Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Ralph Fischer appealed from an order denying his request for attorney’s fees under N.D.C.C. 27-08.1-04. In February 2018, Fischer and Darin Hoyt executed a Cattle Share Lease. Under the terms of the lease, Fischer rented pasture land to Hoyt. In July 2019, Fischer sued Hoyt in small claims court arguing he was entitled to $15,000 for Hoyt’s failure to pay pasture rent in 2018. Hoyt removed the case to district court and filed an answer and counterclaim, asserting Fischer breached terms of the agreement. Fischer answered the counterclaim and requested attorney’s fees under N.D.C.C. 27-08.1-04. In February 2020, Fischer received leave of court to amend his complaint and increased his alleged damages to $25,000. After a bench trial, the district court found both parties breached the lease in different respects. Pertinent here, the district court found Hoyt breached the lease by failing to pay rent in 2018. The district court denied Fischer’s request for attorney’s fees, finding "the claims and counterclaims in this matter were far too complex for small claims court and would have been dismissed without prejudice to refile in district court." To the North Dakota Supreme Court, Fischer argues the district court erred in denying his request because he is the prevailing plaintiff after removal from small claims court. Fischer also argued he was entitled to attorney’s fees incurred in this appeal. The Supreme Court agreed, and reversed and remanded for an award of Fischer’s attorney’s fees in the district court action and on appeal. View "Fischer v. Hoyt" on Justia Law

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J&A, a tenant of real party in interest, TTP, filed suit alleging that TTP failed to honor its right of first refusal when TTP entered an agreement to sell property to a third party, Adventure Church. J&A initiated legal action in the Fresno County Superior Court and filed a notice of pendency of action, commonly known as a lis pendens, to provide notice to interested parties of the litigation; TTP moved to expunge the lis pendens; and the trial court granted the motion. J&A then petitioned for writ of mandate challenging the trial court's ruling.The Court of Appeal granted the writ of mandate, concluding that the order expunging the lis pendens was flawed in several respects. The court found that the trial court's ruling expunging the lis pendens was based on erroneous legal rulings and factual findings not supported by substantial evidence. In this case, J&A has shown the probable validity of its real property claims and is entitled to the continued recordation of the lis pendens pending the outcome of litigation. The court ordered and entered a new order denying the motion to expunge the lis pendens. The court also concluded that J&A, as the prevailing party on the motion to expunge and in the writ proceeding, is entitled to recover its reasonable attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 405.38. The court also directed the trial court to hold further proceedings to calculate and award those attorney's fees and costs. View "J&A Mash & Barrel, LLC v. Superior Court of Fresno County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Maia Magee (tenant) appealed a circuit court order in favor of defendant Vita Cooper (landlord) on the tenant’s claim that the landlord willfully violated her right to quiet enjoyment of residential property. Tenant alleged that in retaliation for the August 4 continuance of an eviction proceeding, the landlord: (1) played “loud” rock music on an outdoor stereo system early in the morning and during the day from 8:30 a.m. on Friday, August 7 until 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 9, and “for several hours” after 6:00 p.m. on Monday, August 10; (2) yelled “GET OUT OF MY HOME!” loudly from her property on August 10; (3) either shot a gun or ignited firecrackers during the evening of August 9 and between 7:00 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on August 10; and (4) had an unknown and unidentified man, carrying a camera, trespass on the leased property on August 9. Additionally, Tenant alleged that the landlord breached a term of her lease prohibiting the tenant from playing a “musical instrument, radio, television, or other like device in the leased premises in a manner offensive to other occupants of the building” or during certain hours. She assertet that, in finding to the contrary, the trial court improperly failed to consider the timing of the alleged “bad actions,” and misconstrued and mischaracterized certain items of evidence. Furthermore, Tenant contended the trial court erred by: (1) considering each of the landlord’s alleged “bad actions” individually, rather than considering whether, collectively, such actions violated her right to quiet enjoyment; (2) not considering whether the landlord’s alleged “bad actions” violated the parties’ lease; and (3) relying upon Tenant’s failure to submit evidence of a local sound ordinance. Finding that Tenant failed to meet her burden to establish that there was a question of law warranting reversal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Magee v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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Tioga Properties, LLC, appealed a district court judgment awarding Wades Welding, LLC $27,669.90 relating to Wades Welding’s lawsuit for enforcement of construction liens and unjust enrichment. Janice Ellsworth owned Tioga Properties. Tioga Properties owned a restaurant and home (referred to by the parties as a “mobile home”) adjacent to each other in Tioga, North Dakota. Susan Gordon leased the restaurant from Tioga Properties. Gordon delivered rent payments to John Ellsworth Jr., Janice Ellsworth’s son. Gordon resided in the home but had no written lease for that property. In late 2016 and early 2017, Gordon hired Wades Welding to repair the home and restaurant. Wades Welding performed $19,840 of work on the home and $2,500 of work on the restaurant. Wades Welding delivered the invoices for its work to Ellsworth Jr. A day after Wades Welding completed its work at the home, Ellsworth evicted Gordon from the restaurant and home. Ellsworth Jr. supervised the eviction and Gordon left both properties within 48 hours. In December 2017, Wades Welding recorded construction liens against the properties after Tioga Properties failed to pay for the repairs. Tioga Properties sold the restaurant in July 2019. In September 2019, Tioga Properties served on Wades Welding a demand to enforce the home lien. In October 2019, Wades Welding sued Tioga Properties for breach of contract, foreclosure of the construction liens and unjust enrichment. Tioga Properties denied the allegations, claiming it did not authorize Wades Welding's work on the properties. The district court found Wades Welding's construction liens on both properties were valid, and ordered foreclosure of the home lien. The court found the lien on the restaurant was unenforceable due to a service error, but nonetheless awarded Wades Welding the amount of the repaired under the doctrine of unjust enrichment. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of Wades Welding. View "Wades Welding v. Tioga Properties" on Justia Law

