Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the intermediate court of appeals' (ICA) judgment on appeal with respect to defendant Nicole Jadan's counterclaim and vacated the district court's judgment, holding that the district court erred by failing to determine whether Jadan's participation in the court proceedings would be meaningful absent language assistance when it resolved her repeated requests for an interpreter.Cambridge Management filed a complaint for writ of possession against Jadan. Jadan counterclaimed for damages. The district court held nine hearings on the complaint and counterclaim. At eight of those court dates, Jadan either requested the assistance of a Polish interpreter or indicated to the court that she struggled with understanding and communicating in English. One judge agreed to appoint an interpreter midway through the district court proceedings, but subsequent court dates proceeded without the service of an interpreter. The court ruled in favor of Cambridge. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated in part, holding that the district court's failure adequately to inquire into Jadan's language access needs was not harmless. View "Cambridge Management Inc. v. Jadan" on Justia Law

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In March 2014, Evvie Punches rented a one-bedroom apartment in the Conifer Groves complex in Anchorage; she renewed the lease in April 2015. The complex was owned by McCarrey Glen Apartments, LLC and managed by Weidner Property Management, LCC. Punches complained to the property manager since moving in regarding air quality in the apartment, and mold around the toilet. These issues continued despite a number of attempts by Weidner’s maintenance staff to fix them. Punches nonetheless renewed her lease in April 2015. When the property manager tried to arrange an inspection, Punches refused to allow maintenance staff into her apartment because she would not be home. Punches moved out of her apartment on March 2016 after delivering Weidner a “Notice of Defects in Essential Services.” Her notice listed issues with the front door, mold on the ceiling, mold on the carpet, damage from a previous fire, water damage, and “insufficient windows” that permitted “free flowing air throughout” the apartment. Punches moved to Minneapolis some time after she left her Alaska apartment, and sought care in Minnesota for various skin infections and reported that she had been exposed to mold for two years. She continued to pursue a connection between mold exposure and her recurring skin infections and other ailments. In 2017, she sued her former landlord and the property management company, claiming the companies negligently failed to eradicate mold in her apartment, thereby breaching the habitability provisions of the lease and causing her to suffer personal injury and property damage. After considerable delay involving discovery disputes, the superior court granted summary judgment dismissing Punches' personal injury claim. The parties went to trial on the tenant’s property damage and contract claims after the superior court precluded the tenant from introducing evidence relating to her personal injury claim. The jury rejected Punches' claims, and judgment was entered in favor of the companies. Punches appealed, contending that the court erred by ruling against her in discovery disputes, by denying her a further extension of time to oppose summary judgment, and by limiting the evidence she could present at trial. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the court did not abuse its discretion when making the challenged rulings, and therefore affirmed the judgment against the tenant. View "Punches v. McCarrey Glenn Apartments LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court evicting Defendant from a property and quieting title to it in Plaintiff, Defendant's former husband's corporation (the corporation) but awarding Plaintiff a judgment for the money she provided for its downpayment, holding that the district court did not err.After Plaintiff failed to pay rent for two years the corporation initiated eviction proceedings. Plaintiff denied being a tenant and claimed to co-owned the property. Plaintiff then filed a complaint asking the district court to quiet title to the property in the corporation and restore the premises to it. Defendant filed a countercomplaint requesting partition or, alternative, a constructive trust and restitution. The district court quieted title to the property in Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court did not err in quieting title to the corporation, declining to partition the property or impose a constructive trust upon it, restoring the premises to the corporation, and awarding Defendant a monetary judgment for an unpaid loan. View "Dreesen Enterprises, Inc. v. Dreesen" on Justia Law

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Lester McMillan bought a dilapidated house that Terry Asher and Pamela Kitchens (“the Ashers”) planned to repair. The parties orally agreed that the Ashers would perform certain repairs to make the house livable, rent the house from McMillan for five years, and then buy the house from McMillan. For reasons that were disputed, the sale was never consummated. However, the Ashers continued to live in the house, make improvements to the property, and pay monthly rent to McMillan. After relations between the parties soured, McMillan sued to evict the Ashers. The Ashers then sued McMillan for specific performance of the oral contract to convey or, in the alternative, restitution for the value of the improvements. The district court found the oral contract was unenforceable, but awarded the Ashers restitution for certain improvements. McMillan appealed, alleging the district court erred in determining that he was unjustly enriched and in determining the amount of restitution. The Idaho Supreme Court found the district court did not err, except for a minor miscalculation of the amount of restitution. View "Asher v. McMillan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Johnny Ki Lee and Un Joong Lee sought to evict a commercial tenant, defendant Sean Kotyluk, for selling marijuana without a license. They filed an unlawful detainer action against him based on Code of Civil Procedure section 1161 (3). Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion in limine requesting judgment on the pleadings, claiming plaintiffs’ three-day notice (the notice) was defective because it was served on June 4, 2019, but plaintiffs had not become owners of the property until June 20, 2019. In response, plaintiffs explained that the prior owner of the property, Rosemarie Haynes, had served the notice before transferring ownership of the property to them. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings because the notice was issued prior to plaintiffs obtaining ownership of the property and because the notice failed to identify the party to whom defendant could return possession of the property. The court also denied plaintiffs leave to amend. Plaintiffs’ appeal raised two questions of first impression: (1) whether a property owner could file an unlawful detainer action based on a notice served by its predecessor in interest; and (2) did notice under section 1161 (3) have to identify a person to whom the tenant could turn over possession of the property if the tenant chose to quit? The Court of Appeal ruled: (1) nothing in the text of section 1161 prevented a successor owner from filing an unlawful detainer action, "nor does such a procedure undermine the purpose of the notice requirement in subdivision (3), which is primarily designed to give the tenant an opportunity to cure the breach and retain possession of the property;" and (2) identifying a specific person was not required by the statute: "Based on our reading of this subdivision, it appears the Legislature purposefully chose not to include such a requirement." View "Lee v. Kotyluk" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that certain provisions of the City of San Jose's 2017 Ordinance and implementing regulations, pertaining to the City's Apartment Rent Ordinance, violated plaintiffs' Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as the Contracts Clause. The challenged provisions of the Ordinance and Regulations require landlords to disclose information about rent stabilized units to the City and condition landlords' ability to increase rents on providing that information.The panel held that plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the challenged provisions effect a search and thus their Fourth Amendment claim fails. In this case, plaintiffs offered no factual allegations plausibly suggesting that they maintain a reasonable expectation of privacy in information that, generally speaking, they already disclose to the City in other contexts. The panel also held that plaintiffs failed to raise a colorable Fifth Amendment takings claim, a Contracts Clause claim, an equal protection claim, and substantive and procedural due process claims. Finally, the Ordinance does not violate the "unconstitutional conditions" doctrine as enunciated in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, 570 U.S. 595 (2013). View "Hotop v. City of San Jose" on Justia Law

