Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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In this eviction action that was removed from a Massachusetts state court the First Circuit reversed the order of the district court ordering a remand in this case and directed the district court to retrieve the removed action and resume jurisdiction, holding that the district court erred.The action in this case sought both to evict Defendant for nonpayment of rent and to recover rent arrearages. Defendant removed the action to the federal district court on the grounds of diversity jurisdiction. In response, Plaintiff argued that the federal district court was entitled to abstain from adjudicating the action under the abstention principles set forth in Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315 (1943). The district court granted Plaintiff's motion to remand, concluding that abstention was appropriate. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the court's remand order was in error. View "Forty Six Hundred, LLC v. Cadence Education, LLC" on Justia Law

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The question this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court was whether a tenant in a fixed-term commercial lease could become a holdover tenant when the tenancy ends pursuant to an early termination provision. The tenant here argued that this unlawful detainer provision applied only when the tenant remained after the end of the original term specified in the lease. To this, the Supreme Court disagreed: in this case, exercising the no-fault early termination provision in the lease revised the term of the lease, and the term expired on the revised termination date. Therefore, the tenant became a holdover tenant under RCW 59.12.030(1) when they continued in possession of the leased premises after that date. View "Spokane Airport Bd. v. Experimental Aircraft Ass'n, Chapter 79" on Justia Law

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Landlords challenged Part A of New York’s residential eviction moratorium statute, the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (CEEFPA), and attempted to challenge the new residential eviction moratorium, (Subpart C(A) 2021), enacted in Sept. 2021, after several provisions of the old moratorium statute expired. The Supreme Court enjoined enforcement of Part A 2020 on August 12, 2021, based on due process defects.The Landlords argued that Subpart C(A) 2021 did not remedy the defect but is merely a continuation of the previous statute. State officials sought dismissal of the appeal as moot, arguing that the challenged provisions of the old statute have expired, Subpart C(A) 2021 does remedy the defect identified by the Supreme Court, and any challenge to the 2021 provisions must be brought in a new lawsuit.The Second Circuit concluded that the due process claims are moot, dismissed them, and remanded the case. With the appeal remanded, the court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to enjoin enforcement of Subpart C(A) 2021. The “mootness is attributable to a change in the legal framework,” so the Landlords “may wish to amend their complaint so as to demonstrate that the repealed statute retains some continuing force or to attack the newly enacted legislation.” View "Chrysafis v. Marks" on Justia Law

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Joliet condemned a housing complex managed by New West and paid $15 million. HUD rent subsidies for low-income tenants provided almost all of the money for operating the development. A $2.7 million fund had been established by New West and HUD, to cover necessary maintenance and repairs in the event of a default by New West. HUD refused to release that account to New West, contending that it now holds the account to cover Joliet’s obligations.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of New West’s suit to recover the account. New West cannot establish conversion of the fund without first establishing ownership. HUD’s lien on the fund does not establish ownership of the fund and New West has not established its ownership by showing that it treated deposits into the fund as taxable income. View "New West, L.P. v. Fudge" on Justia Law

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Paradigm Investment Group, LLC, and HR IV, LLC ("the tenants"), entered into a written lease agreement, which was ultimately assigned to Dewey Brazelton ("the landlord"). The lease obligated the tenants to make rental payments to the landlord from the operation of a fast-food franchise on the leased premises. When the tenants failed to remit rental payments, the landlord sued the tenants for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the landlord, finding that the tenants had breached the lease agreement and were obligated to pay the landlord $113,869.44. The tenants appealed, arguing the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of the landlord because they abandoned the leased premises; the lease agreement does not address abandonment; and, therefore, as a matter of law, common-law principles of abandonment, rather than the terms of lease, govern the landlord's available remedies. The tenants assert that, had the trial court correctly applied common-law principles of abandonment, it would not have awarded contract damages under the lease. Finding summary judgment was properly granted in favor of the landlord, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Paradigm Investment Group, LLC and HR IV, LLC v. Brazelton" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review was whether a landlord who had no knowledge that a tenant’s dog had dangerous propensities could be held liable for injuries the dog causes to individuals who enter the property with tenant’s permission. Plaintiff Katherine Higgins, who was badly injured by a tenant’s dog while on the leased property, challenged the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant landlords. When he was showing the house on landlords’ behalf after tenant moved in, a realtor who was representing landlords in marketing the property observed obvious signs around the house that a dog lived there, including door casings that were badly scratched by the dog. The realtor did not see the dog and did not know its size or breed or whether it had ever acted aggressively towards any person or other animal; based on the sound of the dog, he opined that it was “tough and loud.” Plaintiff, a neighbor, was attacked and seriously injured by tenant’s dog, an American Pitbull Terrier, while visiting tenant on the rental property. On appeal, plaintiff renews her argument that landlords have a general duty of care to the public, and that this duty includes a duty of reasonable inquiry concerning tenants’ domestic animals. In addition, she argues that landlords were on notice of the dog’s dangerous propensities on the basis of the observations made by realtor, acting as landlords’ agent. Finally, she contends that landlords are liable to plaintiff on the basis of a municipal ordinance. Finding no reversible error in granting summary judgment to the landlords, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Higgins v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Robert St. Onge appealed a circuit court order dismissing his claim brought under RSA chapter 540-A against defendant Oberten, LLC, on the ground that the sober living facility it operated, and in which the plaintiff lived, was a “group home” under RSA 540:1-a, IV(c) and, therefore, exempt from RSA chapter 540-A.Plaintiff was one of 12 residents at defendant’s Manchester, New Hampshire location. All program participants agreed to certain rules for living at the home. The contract plaintiff signed explicitly provided that it was not a lease and that “residents of Live Free Structured Sober Living have no tenant rights.” Despite being aware of, and agreeing to, the home's rules, plaintiff violated them and, as a result, was discharged from the program and required to vacate the sober living facility. He subsequently filed a petition alleging defendant violated RSA chapter 540-A by using “self-help” to evict him. Defendant moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that because its facility was a “group home,” it was not a “landlord” required to bring an eviction proceeding under RSA chapter 540, and plaintiff was not a “tenant” entitled to the protections of RSA chapter 540-A. The trial court agreed with defendant. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "St. Onge v. Oberten, LLC" on Justia Law

