Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries
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
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
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
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
Tufeld Corp. v. Beverly Hills Gateway, L.P.
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
In re Auburn Creek Limited Partnership
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
Bluegrass Materials Co., LLC v. Freeman
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
Hobbs v. City of Pacific Grove
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
Ramirez v. PK I Plaza 580 SC LP
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