Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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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

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The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review was whether a landlord who had no knowledge that a tenant’s dog had dangerous propensities could be held liable for injuries the dog causes to individuals who enter the property with tenant’s permission. Plaintiff Katherine Higgins, who was badly injured by a tenant’s dog while on the leased property, challenged the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant landlords. When he was showing the house on landlords’ behalf after tenant moved in, a realtor who was representing landlords in marketing the property observed obvious signs around the house that a dog lived there, including door casings that were badly scratched by the dog. The realtor did not see the dog and did not know its size or breed or whether it had ever acted aggressively towards any person or other animal; based on the sound of the dog, he opined that it was “tough and loud.” Plaintiff, a neighbor, was attacked and seriously injured by tenant’s dog, an American Pitbull Terrier, while visiting tenant on the rental property. On appeal, plaintiff renews her argument that landlords have a general duty of care to the public, and that this duty includes a duty of reasonable inquiry concerning tenants’ domestic animals. In addition, she argues that landlords were on notice of the dog’s dangerous propensities on the basis of the observations made by realtor, acting as landlords’ agent. Finally, she contends that landlords are liable to plaintiff on the basis of a municipal ordinance. Finding no reversible error in granting summary judgment to the landlords, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Higgins v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Robert St. Onge appealed a circuit court order dismissing his claim brought under RSA chapter 540-A against defendant Oberten, LLC, on the ground that the sober living facility it operated, and in which the plaintiff lived, was a “group home” under RSA 540:1-a, IV(c) and, therefore, exempt from RSA chapter 540-A.Plaintiff was one of 12 residents at defendant’s Manchester, New Hampshire location. All program participants agreed to certain rules for living at the home. The contract plaintiff signed explicitly provided that it was not a lease and that “residents of Live Free Structured Sober Living have no tenant rights.” Despite being aware of, and agreeing to, the home's rules, plaintiff violated them and, as a result, was discharged from the program and required to vacate the sober living facility. He subsequently filed a petition alleging defendant violated RSA chapter 540-A by using “self-help” to evict him. Defendant moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that because its facility was a “group home,” it was not a “landlord” required to bring an eviction proceeding under RSA chapter 540, and plaintiff was not a “tenant” entitled to the protections of RSA chapter 540-A. The trial court agreed with defendant. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "St. Onge v. Oberten, LLC" on Justia Law

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In January 2015, plaintiff Angel Pareja was walking to work when he slipped on ice, fell, and broke his hip. The sidewalk area on which he fell was on property owned and managed by defendant Princeton International Properties, Inc. (Princeton International). The night before, a wintry mix of light rain, freezing rain, and sleet began to fall. Around the time of his fall, light rain and pockets of freezing rain were falling. Pareja’s expert opined that Princeton International could have successfully reduced the hazardous icy condition by pre-treating the sidewalk. The trial court granted summary judgment to Princeton International. The Appellate Division reversed, holding Princeton International had a duty of reasonable care to maintain the sidewalk even when precipitation was falling. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, finding that Princeton International owed Pareja a duty only in unusual circumstances, none of which were present here. Princeton International took no action to increase Pareja’s risk, and the record showed that the ice on the sidewalk was not a pre-existing condition. View "Pareja v. Princeton International Properties" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff H.C. Equities, L.P. asserted contract claims against its commercial tenant, the County of Union, after the County began to withhold rent payments in response to a dispute about the condition of the leased commercial buildings. During negotiations to settle the contract matter, the County directed its co-defendant, the Union County Improvement Authority (Authority), to assess the County’s real estate needs. H.C. Equities obtained a copy of a consultant’s report prepared as part of that assessment and objected to statements in the report about the condition of the buildings that it had leased to the County. H.C. Equities filed suit against the County and the Authority, asserting conspiracy claims against both defendants and trade libel and defamation claims against the Authority. Plaintiff did not apply for permission to file a late tort claims notice until more than eight months after the expiration of the one-year period allowed under N.J.S.A. 59:8-9 for the filing of such motions. The trial court held that H.C. Equities had failed to file the notices of claim that the Tort Claims Act required and dismissed its tort claims. H.C. Equities appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed the trial court. Relying on a combination of excerpts from three letters written by H.C. Equities’ counsel, the Appellate Division found that H.C. Equities substantially complied with the Act’s notice of claim provisions. The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed that a finding of substantial compliance with the Tort Claims Act could be premised on comments made by plaintiff’s counsel in three different letters sent to lawyers representing the defendant public entities. The Supreme Court did not find that H.C. Equities’ letters, individually or collectively, communicated the core information that a claimant had to provide to a public entity in advance of filing a tort claim. The Appellate Division’s determination was reversed, and the matter remanded to the trial court. View "H.C. Equities, LP v. County of Union" on Justia Law

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Antonia Nyman was renting a backyard cottage to Dan Hanley when the COVID-19 pandemic began. She sought to evict Hanley and gave him 60 days’ notice of her intention to move into the unit herself. Due to this unprecedented pandemic, Washington Governor Jay Inslee temporarily halted most evictions, but not for landlords seeking to occupy the unit personally. A federal eviction moratorium imposed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also temporarily halted some evictions, but not for tenants who have violated a contractual obligation (with certain specified exceptions). The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether Hanley violated a contractual obligation by holding over in his unit after his lease expired by its terms. Based on undisputed facts before us, the Court held that he did. "While the CDC order may be more protective than Washington’s eviction proclamation in some instances, it does not apply here. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court and lift the stay of the writ of restitution." View "Nyman v. Hanley" on Justia Law

