Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Spinette v. University of Vermont, et al.
Plaintiff Sarah Spinette sought summer housing for herself and her minor child at the Redstone Apartments located on the campus of the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College (UVM). The Redstone Apartments were owned by Catamount/Redstone Apartments, LLC (Redstone), which leased the land from UVM. Catamount Commercial Services, Inc. (Catamount) managed the apartments. In March 2018, Catamount denied plaintiff’s application to sublet a two-bedroom apartment for herself and her daughter. Two years later, plaintiff filed a complaint against UVM, Redstone, and Catamount, alleging in relevant part that defendants violated the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), and the Vermont Public Accommodations Act (VPAA), “by refusing to allow her to sublet an apartment because she intended to live in the apartment with her minor child.” In March 2021, following discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment, explaining that the Redstone Apartments were for students only and plaintiff’s housing application was denied because she intended to live with a nonstudent, not because she intended to live with her child. Defendants noted that student status was not a protected category under the FHA or VPAA. Plaintiff opposed the motion but did not identify any disputed material facts. She characterized defendants as arguing that the FHA and VPAA did not apply to their dwellings and claimed that this argument failed as a matter of law. Defendants' motion was granted, and Plaintiff appealed. But finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Spinette v. University of Vermont, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Civil Rights, Landlord - Tenant, Vermont Supreme Court
Boutrous, et al. v. Transform Operating Stores, et al.
Transform Operating Stores, LLC d/b/a Transformco Operating Stores LLC; Transform SR Brands LLC d/b/a Transformco d/b/a Kmart; and Transform KM LLC (collectively, “Transform”) appealed after a North Dakota district court entered an order awarding damages to Ted J. Boutrous, L.L.C. and The Boutrous Group, LLP and entered a [second] amended judgment of eviction. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err finding a material breach of the lease and in exercising jurisdiction as a summary eviction. "While the court abused its discretion in bifurcating the eviction action, that error was harmless." The Court further concluded Transform failed to timely appeal the court’s contempt order for the untimely turnover of the property. View "Boutrous, et al. v. Transform Operating Stores, et al." on Justia Law
Fleurrey v. Department of Aging and Independent Living, et al.
Plaintiff Tina Fleurrey appealed the dismissal of her negligence claim against defendant landlord 3378 VT Route 12 LLC. In her complaint, she alleged that landlord was responsible for the drowning death of decedent Scott Fleurrey, a fifty-four-year-old man with developmental disabilities, on the property that landlord leased to decedent’s caretakers, Upper Valley Services (UVS) and Azwala Rodriguez. The question on appeal was whether the civil division properly dismissed plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff argued the civil division erred by misunderstanding the controlling law because landlord owed decedent a duty to protect and because the civil division drew inferences favorable to landlord. The Vermont Supreme Court held that the civil division properly granted landlord’s dismissal motion because: (1) Vermont precedents required an invitee to seek redress for injuries sustained on negligently maintained property from the land possessor who invited the injured invitee to the defective property, rather than from the absentee landlord; (2) §§ 343 and 343A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts were inapplicable here because those Restatement sections addressed only land possessors, and plaintiff did not allege that landlord was the possessor of the subject property; and (3) no duty could arise where, as here, a plaintiff did not allege that a legal relationship existed between a decedent and a landlord. View "Fleurrey v. Department of Aging and Independent Living, et al." on Justia Law
SVAP III Poway Crossings, LLC v. Fitness Internat., LLC
Defendant and cross-complainant Fitness International, LLC (Fitness) appealed a judgment entered in favor of plaintiff and cross-defendant SVAP III Poway Crossings, LLC (SVAP) on SVAP’s breach of contract claim for Fitness’s non-payment of rent under the parties’ lease. Fitness contended the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because its obligation to pay rent was excused due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government orders prohibiting it from operating its fitness facility for several months. Specifically, Fitness contended the court should have found that the obligation to pay rent was excused based on: (1) SVAP’s own material breach of the lease; (2) the force majeure provision in the lease; (3) Civil Code section 1511;1 (4) the doctrines of impossibility and impracticability; and (5) the doctrine of frustration of purpose. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded these contentions lacked merit and affirmed the judgment in favor of SVAP. View "SVAP III Poway Crossings, LLC v. Fitness Internat., LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Civil Procedure, Landlord - Tenant
Guilford v. Weidner Investment Services, Inc., et al.