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The district court entered a default judgment against a litigant in a dispute over real property improvements and rent. Following a levy on his bank account, the litigant moved for relief from the default judgment, attesting that he had stopped participating in the lawsuit because he believed it was about to be dismissed. The district court denied the motion, but on appeal the superior court reversed on procedural grounds. On remand the litigant amended his answer to assert a counterclaim for conversion of personal property; the counterclaim would have been time-barred unless allowed to relate back to the date of the litigant’s original answer. The district court held that the litigant was judicially estopped from pursuing the counterclaim because it was contradictory for him to assert it after attesting that he believed for years that the case against him had been dismissed. The superior court affirmed this decision. The Alaska Supreme Court granted certiorari review to address one issue: whether judicial estoppel barred the conversion counterclaim. The Court concluded the litigant’s two positions — his asserted belief that the case had been dismissed and his later assertion of a counterclaim — were not clearly inconsistent and that the judicial estoppel doctrine therefore was inapplicable. The superior court’s decision affirming the district court’s judgment on this issue was reversed and the matter remanded to the district court for further proceedings on the counterclaim. View "Zwiacher v, Capstone Family Medical Clinic, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute between Landlord and Tenant that arose under their lease to a shopping center premises the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Tenant on one claim and to Landlord on another claim, holding that any purported errors were harmless.When Tenant sought mortgage loan from Bank and offered its leasehold interest in the premises as collateral, Bank requested that Landlord execute a "section 3(n) agreement" pursuant to article 6, section 3(n) of the lease. Landlord did not sign the agreement. Bank then terminated the proposed mortgage loan. Tenant sued Landlord for breach of contract. Landlord countersued, claiming that Tenant had violated the lease through its subtenant's use of a pylon sign on the premises. The district court granted summary judgment to Tenant on Landlord's counterclaim. After a trial, the court found that Landlord had no obligation to execute the section 3(n) agreement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not clearly err in finding that Landlord did not breach the lease by not signing the section 3(n) agreements proposed by Bank; and (2) the district court did not err in ruling on summary judgment that Tenant's subtenant's use of the pylon sign did not breach the lease. View "58 Swansea Mall Drive LLC v. Gator Swansea Property LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the determination that time of entry into a lot rental agreement does not render the renters dissimilar under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 32L(2), holding that the requirement that renters pay ninety-six dollars per month in additional rent for essentially the same lots was a violation of the statute.Defendants, the new owners of a manufactured home community, charged those who had rented their lots after Defendants purchased the community ninety-six dollars per month more for lot rent than those who had rented their lots before the change in ownership, despite the lots being essentially the same. A group of people brought suit, and a class was certified. A housing court judge determined that Defendants violated section 32L(2). The Supreme Court affirmed but reversed and remanded the case for reconsideration of a different judge's class certification decisions, holding that the judge erred in requiring class members to opt in. The Court further held that the judge who conducted a trial on damages considered improper factors, and therefore, the subclassifications for damages calculations also required reconsideration. View "Blake v. Hometown America Communities, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the lessee under a lease for commercial premises, filed suit against defendants, alleging causes of action for premises liability and negligence after he fell down a staircase after hitting his head on a beam in the doorway at the top of the staircase. Plaintiff alleged that his fall was caused by the inherently dangerous condition of the staircase due to numerous building code violations.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the exculpatory clause in the lease. In this case, plaintiff alleges ordinary, passive negligence -- the failure to discover a dangerous condition or to perform a duty imposed by law. The court held that the exculpatory clause shields the lessor from liability for ordinary negligence; its language is clear that the lesser shall not be liable for injury to the person of lessee; and these circumstances make this a case where, when the parties knowingly bargain for the protection at issue, the protection should be afforded. View "Garcia v. D/AQ Corp." on Justia Law