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Duncan moved into a San Francisco apartment in 1994. Duncan’s wife moved into the unit in 2010, and they lived together with their daughter. Duncan never missed a rent payment and was never late with his rent. Duncan’s unit was subject to San Francisco’s rent-control ordinance. During his tenancy, the maximum that stabilized rent could be increased was a total of 31 percent, whereas the market rent for a two-bedroom unit in San Francisco increased by 254 percent. In 2014, the building was sold. For the next 14 months, until Duncan was forced to rent a new apartment, the landlords took away various benefits, ignored or delayed responding to maintenance issues, were uncommunicative, and became increasingly hostile in imposing new rules. Duncan contacted the building department. Violations were noted. At different times, the water and power were turned off for nonpayment. Duncan and other residents formed a tenants union.Duncan filed a notice with the Rent Board. The next day, Duncan was served with a 60-day notice of termination of tenancy as an owner move-in. Duncan filed suit under San Francisco’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance. The city also sued the landlords. Jurors found that the landlords engaged in a wrongful eviction and tenant harassment. After damages were trebled, Duncan's recovery was $2.7 million. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting challenges to evidentiary rulings and the sufficiency of the evidence. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of the landlords’ conduct at other properties. View "Duncan v. Kihagi" on Justia Law

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Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, Los Angeles imposed an eviction moratorium during a “Local Emergency Period” with the stated purposes of ensuring housing security and promoting public health during the pandemic. Related provisions delay applicable tenants’ rent payment obligations and prohibit landlords from charging late fees and interest. A trade association of Los Angeles landlords, sued, alleging violations of the Constitution’s Contracts Clause.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of the plaintiff’s request for preliminary injunctive relief, noting that other courts, including the Supreme Court, have recently considered various constitutional and statutory challenges to COVID-19 eviction moratoria. Under modern Contracts Clause doctrine, even if the eviction moratorium was a substantial impairment of contractual relations, the moratorium’s provisions were likely “reasonable” and “appropriate” given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city fairly tied the moratorium to its stated goals. The court noted that contemporary Supreme Court case law has severely limited the Contracts Clause’s potency. View "Apartment Association of Los Angeles County, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles." on Justia Law

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Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District supplies water to about 300 households, including the public housing tenants of a Pinal County complex. Property owners like Pinal County are responsible for paying any past tenant’s delinquent water accounts. Pinal County acknowledged that responsibility but consistently refused to pay, contending it was immune to that policy based on its status as a public municipality. In response, the District imposed a new policy that increased to $180 the refundable security deposit required of new public housing customers before the District would provide water services. New non-public housing customers were subject to a $55 deposit.The Ninth Circuit rejected a challenge to the policy under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. 3604 and 3617, which bars discriminatory housing policies and practices, including those that cause a disparate impact according to certain protected characteristics or traits—race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. Although the District’s public housing customers are disproportionately African American, Native American, and single mothers, the District established by undisputed evidence that the policy served in a significant way its legitimate business interests; the plaintiffs failed to establish a triable issue of fact that there existed an equally effective, but less discriminatory, alternative. There was insufficient evidence that discriminatory animus was a motivating factor behind the District’s decision to implement its policy. View "Southwest Fair Housing Council, Inc. v. Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District" on Justia Law