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Tenant Dennis Florer brought an action against Yar Walizada, his landlord, for breach of the warranty of habitability based on an alleged failure to provide an adequate heat source. Walizada moved to dismiss, asserting that Florer lacked standing to bring the action because, by the time Florer provided written notice under Idaho Code section 6-320, the alleged breach had already been cured. The district court denied the motion and, following a bench trial, entered judgment in Florer’s favor. Walizada appealed, arguing the district court erred in denying his motion to dismiss. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found: Walizada rented a house without an adequate heat source to Florer; he had an obligation to provide an adequate heat source; he induced Florer to install the stove by promising to offset Florer’s costs against his rent; and he reneged on this promise. The Court found Florer could have sued for breach of the oral agreement to offset the costs of installation against his rent, and given the result below, it appears he would have been successful if he had. However, Florer brought suit under section 6-320, and this suit was not preceded by a written notice allowing three days to cure, the district court’s failure to grant Walizada’s motion to dismiss contradicted the plain language of section 6-320; therefore, the Court reversed its decision. View "Florer v. Walizada" on Justia Law

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This case involved a premises liability claim brought by a visitor against landlords for an injury caused by the tenants’ dog. The question was whether the landlords, Ernesto and Teri Hernandez, owed a duty to petitioner Maria Saralegui Blanco. The tenants, David Gonzalez Sandoval, Alexandra Barajas Gonzalez, and Elvia Sandoval, rented single family home owned by the landlords. While visiting the home, Saralegui Blanco was attacked and bitten by the tenants’ dog. Saralegui Blanco sued, alleging the tenants and landlords were negligent and liable for her injuries. The trial court dismissed the claims against the landlords on summary judgment. The Washington Supreme Court granted direct review and affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment, dismissing Saralegui Blanco’s premises liability claim against the landlords: petitioner failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact that the landlords possessed the land, retained control over the premises or the dog, or created a dangerous condition. View "Saralegui Blanco v. Gonzalez Sandoval" on Justia Law

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Biron D. Baker Family Medicine, PC and Biron D. Baker, M.D. (collectively, "Baker Medicine") appealed a district court judgment awarding Big Pines, LLC attorney’s fees and costs. In 2011, Baker Medicine signed an agreement to lease commercial property from Phoenix M.D., L.L.C. Baker executed the lease personally and for Baker Medicine as its president. Baker Medicine allegedly vacated the premises several months prior to the end of the lease and in a damaged condition. Phoenix subsequently sold the building to Big Pines, and assigned its interest in the lease to Big Pines as part of the sale. Big Pines sued alleging breach of the lease by Baker Medicine and breach of the personal guaranty by Baker. A jury found Baker Medicine and Baker breached the lease and awarded Big Pines $18,750 in damages. Big Pines later moved for an award of attorney’s fees under the personal guaranty. The district court denied Big Pines’ request, concluding the personal guaranty was not assigned to Big Pines. The district court's judgment with respect to the fees was reversed by the North Dakota Supreme Court on Big Pines' appeal. On remand, Big Pines again moved for attorney's fees, "as well as any future fees and costs until the case is “fully and finally dismissed." This motion was granted, and Baker Medicine appealed, arguing the district court erred in calculating the recoverable amount of attorney's fees incurred by Big Pines. Concluding the district court provided it with a discernible basis for the fee award, the Supreme Court found the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing its judgment on fees. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Big Pines, LLC v. Baker, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellant Wild Meadows MHC, LLC challenged the Superior Court’s dismissal of its petition for a writ of prohibition. The Wild Meadows manufactured home community (the “Community”) owned by Appellant, was located in Dover, Delaware. The Community was governed by the Manufactured Home Owners and Community Owners Act and its subsection commonly known as the Rent Justification Act (the “Act”). Appellee Intervenor/Respondent Wild Meadows Homeowners’ Association (the “HOA”) represented these homeowners. Multiple homeowners rejected Wild Meadows’ rent increase and, through the HOA, filed a petition with the Delaware Manufactured Home Relocation Authority (the “Authority”). The Authority appointed Appellee David J. Weidman, Esquire as the arbitrator under the Act. Before the scheduled arbitration, the HOA requested financial information from Wild Meadows relating to the Community’s recent revenue and costs. Wild Meadows refused to provide this information. The HOA moved to compel discovery and a motion for summary judgment with Weidman. In his initial decision, Weidman granted discovery of any financial documents that Wild Meadows intended to rely upon at arbitration, but he denied the HOA’s motion to compel the production of additional financial documents from Wild Meadows. Determining he could compel discover, Weidman ordered Wild Meadows to submit a proposed confidentiality agreement, and ordered the HOA to submit any comments on the draft. After taking both parties' comments into consideration, Weidman issued a final confidentiality agreement, rejecting many of the changes the HOA proposed. Wild Meadows refused to sign the confidentiality agreement and filed the underlying application for a writ of prohibition in the Superior Court. Wild Meadows argued to the Delaware Supreme Court that the Superior Court erroneously held that the arbitrator appointed under Delaware’s Rent Justification Act had authority to compel discovery and impose a confidentiality agreement upon parties concerning discovery material. Finding no reversible error in the Superior Court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wild Meadows MHC, LLC v. Weidman" on Justia Law