Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
The Court of Appeals held that Baltimore City Council's enactment of a local law did not create a private right of action for Baltimore City tenants to recoup rent payments and related fees they paid in connection with their use and occupancy of rental dwellings during a period when the landlord did not have a valid rental license.Petitioners, tenants in a multi-unit apartment building, filed a putative class action alleging that Respondent did not hold an active rental license for the property, as required by the Baltimore City Code, and seeking to recoup paid rent and other fees paid to Respondent. The circuit court dismissed the case prior to a determination of issues relating to class certification. The court of special appeals largely agreed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that section 5-4(a)(2) of Article 13 of the Baltimore City Code does not provide a private right of action to recover rent and related payments that a tenant made during a period in which the landlord was unlicensed. View "Aleti v. Metropolitan Baltimore, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Jerry Gaucher appealed a superior court order denying his claim for payment of a $20,000 lease termination fee and awarding one of the defendants, Waterhouse Realty Trust (the Trust), costs associated with a separate eviction proceeding against plaintiff. Plaintiff argued the court erred by: (1) finding that he, and not defendants, materially breached a lease termination agreement (LTA); (2) awarding the Trust costs incurred in the separate eviction proceeding; and (3) awarding no damages in connection with the court’s prior final default judgment against another defendant, Kevin Waterhouse. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly found that plaintiff, and not defendants, materially breached the LTA and, therefore, he had no right to the termination fee. However, because defendants assigned all of their rights set forth in the LTA to a third party, the Supreme Court also concluded the trial court erred in finding that the Trust was entitled to the costs associated with plaintiff’s eviction. Lastly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s reconsideration of its prior default judgment order against Kevin Waterhouse. View "Gaucher v. Waterhouse" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Ross Dress for Less, Inc. sued Makarios seeking declaratory relief regarding its end-of-lease obligations in connection with Ross’s lease of the Richmond Building, as to which Makarios had received an assignment of rights and thereafter acted as Ross’s landlord. Makarios demanded a jury trial on its counterclaims. Ross filed a document waiving its right to a jury trial under Fed. R. Civ. P. 38. Makarios moved to withdraw its jury demand. Ross argued it was entitled to rely on Makarios’s request for a jury. The district court held a four-day Phase II bench trial and entered judgment in favor of Makarios.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling granting Defendant’s motion to withdraw its demand for a jury trial. The court explained that because jurisdiction in the district court was based on diversity of citizenship, Oregon substantive law and federal procedural law governed.   The court wrote that neither party argued that the waiver in Section 13.04 of the lease was unknowing or involuntary, but the parties disagreed on the scope of the provisions. The court held that the ordinary meaning of Section 13.04 was clear and it established that Ross waived its right to a jury trial on counterclaims filed by Makarios. The court rejected Ross’s argument that even if it contractually waived its jury trial right, it was still entitled to rely on Makarios’s jury demand under Rules 38(d) and 39(a).  The court held that typically, the combination of Rules 38(d) and 39(a) prevents a party from unilaterally withdrawing its jury demand, even when no other party has requested a jury trial. View "ROSS DRESS FOR LESS, INC. V. MAKARIOS-OREGON, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In 2002, NCO leased roughly 100,000 square feet of commercial space from Montgomery in its Baltimore building, which has over 1.2 million leasable square feet. NCO vacated the property in 2011. Montgomery was left with roughly 500,000 vacant square feet to lease. The lease and common law required Montgomery to mitigate damages after NCO breached the lease by using commercially reasonable efforts to re-lease NCO’s space.In 2016, the Fourth Circuit held that NCO failed to satisfy the conditions for exercising the lease’s early termination option and that its vacation of the leased premises left it potentially liable for the payment of rent for the full term. In 2019, that court held that Montgomery’s obligation to mitigate damages was not a condition precedent to an award of damages and did not require Montgomery to “develop a unique, preferred plan for leasing the NCO space . . . at the expense of its other vacant spaces” in the building. Montgomery was required only “to reasonably market NCO’s space on an equal footing with the other spaces that it was seeking to rent” in the building. The district court, on remand, found that Montgomery’s efforts to mitigate damages were commercially reasonable. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Montgomery did not sit on its hands to benefit from NCO’s ongoing rent obligation; it made substantial efforts to mitigate damages. View "NCO Financial Systems, Inc. v. Montgomery Park, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs were tenants at Arbor Court, a Houston apartment complex that received subsidies from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). After flooding that occurred during Hurricane Harvey, Arbor Court’s owner failed to maintain the property in decent, safe, and sanitary condition. Accordingly, HUD approved a transfer of the complex’s subsidy to a different property, offering Arbor Court tenants a choice between moving at no cost to the new property or receiving housing vouchers that they could use at new housing of their choice. After choosing the latter option, Plaintiffs sued HUD, seeking relocation assistance under the Uniform Relocation Act (“URA”). The district court dismissed the complaint.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The court held that Plaintiffs are not entitled to relocation assistance under the URA. The court explained, as required by statute, Plaintiffs have not pled that they moved from Arbor Court “as a direct result of a written notice of intent to acquire or the acquisition of such real property [i.e. Arbor Court] in whole or in part for a program or project undertaken by a Federal agency or with Federal financial assistance.” Plaintiffs argued that under the applicable Department of Transportation (“DOT”) regulations, the Section 8(bb) subsidy transfer from Arbor Court to Cullen Park qualifies as “such other displacing activity.” However, this regulation merely defines the phrase “program or project.” It does not prescribe any “displacing activit[ies]” that cause one to become a “displaced person” under the URA. View "Jackson v. HUD" on Justia Law