Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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The Second Circuit held that a landlord may be liable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) for intentionally discriminating against a tenant who complains about a racially hostile housing environment that is created by and leads to the arrest and conviction of another tenant. In this case, the landlord allegedly refused to take any action to address what it knew to be a racially hostile housing environment created by one tenant targeting another, even though the landlord had acted against other tenants to redress prior, non‐race related issues. In holding that a landlord may be liable in those limited circumstances, the court adhered to the FHA's broad language and remedial scope. The court also held that post-acquisition claims that arise from intentional discrimination are cognizable under section 3604 of the FHA. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the FHA and analogous New York State law, as well as his claims under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and 82. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a district court’s dismissal of Rencher/Sundown LLC’s (“Sundown”) complaint against Butch Pearson. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Sundown did not serve the complaint or summons within the six months required by Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 4(b)(2); Pearson moved to dismiss the complaint. The district court dismissed Sundown’s complaint after finding Sundown could not show good cause for failure to timely serve. The Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of Sundown's complaint. View "Rencher/Sundown LLC v. Pearson" on Justia Law

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Under Water Code section 13304, a prior owner of property may be required to participate in the cleanup of wastes discharged from its property that resulted in groundwater contamination if that person “caused or permitted” the discharge. The San Francisco Regional Board named UATC in a cleanup order addressing waste discharges from dry cleaning operations at a shopping center owned by UATC in the 1960s and 1970s. The court of appeal reversed, in favor of the Board. The knowledge component of the statutory element of “permitted” focuses on the landlord’s awareness of a risk of discharge: a prior owner may be named in a section 13304 cleanup order upon a showing the owner knew or should have known that a lessee’s activity created a reasonable possibility of a discharge of wastes into waters of the state that could create or threaten to create a condition of pollution or nuisance. The court rejected UATC’s argument that its liability was discharged in a 2000 bankruptcy reorganization proceeding. Even assuming the Regional Board’s entitlement to a cleanup order was a claim within the meaning of bankruptcy law, it was not discharged in UATC’s bankruptcy proceeding because it did not arise before confirmation of reorganization. View "United Artists Theater Circuit, Inc. v. Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Region" on Justia Law

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Woodruff Brokerage Company, Inc., the remaining defendant in this case, appealed the trial court's denial of its motion to set aside the default judgment entered in favor of plaintiff Patricia Beatty. Beatty sued "Woodruff Brokerage Company d/b/a The River and formerly d/b/a Crest Club Apartments," Ricky Dabbs, "Century 21," and fictitiously named defendants. She lived in Crest Club Apartments, and alleged fatigue, nausea, and weakness were cause from prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide from a leaking natural-gas line beneath her bedroom, and that she had been permanently injured as a result of that exposure. Beatty asserted that Woodruff Brokerage had negligently and/or wantonly failed to maintain the premises at Crest Club Apartments in a safe condition. Woodruff defended on faulty service; the Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no properly named addressee on the certified mail allegedly sent to Woodruff, and thus, Beatty failed to prove that the complaint and summons was delivered to "the named addressee" or to the "addressee's agent." Because Beatty's service by certified mail was ineffective, the trial court did not obtain personal jurisdiction over Woodruff Brokerage, and the default judgment against it was void. Therefore, the trial court erred when it denied Woodruff Brokerage's motion to set aside the default judgment. View "Woodruff Brokerage Company, Inc. v. Beatty" on Justia Law

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Defendant Antonio Barletta appealed a circuit court order that awarded plaintiff Jacquelyn Lane $66,000 in damages for his willful interruption of plaintiff’s heat utility service for thirty-three days. Plaintiff rented an apartment from defendant. Shortly after moving in, plaintiff and her grandfather noticed the heating system did not produce heat. Plaintiff notified the defendant of the problem via text message on September 26, 2016, and was told to call the maintenance person for the property. When the maintenance person arrived, he turned on the heating system and observed the pilot light, and instructed plaintiff to leave the system on for a while. He told plaintiff that if she did not begin to feel any heat to contact defendant. The heating problems persisted, and when plaintiff informed defendant, he told her that he would send over a space heater and repair or replace the heating system. Plaintiff received the space heater in November 2016, and, in December, she informed defendant the space heater “[wa]sn’t cutting it.” However, the space heater remained her only source of heat. In August 2017, plaintiff called the local health inspector hoping that a letter from that office might prompt defendant to take action. Nevertheless, the heating system was not repaired. On appeal defendant argued the trial court erred in finding that he caused a “willful interruption” of the plaintiff’s heating service. Alternatively, he argued that even if he did violate RSA 540- A:3, I, the trial court erred in awarding enhanced damages pursuant to RSA 540-A:4, IX(a) (Supp. 2018) and RSA 358-A:10, I (2009). Plaintiff cross-appealed the trial court's denial of her motion for reconsideration as untimely. The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the order of the trial court and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that although defendant willfully failed to repair plaintiff’s original heat source, he may not have willfully interrupted plaintiff’s heat in violation of RSA 540-A:3, I, if the space heater he provided was an adequate alternative source of heat. The adequacy of the space heater was not considered by the trial court in the first instance. Therefore, the trial court’s finding of a statutory violation was vacated, as was the damages award resulting from that violation. Plaintiff’s argument that the trial court erred in denying her motion for reconsideration became moot. View "Lane v. Barletta" on Justia Law

