Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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In November 2019, Landlords served Tenants with a 120-Day Notice of Termination of Tenancy and half of the relocation assistance due under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. Both Tenants then claimed disability status; Landlord provided one-half of the additional relocation assistance payment for disabled tenants. Landlords filed a Notice of Intent to Withdraw Residential Units from the Rental Market with the Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board and served Tenants with Notice to Tenant of Filing of Notice of Intent to Withdraw Residential Units from the Rental Market. Tenants exercised their right under the Act to a one-year extension of the withdrawal date based on their claimed disabilities; they did not vacate the premises by November 15, 2020. Landlords filed an unlawful detainer suit, Ellis Act, Gov. Code 7060. Tenants argued that the termination notice was defective in quoting a superseded version of the ordinance as the ground for eviction and therefore not properly advising them concerning relocation assistance payments.The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of Tenants, rejecting arguments that the Act preempts the ordinance, that Tenants cannot assert a defense under the Act for purported failure to comply with the ordinance, that the trial court improperly found that the notice of termination had to strictly comply with the ordinance, and that Landlords should be allowed to amend their complaint to state a claim for ejectment. View "2710 Sutter Ventures, LLC v. Millis" on Justia Law

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Northfield issued a policy to insure an apartment complex. The coverage excludes liability for violations of the insured’s duty to maintain habitable premises; this exclusion also encompasses coverage for “any claim or ‘suit’ ” that also alleges habitability claims. Tenants sued the insured, alleging multiple habitability claims and other causes of action that were arguably not based on habitability. Northfield declined to defend the tenants’ lawsuit. After settling the underlying action, the insured sued Northfield for breach of its duty to defend. The trial court concluded the case presented a “mixed” action containing both potentially covered and uncovered claims, and that Northfield was obliged to provide a defense.The court of appeal reversed. The policy exclusion is plain and clear. The court rejected arguments that claims for retaliation, conversion, and trespass to chattels did not arise from the duty to provide habitable premises. The retaliation concerned complaints about habitable conditions and the claims are alleged in a suit that also alleges habitability claims. View "24th & Hoffman Investors, LLC v. Northfield Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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This appeal and cross-appeal involved a residential lease agreement with an option to purchase executed by Tony Hiett, Sr., and his wife Kelly ("the tenants") and Beverlye Brady ("the landlord"). The landlord leased to the tenants a house ("the property") located in Auburn for a term of five years, beginning September 1, 2011, and ending August 31, 2016, for $2,000 per month. By letter dated August 29, 2016, the tenants informed the landlord that they were exercising their option to purchase the property. According to the tenants, they accepted the first option to purchase the property presented in an email from the landlord and began making monthly holdover rental payments of $2,500. In April 2017, they informed the landlord that they had obtained financing and were ready to close on the property by April 30, 2017. The landlord, however, refused to convey title to the property because, she claimed, the tenants had never responded to her email; thus, according to the landlord, the option to purchase had expired. The tenants thereafter stopped paying rent under the lease agreement, but continued to occupy the property, and sued the landlord, seeking specific performance of the option to purchase. The landlord counterclaimed, asserting a claim for ejectment and a claim of breach of contract, based on unpaid rent and late fees owed under the lease agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed judgment on a jury’s verdict in favor of the tenants on their specific performance claim, and against the landlord on her ejectment claim. The Supreme Court reversed judgment entered on the jury’s verdict in favor of the landlord on her breach-of-contract claim based on the inadequacy of damages awarded, and the Court remanded the case with directions to the trial court to grant a new trial only as to that claim unless the tenants consented to an additur. View "Brady v. Hiett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that Defendant violated the Minnesota Bond Allocation Act, Minn. Stat. 474A.01-.21, holding that Plaintiff alleged a violation of the Act sufficient to support her common-law and statutory claims.Plaintiff, who leased and lived in one of Defendant's rent-restricted housing units, brought this putative class action alleging that Defendant violated the Act, which imposes rent limits on residential rental projects financed with tax-exempt municipal bonds. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff stated a viable action, and therefore, the district court erred in dismissing her complaint. View "Thompson v. St. Anthony Leased Housing Associates II, LP" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees the Section 8 low-income housing assistance program, 42 U.S.C. 1437f. New Lansing renewed its Section 8 contract with Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority in 2014 for a 20-year term. In 2019, at the contractual time for its fifth-year rent adjustment, New Lansing submitted a rent comparability study (RCS) to assist CM Authority in determining the new contract rents. Following the 2017 HUD Section 8 Guidebook, CM Authority forwarded New Lansing’s RCS to HUD, which obtained an independent RCS. Based on the independent RCS undertaken pursuant to HUD’s Guidebook requirements, the Housing Authority lowered New Lansing’s contract rents amount.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of New Lansing’s suit for breach of contract. The Renewal Contract requires only that the Housing Authority “make any adjustments in the monthly contract rents, as reasonably determined by the contract administrator in accordance with HUD requirements, necessary to set the contract rents for all unit sizes at comparable market rents.” HUD has authority to prescribe how to determine comparable market rents, the Renewal Contract adopted those requirements, and thus the Housing Authority was required to follow those HUD methods. The Housing Authority did not act unreasonably by following the requirements in the 2017 HUD guidance. View "New Lansing Gardens Housing Limited Partnership v. Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 challenging a Jersey City ordinance curtailing the ability of property owners and leaseholders to operate short-term rentals. The plaintiffs alleged that having passed an earlier zoning ordinance legalizing short-term rentals, which enticed them to invest in properties and long-term leases, the city violated their rights under the Takings Clause, the Contract Clause, and the Due Process Clauses by passing the new ordinance, which, they allege, undermined their legitimate, investment-backed expectations and injured their short-term rental businesses. The plaintiffs also sought a preliminary injunction. The district court dismissed the complaint.The Third Circuit affirmed. Not every municipal act legalizing a business activity vests the business owner with a cognizable property right. The plaintiffs’ forward-looking right to pursue their short-term rental businesses is not cognizable under the Takings Clause, but the plaintiffs articulated three cognizable property rights: use and enjoyment of their purchased properties, long-term leases, and short-term rental contracts. Because the properties may still be put to multiple economically viable uses, there has been no total taking of those “properties.” Rejecting “partial takings” claims, the court noted that the plaintiffs may have relied on the previous ordinance in deciding to invest in short-term rentals but they failed to take into account the restrictions in place in that ordinance and the city’s strong interest in regulating residential housing. View "Nekrilov v. City of Jersey City" on Justia Law