A landlord tried to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent. The tenant counterclaimed under Alaska’s Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA), seeking damages for a variety of alleged harms: retaliatory eviction; failure to return her security deposit; intentional misrepresentation of certain fees; and personal injury and emotional distress caused by mold in the apartment, which the tenant alleged was a violation of the landlord’s duty under URLTA to maintain fit premises. The eviction was denied; the court entered summary judgment against the tenant’s damages claim for personal injury on the ground that the tenant failed to provide expert opinion evidence supporting the link between mold exposure and her health problems. After trial, a jury awarded the tenant modest damages for misrepresentation and for emotional distress caused by mold exposure. The jury found in the landlord’s favor on the retaliatory eviction and security deposit claims. The superior court awarded the tenant partial attorney’s fees, using a “blended analysis” that relied on both Alaska Civil Rule 82 and on URLTA’s provision for full reasonable fees and then discounting the award due to the tenant’s limited success. The tenant appealed the grant of summary judgment on her personal injury claim and the attorney’s fees calculation. The landlord cross-appealed, arguing the superior court erred in a number of its evidentiary decisions, by permitting the tenant to recover emotional distress damages for a breach of URLTA’s duty to maintain fit premises, and by awarding the tenant attorney’s fees as the prevailing party. After its review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s evidentiary rulings. It also affirmed its decision to permit recovery of emotional distress damages caused by violations of the duty to maintain fit premises. But the Court reversed summary judgment against the tenant’s personal injury claim. Medical records in which the tenant’s treating physician suggested that mold exposure may have been the cause of her health problems amount to sufficient expert medical opinion that, when viewed in the light most favorable to the tenant as the non-moving party, created a genuine issue of material fact that had to be resolved at trial. View "Guilford v. Weidner Investment Services, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Alaska Supreme Court, Civil Procedure, Landlord - Tenant
Tiffany Bass v. Weinstein Management Co., Inc.
Plaintiffs brought suit against Weinstein Management Co., Inc., and WMCI Charlotte XIII, LLC (collectively, Defendants). In relevant part, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants violated the North Carolina Residential Rental Agreements Act (RRAA), and the North Carolina Debt Collection Act (NCDCA), by charging them out-of-pocket costs for summary ejectment proceedings, including filing fees, service fees, and attorney’s fees (collectively, out-of-pocket expenses). The district court granted Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings on these claims, and Plaintiffs appealed. At issue on appeal is whether he 2021 amendment applies retroactively without violating vested rights, thereby extinguishing Plaintiffs’ RRAA and NCDCA claims. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here, the 2021 amendment’s text provides that it “is effective when it becomes law and is intended to apply retroactively to all pending controversies as of that date.” The court wrote that given this explicit language from the General Assembly, the intent of the legislature to apply the 2021 amendment retroactively could not be clearer. The North Carolina Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the General Assembly cannot retroactively invalidate common-law rights, which Plaintiffs do not seek to vindicate here. Therefore, the district court was not precluded from applying the 2021 amendment retroactively. View "Tiffany Bass v. Weinstein Management Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Gordon v. Dickerson
In 2016 in the Lee County Justice Court, Julio Gordon obtained an eviction order and a money judgment for back rent against his tenant Christy Dickerson. Dickerson appealed to the County Court in September 2016, providing notice to Gordon under Uniform Civil Rule of Circuit and County Court Practice 5.04. In May 2018, the county clerk sent Dickerson a notice of intent to dismiss the case as stale. In response, Dickerson filed an “Appellant’s Counterclaims” in June 2018, with a certificate of service indicating that a copy of the counterclaims had been sent to Gordon’s mailing address. Gordon filed no response, and Dickerson applied for and received an entry of default in January 2019. Dickerson then moved for default judgment and a determination of compensatory and punitive damages. The county court held a hearing on the motion. Both parties appeared at the hearing; Dickerson was represented by counsel, and Gordon appeared pro se. The county court found that Gordon had been served properly with the counterclaims in accordance with Rule 5 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, that Rule 4 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure was inapplicable, and that Gordon had forfeited his right to challenge liability by failing to answer the counterclaims. The county court held a trial to determine if punitive damages should be awarded, after which the county court awarded Dickerson $10,800 in compensatory damages and $39,200 in punitive damages. Gordon, through counsel, timely moved to set aside the default judgment under Rule 60(b) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, or, alternatively, for a new trial, along with a requested stay of judgment pending the post-trial motions. Pertinent here, Gordon argued Dickerson did not comply with Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 13(k)’s requirement that counterclaims be filed within thirty days after the perfection of her appeal from justice court. And she had not been granted leave of the court to file her counterclaims as required by Rule 15. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the rule was misinterpreted and misapplied to the exclusion of Civil Procedure Rule 15(a), and that the county court erred by not setting aside the default judgment against Gordon. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision, reversed the circuit court, vacated the judgment of default, and remanded this case to the county court for further proceedings on the merits. View "Gordon v. Dickerson" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Landlord - Tenant, Supreme Court of Mississippi
2710 Sutter Ventures, LLC v. Millis
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
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Civil Procedure, Landlord - Tenant
Chen v. Valstock Ventures, LLC
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
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Landlord - Tenant
Hickey v. Scott
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
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Landlord - Tenant, Oregon Supreme Court