Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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Seneathia K. Porter initiated an unlawful-detainer action against Tracy Murray, doing business as Tracy's Treasure Company, LLC ("Murray"), seeking possession of commercial property and the recovery of, among other things, unpaid rent, late fees, insurance costs, taxes, and attorney's fees. Porter claimed she owned the property, she had leased the property to Murray on a month-to-month basis for the sum of $1,500 per month, Murray defaulted under the lease by failing to pay rent in accordance with the lease, and that she had provided Murray with written notice that her right of possession of the property had been terminated. Murray, on the other hand, denied that she had leased the property. Rather, she claimed she had executed a contract to purchase the property and had made improvements to the property. Following a bench trial, the circuit court purported to enter a judgment in favor of Porter and against Murray. Murray appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, finding no evidence that the district court had adjudicated the unlawful-detainer action. Thus, the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the action and the judgment it entered was void and, therefore, would not support an appeal. View "Murray v. Porter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed judgments issued by the district court in these consolidated appeals concerning the interpretation of the Montana Residential Mobile Home Lot Rental Act as it related to mobile home owners who had been evicted from their lots, holding that the Act does not allow for a no-cause termination of a periodic tenancy.David and Doreen Lockhart appealed the order issued by the district court upholding the order for possession issued by the justice court and ordering them to vacate and remove all personal property from a mobile home lot owned by Westview Mobile Home Park, LLC. Hydi Cunningham appealed the district court orders following the justice court's judgment and order for possession of property and writ of issuance ordering Cunningham to vacate the mobile home lot she had been renting from Greener Montana Property Management, LLC. The Supreme Court reversed in both causes, holding (1) the Act does not allow a lot-only landlord to terminate a homeowner tenant's month-to-month lease without cause; and (2) therefore, the no-cause terminations of both leases in this case were illegal and invalid. View "Greener Montana Property Management LLC v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

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In 1994, Duncan moved into a rent-controlled unit in San Francisco. He was living there with his family when, in 2014, the landlords purchased the building and took away property-related benefits, ignored or delayed maintenance, were uncommunicative and uncooperative, and became increasingly hostile. While living in their unit, the tenants sued the landlords, alleging nuisance, breach of contract, negligence, harassment under San Francisco’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance, and unfair business practices (Bus. & Prof. Code 17200). Unlawful detainer actions were then filed against the tenants, who asserted affirmative defenses of retaliation and violation of the Rent Ordinance but later vacated the premises The landlords then unsuccessfully argued that because the tenants did not file a cross-complaint in the unlawful detainer actions, they were barred from pursuing their already-pending separate action. In 2016, the tenants added an allegation of unlawful owner move-in eviction. The jurors found the landlords liable under the Rent Ordinance and awarded $2.7 million. The court of appeal affirmed in 2021.The landlords nonetheless filed motions to vacate, claiming that the trial court had lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the tenants’ claims after they surrendered possession of their unit. The court of appeal affirmed the rejection of that claim. The only legal claim the tenants abandoned by moving out was current possession. The tenants’ other claims were not waived and were not required to be litigated in the unlawful detainer actions. View "Duncan v. Kihagi" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Defendant for breach of contract in connection with their rental of Defendant’s home. Defendant failed to file an answer, and the trial court entered a default judgment for $59,191. The judgment included $1,000 in attorneys’ fees pursuant to a provision in the parties’ lease agreement authorizing attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party not to exceed $1,000. Defendant appealed, and the Second Appellate District affirmed. While the appeal was pending, the trial court granted in part Plaintiffs’ motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 685.080, subdivision (a), for an order allowing their costs of enforcing the judgment. The trial court awarded $27,721 in attorneys’ fees under section 685.040, which allows as an award of costs attorneys’ fees incurred in enforcing a judgment “if the underlying judgment includes an award of attorney’s fees to the judgment creditor pursuant to subparagraph (A) of paragraph (10) of subdivision (a) of Section 1033.5.” Section 1033.5, subdivision (a)(10)(A), in turn, provides that attorneys’ fees may be awarded as costs where authorized by contract. In this appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred in awarding over $1,000 in attorneys’ fees for enforcing the judgment because the lease authorized attorneys’ fees “not to exceed $1,000.”   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that once the judgment was entered, the terms of the lease, including the $1,000 limitation on fees, were merged into and extinguished by the judgment. Because the judgment included an award of attorneys’ fees authorized by contract, section 685.040 allowed an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in enforcing the judgment. View "Nash v. Aprea" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed from a trial court order sustaining a demurrer to the class allegations in their complaint against Defendants, their former landlords. The complaint asserts claims under the Ellis Act and the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (the Ordinance), Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC), as well as for fraud and violations of section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code (Unfair Competition Law).  Defendants evicted Plaintiffs from their rent-controlled apartments. Plaintiffs alleged that although Defendants declared they were removing the apartment buildings from the rental market entirely, Defendants subsequently listed units in the same buildings for rent on Airbnb. Defendants demurred to the class allegations in the complaint, asserting Plaintiffs could not satisfy the requirements for class certification as a matter of law. The trial court found Plaintiffs could not satisfy the community of interest requirement for liability or damages, and class treatment was not the superior method for resolving the litigation   The Second Appellate District reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the trial court erred in finding, as a matter of law, that there is no reasonable probability Plaintiffs will show common questions of law or fact predominate as to the classwide claims for liability. The court explained that Plaintiffs’ allegations indicate a need for individualized proof or calculation of damages. However, the court concluded Plaintiffs have alleged such issues may be effectively managed and there remains a reasonable probability Plaintiffs will satisfy the requirements for class certification. View "Maarten v. Cohanzad" on Justia Law