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The issue this appeal presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on a farm lease between Walker Land & Cattle, LLC, (“Walker”) and Sometimes a Great Notion Land and Cattle Company (“SAGN”). The lease agreement required Walker, as tenant, to obtain insurance coverage on “improvements” to the Ririe Farm, which SAGN, as landlord, contended included the property’s five irrigation pivots. The district court granted summary judgment to SAGN, concluding that under the lease agreement irrigation pivots were improvements and Walker defaulted on the lease by failing to provide insurance on the pivots. On appeal, Walker raised several related issues, primarily contending that genuine issues of material fact barred granting summary judgment. Finding no reversible error, however, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the award of summary judgment by the district court. View "Stanger v. Walker Land & Cattle" on Justia Law

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Kremerman sued his former tenant, White. After a registered process server filed three non-service reports, Kremerman unsuccessfully sought to accomplish service by publication. In the subsequent proof of service, the process server stated that he left a copy of the summons and complaint with “a competent member of the household (at least 18 years of age) at the dwelling house or usual place of abode of the party” and identified said person as Plowden, an “authorized employee” at the Postal Annex where White maintained a private mailbox. The process server “thereafter mailed (by first-class, postage prepaid) copies of the documents” to the “authorized employee at ‘Postal Annex’.” The trial court entered a default judgment against White. White unsuccessfully moved to vacate the default judgment, alleging she was never effectively served with the summons and complaint.The court of appeal reversed. Under Code of Civil Procedure section 473 (d), and section 473.5, the trial court never acquired personal jurisdiction over White because service of summons was defective. Kremerman did not undertake diligent efforts to serve White. With respect to substituted service, the Postal Annex is not White’s household or usual place of abode, nor was Plowden a competent member of White’s household. Kremerman was aware that White had another address, as he included that address on the security deposit itemization. View "Kremerman v. White" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were landlords that rented property in the City of Portland. Plaintiffs filed a declaratory judgment and injunction action against the city contending, as relevant here, that ORS 91.225 preempted an ordinance passed requiring landlords to pay relocation assistance to displaced tenants in certain circumstances. Plaintiffs argued the ordinance impermissibly created a private cause of action that a tenant could bring against a landlord that violates the ordinance. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded ORS 91.225 did not prevent municipalities from enacting other measures that could affect the amount of rent that a landlord charged or could discourage a landlord from raising its rents. The Court further held that ORS 91.225 did not preempt the city’s ordinance. The Supreme Court also rejected plaintiffs’ contention that the ordinance impermissibly created a private cause of action. View "Owen v. City of Portland" on Justia Law

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The question this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court was whether a tenant in a fixed-term commercial lease could become a holdover tenant when the tenancy ends pursuant to an early termination provision. The tenant here argued that this unlawful detainer provision applied only when the tenant remained after the end of the original term specified in the lease. To this, the Supreme Court disagreed: in this case, exercising the no-fault early termination provision in the lease revised the term of the lease, and the term expired on the revised termination date. Therefore, the tenant became a holdover tenant under RCW 59.12.030(1) when they continued in possession of the leased premises after that date. View "Spokane Airport Bd. v. Experimental Aircraft Ass'n, Chapter 79" on Justia Law

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Landlords challenged Part A of New York’s residential eviction moratorium statute, the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (CEEFPA), and attempted to challenge the new residential eviction moratorium, (Subpart C(A) 2021), enacted in Sept. 2021, after several provisions of the old moratorium statute expired. The Supreme Court enjoined enforcement of Part A 2020 on August 12, 2021, based on due process defects.The Landlords argued that Subpart C(A) 2021 did not remedy the defect but is merely a continuation of the previous statute. State officials sought dismissal of the appeal as moot, arguing that the challenged provisions of the old statute have expired, Subpart C(A) 2021 does remedy the defect identified by the Supreme Court, and any challenge to the 2021 provisions must be brought in a new lawsuit.The Second Circuit concluded that the due process claims are moot, dismissed them, and remanded the case. With the appeal remanded, the court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to enjoin enforcement of Subpart C(A) 2021. The “mootness is attributable to a change in the legal framework,” so the Landlords “may wish to amend their complaint so as to demonstrate that the repealed statute retains some continuing force or to attack the newly enacted legislation.” View "Chrysafis v. Marks" on Justia Law

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Paradigm Investment Group, LLC, and HR IV, LLC ("the tenants"), entered into a written lease agreement, which was ultimately assigned to Dewey Brazelton ("the landlord"). The lease obligated the tenants to make rental payments to the landlord from the operation of a fast-food franchise on the leased premises. When the tenants failed to remit rental payments, the landlord sued the tenants for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the landlord, finding that the tenants had breached the lease agreement and were obligated to pay the landlord $113,869.44. The tenants appealed, arguing the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of the landlord because they abandoned the leased premises; the lease agreement does not address abandonment; and, therefore, as a matter of law, common-law principles of abandonment, rather than the terms of lease, govern the landlord's available remedies. The tenants assert that, had the trial court correctly applied common-law principles of abandonment, it would not have awarded contract damages under the lease. Finding summary judgment was properly granted in favor of the landlord, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Paradigm Investment Group, LLC and HR IV, LLC v. Brazelton" on Justia Law