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In this discretionary appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed whether a magisterial district court had jurisdiction over a case proceeding under the Landlord and Tenant Act, where the plaintiff was the purchaser of a property at a sheriff’s sale, and the defendants were the property’s former owners who refused to leave, but where the parties did not have a landlord-tenant relationship. The Supreme Court determined the magistrate court did not have jurisdiction, and so reversed and remanded for dismissal. View "Assouline v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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Brown, a tenant in low-income, rent-controlled housing owned and managed by Upside, filed suit on behalf of herself and other similarly situated persons, alleging violations of Hayward’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Tenant Protection Ordinance. According to Brown, Upside claimed an exemption to the ordinance based upon misleading information and thereafter imposed upon the often non-English-speaking tenants illegal rent increases, charged excessive late fees, and failed to pay required security deposit interest. Upside representatives approached the tenants individually with pre-written releases from the class action along with pre-written checks as “compensation.” The trial court invalidated those releases (signed by approximately 26 tenant putative class members) and required the parties to confer regarding a corrective notice for the putative class. The court found that the releases contained misleading and one-sided information regarding the underlying lawsuit. The court of appeal dismissed Upside’s appeal of the order as taken from a nonappealable order. The court rejected Upside’s argument that the order was appealable as an injunctive order within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1(a)(6) because it mandates certain actions on their part with respect to the putative class members. Section 904.1 provides no basis for appealing a standard interlocutory order. View "Brown v. Upside Gading, LP" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from an unlawful-detainer and breach-of-contract action filed by Caldwell Land and Cattle, LLC, (“CLC”) after purchasing a building where the holdover tenant, Johnson Thermal Systems (“JTS”), asserted a right to remain on the property. The dispute centered on the interpretation of a lease between JTS and the original property owner which granted JTS an option to extend the lease. JTS contended it properly exercised the option; CLC contends JTS did not. The district court held that JTS failed to exercise the option and thus became a holdover tenant. The court further held that when JTS did not vacate within the proper timeframe, JTS unlawfully detained the premises and was liable for the ensuing damages. JTS appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. The district court’s amended final judgment and its order of attorney’s fees was remanded, however, for reentry of damages consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion , and for reconsideration of attorney’s fees. View "Caldwell Land & Cattle v. Johnson Thermal" on Justia Law

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Broadly speaking, Seattle's First-In-Time ("FIT") rule requires Seattle landlords when seeking to fill vacant tenancies to provide notice of rental criteria, screen all completed applications in chronological order, and to offer the tenancy to the first qualified applicant (subject to certain exceptions). Plaintiffs were Seattle landlords who claimed the FIT rule facially violated their state constitutional rights. The trial court ruled the FIT rule was unconstitutional on its face because: (1) the rule facially effected a per se regulatory taking for private use; (2) the rule facially infringed on plaintiffs' substantive due process rights; and (3) the rule facially infringed plaintiffs' free speech rights. The Washington Supreme Court determined the FIT rule was constitutional, "[t]he FIT rule is unquestionably an experiment." The Court adopted the definition of regulatory takings set forth in Lingle v. Chevron U.S.A., 544 U.S. 528 (2005) for the purposes of Washington Constitution article I, section 16, and held plaintiffs did not meet their burden of showing the FIT rule facially met this definition. The Court also clarified the rational basis review applied in substantive due process challenges to laws regulating the use of property, and held plaintiffs did not meet their burden of proving the FIT rule failed rational basis review on its face. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that on its face, the FIT rule required only factual disclosures, and the City met its burden of showing the rule survived deferential scrutiny. View "Yim v. Seattle" on Justia Law

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Since November 2012, LNM1, LLC, operated a gasoline station and convenience store in Greensboro, Alabama under a lease agreement with the owner of the property, TP Properties, LLC. In August 2017, TP Properties sued LNM1 and its owner Mohamed Alsahqani seeking to terminate the lease because LNM1 had not maintained all the required insurance coverages. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of TP Properties, holding that LNM1's failure to maintain the insurance required by the lease agreement constituted a material breach of that agreement, thus entitling TP Properties to terminate the lease. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "LNM1, LLC, and Mohamed Alsahqani v. TP Properties, LLC" on Justia Law