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Between 2015 and 2019, BitterSweet Ranch and its managers (“BitterSweet”) leased three parcels of farmland from Frank Sullivan and two of his business entities, The Green Desert, LLC, and The Sullivan Limited Partnership (collectively, “Sullivan”). The parties signed three identical five-year leases (“the Leases”) involving three separate parcels of real property, each owned by one of the three Sullivan parties. The Leases specified that Sullivan was to be responsible for payment of the property taxes, but that those parties were to be reimbursed by BitterSweet, and that BitterSweet was to be responsible for bi-annual rent payments, utilities, and water assessments. For a variety of reasons, the parties purportedly orally agreed to modify the Leases to offset amounts owed to each other throughout the terms of the Leases. Shortly before the Leases were set to expire at the end of their five-year terms, Sullivan claimed that BitterSweet was in breach of the Leases for its alleged failure to make timely rent payments, to pay all property taxes, and to pay the water assessments pursuant to the terms of the Leases. Sullivan then filed three lawsuits (one for each of the Leases and in the names of each of the three parties) in district court. The district court ordered the cases consolidated and then granted summary judgment in favor of BitterSweet, concluding that a genuine issue of material fact had not been created as to whether BitterSweet had breached the Leases. Sullivan appealed the adverse order. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Sullivan v. BitterSweet Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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In early 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, Los Angeles County passed the “Resolution of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles Further Amending and Restating the Executive Order for an Eviction Moratorium During Existence of a Local Health Emergency Regarding Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)” (the “Moratorium”). The Moratorium imposed temporary restrictions on certain residential and commercial tenant evictions. It provided tenants with new affirmative defenses to eviction based on nonpayment of rent, prohibited landlords from charging late fees and interest, and imposed civil and criminal penalties to landlords who violate the Moratorium. Id. Section V (July 14, 2021). Plaintiff, a commercial landlord, sued the County, arguing that the Moratorium impaired his lease, in violation of the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court found that Plaintiff had not alleged an injury in fact and dismissed his complaint for lack of standing.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that Plaintiff had standing to bring his Contracts Clause claim. Plaintiff’s injury for Article III purposes did not depend on whether Plaintiff’s tenant provided notice or was otherwise excused from doing so. Those questions went to the merits of the claim rather than Plaintiff’s standing to bring suit. Plaintiff alleged that the moratorium impaired his contract with his tenant because it altered the remedies the parties had agreed to at the time they entered into the lease. The panel held that these allegations were sufficient to plead an injury in fact and to state a claim under the Contracts Clause, and remanded to the district court. View "HOWARD ITEN V. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES" on Justia Law

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This consolidated appeal arose from a dispute regarding a purchase option within a lease agreement. Bronco Elite Arts & Athletics, LLC, and its manager and registered agent, Brandon Paine (collectively “Bronco Elite”), operated a gymnastics facility in Garden City, Idaho. The gymnastics facility was located on property that Bronco Elite leased from 106 Garden City, LLC (“106 Garden City”), and Tricon Properties, LLC (“Tricon”). The lease agreement provided Bronco Elite the option to purchase the Property five years into the initial ten-year lease term. However, when Bronco Elite attempted to exercise its option, 106 Garden City and Tricon refused to honor the option. Bronco Elite sued 106 Garden City and Tricon, seeking specific performance. 106 Garden City and Tricon argued that Bronco Elite was precluded from exercising its purchase option because Bronco Elite had breached the lease agreement by consistently failing to pay rent on time and the lease terms only permitted Bronco Elite to exercise the purchase option if it was not in breach. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Bronco Elite and ordered 106 Garden City and Tricon to convey the Property to Bronco Elite. The specific performance ordered by the district court was stayed pending appeal. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Bronco Elite, however, the Court found the trial court erred in setting the purchase price of the Property in the way that it did. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Bronco Elite Arts & Athletics, LLC v. 106 Garden City, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the summary judgment granted by the district court in favor of a non-shareholder officer and a non-shareholder former director in this suit brought by Landlord seeking to pierce the corporate veil of a commercial tenant (Tenant), who failed or refused to pay a judgment against it, holding that the district court did not err.Landlord sued Tenant for nonpayment of rent and recovered a judgment. When Landlord was unable to recover on its judgment it commenced the instant action seeking to pierce Tenant's corporate veil and hold a non-shareholder officer and a non-shareholder former director personally liable for the judgment against Tenant. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissed the case with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding the factors did not weigh in favor of veil piercing. View "407 N 117 Street v. Harper" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying a writ of prohibition preventing Judge Peter J. Corrigan from proceeding in a declaratory judgment and preliminary injunction action, holding that Judge Corrigan did not lack jurisdiction to proceed in the case.United Twenty-Fifth Building, LLC sued Jessica Maron, a party to a pending divorce case, alleging that Jessica was interfering with an easement involving a multistory building in Cleveland. Specifically, United argued that Jessica was preventing access to the building's elevator, lobby, and stairwell and delaying the construction of a restaurant in the building. Jessica filed a prohibition petition seeking to prevent Judge Corrigan from exercising jurisdiction in United's case because, under the jurisdictional-priority rule, Judge Corrigan patently and unambiguously lacked jurisdiction to proceed because the case involved property that may be subject to equitable division in her divorce case. The court of appeals denied the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Jessica failed to show that the jurisdictional-priority rule applied under the circumstances of this case. View "State ex rel. Maron v. Corrigan" on Justia Law