2, 1265-3/4 and 1267 for rent within 10 years of their withdrawal. Consequently, defendant must offer the previously withdrawn units for rent or lease to the displaced tenants. However, defendant does not have to offer the units at their previous rental rates. The court explained that, after remand and upon motion, the trial court should exercise its discretion and determine once again which party is entitled to recover attorney fees. View "City of West Hollywood v. Kihagi" on Justia Law