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Appellant appealed the order denying his motion to vacate the judgment entered against him for $251,200.13 after he failed to pay $30,000 as required pursuant to a stipulation for entry of judgment. Appellant contends the trial court erred because the judgment is an unenforceable penalty and is therefore void.   The Second Appellate disagreed with Appellant and affirmed the order denying the motion to vacate the $251,200.13 judgment. Here, the $251,200.13 damage provision in the stipulation for entry of judgment is not arbitrarily drawn from thin air. It is the actual and stipulated amount of damages. This is not a penalty or a liquidated damage provision. The court explained it cannot delete the terms of the stipulated judgment calling for monthly payments and it cannot add a provision to the terms of the stipulated judgment allowing a seven-year moratorium on monthly payments. Money has value over time. Appellant has had the use of the money for seven years. Respondent has been deprived of the use of the money for seven years. Respondent’s “more than reasonable” settlement terms should not be used against it to show “liquidated damages” or a “penalty.” View "Creditors Adjustment Bureau v. Imani" on Justia Law

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Shao Yan Chen, Han Lin Liu, Zhi Hua Mo, Yuk Yee Cheng, Hui Zhen Hu, Ruizhao Wu, and Qi Di Wu (collectively, tenants) had a dispute with Valstock Ventures, LLC and 371 Broadway Street, LLC (together, Valstock) over which of two documents was the operative lease governing the tenants’ tenancies in two of Valstock’s apartment buildings. The tenants filed suit against Valstock seeking a declaratory judgment on this question, alleging a civil conspiracy, and stating claims for violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Unfair Competition Law (UCL), and section 37.10B of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. The trial court awarded the tenants approximately $1.1 million in attorney’s fees under Civil Code section 1717 after granting their motion for summary adjudication of the sole cause of action on the contract in this case, before trial or disposition of the remaining non-contract causes of action. The defendants appealed, arguing the award of attorney’s fees was premature because the litigation as a whole had not yet ended. To this the Court of Appeal agreed and therefore reversed. View "Chen v. Valstock Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law

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In October 2019, defendants rented an apartment from plaintiff pursuant to a month-to-month tenancy rental agreement. The parties’ agreement required defendants to pay a $1,500 security deposit and $850 a month in rent. When defendants moved in, they personally paid $525 toward their October rent, and, a short time later, the Siletz Tribal Housing Department (STHD) paid plaintiff $1,500 on defendants’ behalf. No further payments were made. On December 17, 2019, plaintiff issued to defendants a written notice for nonpayment of rent and intent to terminate (“termination notice”). The notice stated that defendants owed $1,700 in unpaid rent: $850 for rent in October, and $850 for rent in November. Further, the notice advised defendants that the rental agreement would be terminated if not received by December 27, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. Defendants did not pay any amount, and plaintiff filed an FED action on December 30, 2019. At trial, defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the overpayment by SHTD, coupled with the amount they personally paid at the start of the lease, still left defendants owing and unpaid. Furthermore, defendants argued plaintiff did not properly account for the amounts of money he received, and was not specific as to the actual amounts due in the notice. The trial court ultimately ruled in favor of plaintiff. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding that ORS 90.394(3) required that a notice of termination for nonpayment of rent had to specify the correct amount due to cure the default. When the notice states an incorrect amount that is greater than the amount actually due, the notice is invalid, and any subsequent FED action relying on that notice is likewise invalid and requires dismissal. The Court reversed the contrary decisions of both the trial and appellate courts. View "Hickey v. Scott" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that when a landlord attempts to collect unpaid rent from a tenant during a period when the landlord was unlicensed a tenant may have a claim under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (MCDCA) and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) to the extent that the landlord's unlawful collection activity caused the tenant to suffer damages, including any rent payments made responding to the landlord's attempts to collect unpaid rent.Specifically, the the Court of Appeals held (1) a tenant who voluntarily paid rent to a landlord who lacked a rental license may not bring a private action under the MCPA or MCDCA to recover restitution of rent based upon the landlord's lack of licensure pursuant to the Baltimore City Code, Art. 13, 5-4; and (2) when a municipality or county enacts a rental license law conditioning the performance of a residential lease upon the issuance of a rental license a landlord may not file an action against a tenant to recover unpaid rent attributable to the period when the property was not licensed. View "Assanah-Carroll v. Law Offices of Maher" on Justia Law