Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Constitutional Law
Suellen Klossner v. IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC
This appeal concerns the scope of a landlord’s duty under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 to make “reasonable accommodations” for the “handicap” of a tenant. The City of Dubuque approved a measure allowing the local public housing authority to provide residents of mobile-home parks with housing choice vouchers that could be used to supplement their rent payments. Under this voucher program, the federal government provides funds to local public housing agencies, which in turn may distribute them to low-income tenants. As the rent on Plaintiff’s lot increased, she received a voucher and sought to use it to supplement her rent payments, but the companies declined to accept the voucher. Plaintiff requested an injunction requiring the companies to accept her housing choice voucher, and she sought damages for alleged emotional distress. Plaintiff also brought claims under state laws. The Eighth Circuit vacated the injunction. The court concluded that while the statute requires a landlord to make reasonable accommodations that directly ameliorate the handicap of a tenant, the obligation does not extend to alleviating a tenant’s lack of money to pay rent. The court wrote that the term “reasonable accommodation” is not defined in the statute, but it was adopted against the backdrop of a predecessor statute and must be viewed in the context of a law that forbids discrimination “because of a handicap.” View "Suellen Klossner v. IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC" on Justia Law
Bernuy v. Bridge Property Management Co.
The Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA, Civil Code, 1786) mandates certain disclosures for investigative consumer reports, which are often used by landlords to make decisions regarding consumers who apply for housing. ICRAA requires the adoption of “reasonable procedures” for providing consumer information “in a manner which is fair and equitable to the consumer," concerning the confidentiality, accuracy, relevancy, and proper utilization of their information. Any investigative consumer reporting agency or user of information that fails to comply with the requirements is liable to the affected consumer for any actual damages or $10,000, whichever sum is greater. Courts of appeal disagreed about the constitutionality and enforceability of ICRAA.In 2018, the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of ICRAA. Bernuy had filed one of 27 consolidated actions seeking damages against BPMC for its commission of ICRAA violations in 2017. Bernuy’s action was designated a “bellwether” case for adjudicating certain issues. The court of appeal held that the California Supreme Court’s 2018 decision did not constitute a subsequent change in the law that relieved BPMC of liability for its ICRAA violations. However, certain plaintiffs’ ICRAA claims are time-barred under the applicable two-year statute of limitations. The limitations period was not tolled by the pendency of a putative class action. View "Bernuy v. Bridge Property Management Co." on Justia Law
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
Hobbs v. City of Pacific Grove
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
Nekrilov v. City of Jersey City
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
Ballinger v. City of Oakland
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
Owen v. City of Portland
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
Melendez v. City of New York
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
Chrysafis v. Marks
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
Apartment Association of Los Angeles County, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles.
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