Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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In 2010, Pacific Grove authorized “transient use of residential property for remuneration,” subject to licensing. One-year “STR” Licenses were subject to revocation for cause. In 2016, the city capped the number of short-term rental licenses citywide at 250 and established a density cap of “15 [percent] per block.” In 2017, the city prohibited more than one license per parcel and required a 55-foot buffer zone between licensed properties. The changes provided that a license could be withdrawn, suspended, or revoked for any reason and that renewal was not guaranteed. The city resolved to “sunset” certain licenses using a random lottery. In 2018, Pacific Grove voters approved Measure M, to prohibit and phase out, over an 18-month sunset period, all existing short-term rentals in residential districts, except in the “Coastal Zone,” as defined by the California Coastal Act. Measure M did not restrict short-term rentals in nonresidential districts or otherwise modify existing rules.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of a suit by licensees. The Plaintiffs’ economic interest in renting their homes for transient visitors was not an entitlement subject to state or federal constitutional protection. The curtailment of short-term rental licenses is related to legitimate state interests. View "Hobbs v. City of Pacific Grove" on Justia Law

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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

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Plaintiffs challenged, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, Oakland’s Uniform Residential Tenant Relocation Ordinance, which requires landlords re-taking occupancy of their homes upon the expiration of a lease to pay tenants a relocation payment. Plaintiffs alleged that the relocation fee is an unconstitutional physical taking of their money for a private rather than public purpose, without just compensation. Alternatively, they claimed that the fee constitutes an unconstitutional exaction of their Oakland home and an unconstitutional seizure of their money under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Although in certain circumstances money can be the subject of a physical (per se) taking, the relocation fee required by the Ordinance was a regulation of the landlord-tenant relationship, not an unconstitutional taking of a specific and identifiable property interest. Because there was no taking, the court did not address whether the relocation fee was required for a public purpose or what just compensation would be. The court rejected an assertion that Oakland placed an unconstitutional condition (an exaction), on their preferred use of their Oakland home. The plaintiffs did not establish a cognizable theory of state action; Oakland did not participate in the monetary exchange between plaintiffs and their tenants. View "Ballinger v. City of Oakland" 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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In May 2020, at the height of the pandemic, New York City amended its Residential and Non-Residential Harassment Laws, to prohibit “threatening” tenants based on their “status as a person or business impacted by COVID-19, or . . . receipt of a rent concession or forbearance for any rent owed during the COVID-19 period,” and added the “Guaranty Law,” which renders permanently unenforceable personal liability guarantees of commercial lease obligations for businesses that were required to cease or limit operations pursuant to a government order. For rent arrears arising during March 7, 2020-June 30, 2021, the Guaranty Law extinguishes a landlord’s ability to enforce a personal guaranty.In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the plaintiffs alleged that the Harassment Amendments violated the Free Speech and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. and New York Constitutions by impermissibly restricting commercial speech in the ordinary collection of rents and by failing to provide fair notice of what constitutes threatening conduct. Plaintiffs further alleged that the Guaranty Law violated the Contracts Clause, which prohibits “State . . . Law[s] impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” The district court dismissed the suit.The Second Circuit affirmed in part, agreeing that the plaintiffs failed to allege plausible free speech and due process claims. The court reinstated the challenge to the Guaranty Law. The Guaranty Law significantly impairs personal guaranty agreements; there are at least five serious concerns about that law being a reasonable and appropriate means to pursue the professed public purpose. View "Melendez v. City of New York" 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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Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, Los Angeles imposed an eviction moratorium during a “Local Emergency Period” with the stated purposes of ensuring housing security and promoting public health during the pandemic. Related provisions delay applicable tenants’ rent payment obligations and prohibit landlords from charging late fees and interest. A trade association of Los Angeles landlords, sued, alleging violations of the Constitution’s Contracts Clause.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of the plaintiff’s request for preliminary injunctive relief, noting that other courts, including the Supreme Court, have recently considered various constitutional and statutory challenges to COVID-19 eviction moratoria. Under modern Contracts Clause doctrine, even if the eviction moratorium was a substantial impairment of contractual relations, the moratorium’s provisions were likely “reasonable” and “appropriate” given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city fairly tied the moratorium to its stated goals. The court noted that contemporary Supreme Court case law has severely limited the Contracts Clause’s potency. View "Apartment Association of Los Angeles County, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that sexual harassment—both hostile housing environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment—is actionable under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, provided the plaintiff demonstrates that she would not have been harassed but for her sex.In this case, plaintiff filed suit against the property manager and the property's owner, alleging sexual harassment claims under the Act and state law. The district court found no guidance from the court on this question and therefore dismissed the complaint based on the ground that plaintiff's claims were not actionable under the Act. The court vacated the district court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint and remanded for reconsideration. View "Fox v. Gaines" on Justia Law

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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Pub. L. No. 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (2020) (CARES Act), among other things, imposed a 120-day moratorium on evictions for rental properties receiving federal assistance. The CDC then issued a temporary eviction moratorium on September 4, 2020, that suspended the execution of eviction orders for nonpayment of rent. Before the CDC's order was originally set to expire on December 31, 2020, Congress enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which extended the CDC's order through January 31, 2021. The CDC's order was then extended again through March 31, 2021, and again through June 30, 2021, and again through July 31, 2021.Plaintiffs, several landlords seeking to evict their tenants for nonpayment of rent and a trade association for owners and managers of rental housing, filed suit alleging that the CDC's orders exceeds its statutory and regulatory authority, is arbitrary and capricious, and violates their constitutional right to access the courts.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction based on plaintiffs' failure to show an irreparable injury. The court declined to find that the CDC's order is unconstitutional, and failed to see how the temporary inability to reclaim rental properties constitutes an irreparable harm. Furthermore, the court explained that, without any information about a tenant’s financial or employment picture, the court has no way to evaluate whether she will ever be able to repay her landlord; to decide otherwise based solely on the CDC declaration would be to conclude that no one who signed the declaration is likely to repay their debts after the moratorium expires. Given the lack of evidence and the availability of substantial collection tools, the court could not conclude that the landlords have met their burden of showing that an irreparable injury is likely. View "Brown v. Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) does not require landlords to accommodate the disability of an individual who neither entered into a lease nor paid rent in exchange for the right to occupy the premises.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, in an action brought by plaintiff against the City for wrongful eviction based on several theories of state law implied tenancy. The panel held that the FHAA applies to rentals only when the landlord or his designee has received consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. As to occupants requesting accommodation, the panel held that the FHAA's disability discrimination provisions apply only to cases involving a "sale" or "rental" for which the landlord accepted consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. Applying a federal standard rather than California landlord-tenant law, the panel concluded that because plaintiff never provided consideration in exchange for the right to occupy Spot 57, the FHAA was inapplicable to his claim for relief. Furthermore, the City was not obligated to provide, offer, or discuss an accommodation. View "Salisbury v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law