Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the Business and Consumer Docket in favor of JJ Cars, LLC and John Mokarzel on H&B Realty, LLC's complaint for breach of contract, holding that there was no error in the court's judgment.The lower court determined that H&B breached the lease in this case by unreasonably withholding consent to a proposed sublease. On appeal, H&B argued that the court erred in applying the affirmative defenses, as pleaded by JJ Cars and Mokarzel, of breach of contract and failure to mitigate damages. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was competent record evidence to support the court's finding that H&B materially breached the lease by refusing to consent to sublet the property. View "H&B Realty, LLC v. JJ Cars, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lester McMillan bought a dilapidated house that Terry Asher and Pamela Kitchens (“the Ashers”) planned to repair. The parties orally agreed that the Ashers would perform certain repairs to make the house livable, rent the house from McMillan for five years, and then buy the house from McMillan. For reasons that were disputed, the sale was never consummated. However, the Ashers continued to live in the house, make improvements to the property, and pay monthly rent to McMillan. After relations between the parties soured, McMillan sued to evict the Ashers. The Ashers then sued McMillan for specific performance of the oral contract to convey or, in the alternative, restitution for the value of the improvements. The district court found the oral contract was unenforceable, but awarded the Ashers restitution for certain improvements. McMillan appealed, alleging the district court erred in determining that he was unjustly enriched and in determining the amount of restitution. The Idaho Supreme Court found the district court did not err, except for a minor miscalculation of the amount of restitution. View "Asher v. McMillan" on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute between Landlord and Tenant that arose under their lease to a shopping center premises the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Tenant on one claim and to Landlord on another claim, holding that any purported errors were harmless.When Tenant sought mortgage loan from Bank and offered its leasehold interest in the premises as collateral, Bank requested that Landlord execute a "section 3(n) agreement" pursuant to article 6, section 3(n) of the lease. Landlord did not sign the agreement. Bank then terminated the proposed mortgage loan. Tenant sued Landlord for breach of contract. Landlord countersued, claiming that Tenant had violated the lease through its subtenant's use of a pylon sign on the premises. The district court granted summary judgment to Tenant on Landlord's counterclaim. After a trial, the court found that Landlord had no obligation to execute the section 3(n) agreement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not clearly err in finding that Landlord did not breach the lease by not signing the section 3(n) agreements proposed by Bank; and (2) the district court did not err in ruling on summary judgment that Tenant's subtenant's use of the pylon sign did not breach the lease. View "58 Swansea Mall Drive LLC v. Gator Swansea Property LLC" on Justia Law

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Since 1986, the GSW NBA basketball team has played their home games at the Authority's Oakland arena. A 1996 License Agreement gave GSW certain obligations to pay the debt incurred in renovating the arena if GSW “terminates” the agreement. In 2012, GSW announced its intention to construct a new arena in San Francisco. GSW did not exercise the renewal option in the Agreement, and, on June 30, 2017, its initial term expired. GSW initiated arbitration proceedings, seeking a declaration that it was no longer obliged to make debt payments if it allowed the License Agreement to expire rather than terminating it.The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Authority and against GSW, awarding the Authority attorney fees. The court of appeal affirmed. Based on extrinsic evidence, the arbitrator found the parties intended to adhere to the terms of a pre-agreement Memorandum of Understanding, which required the team to continue making debt payments after the initial term. The 1996 License Agreement is reasonably susceptible to the parties’ competing interpretations, so parol evidence was admissible to prove what the parties intended. Even assuming that the arbitrator addressed a question of law when she interpreted the Agreement, the parties intended to include a termination of the agreement upon GSW’s failure to exercise the first two options to renew. View "Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority v. Golden State Warriors, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendants-tenants John and Rosa Castro (the tenants) leased a residential property from plaintiff-landlord Fred Graylee. The landlord brought an unlawful detainer action against the tenants, alleging they owed him $27,100 in unpaid rent. The day of trial, the parties entered into a stipulated judgment in which the tenants agreed to vacate the property by a certain date and time. If they failed to do so, the landlord would be entitled to enter a $28,970 judgment against them. The tenants missed their move-out deadline by a few hours and the landlord filed a motion seeking entry of judgment. The trial court granted the motion and entered a $28,970 judgment against the tenants under the terms of the stipulation. The tenants appealed, arguing the judgment constituted an unenforceable penalty because it bore no reasonable relationship to the range of actual damages the parties could have anticipated would flow from a breach of the stipulation. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Graylee v. Castro" on Justia Law

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The Bachner Company leased office space to the State of Alaska. The lease stipulated that the State would occupy 15,730 square feet of space but would not have to pay rent on 1,400 square feet of that space during the lease’s initial ten-year term. The lease further specified that if it was extended beyond the initial term the parties would negotiate a rate for the free space and the State would pay for it. Toward the end of the initial term the State exercised its first renewal option and opened negotiations with the company over the free space’s value. The parties retained an expert to value the space, but the State questioned his methods and conclusions. The State also resisted the company’s claim that the State should begin paying rent for additional space, not identified in the lease, that the company contended the State had been occupying. The parties failed to reach agreement, and the State did not pay rent for any of the extra square footage. Eventually the State executed a unilateral amendment to the lease based on the expert’s valuation and, ten months after the end of the lease’s initial term, paid all past-due rent for the formerly free space identified in the lease. The company filed a claim with the Department of Administration, contending that the State had materially breached the lease, the lease was terminated, and the State owed additional rent. A contracting officer rejected the claim, and on appeal an administrative law judge found there was no material breach, the lease had been properly extended, and the company had waived any claim regarding space not identified in the lease. The Commissioner of the Department of Administration adopted the administrative law judge’s findings and conclusions. The superior court affirmed the Commissioner’s decision except with regard to the space not identified in the lease; it directed the company to pursue any such claim in a separate action. Both parties appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the administrative law judge's findings were supported by substantial evidence, and because the lease did not terminate under the Supreme Court's interpretation of it, the Court affirmed the Commissioner's decision except with regard to the company's claim to rent for space not identified in the lease. The Court concluded that, to the extent it sought rent after the end of the initial term, it was not waived by the document on which the administrative law judge relied to find waiver. Only that issue was remanded to the Commissioner for further consideration. View "Bachner Company, Inc. v. Alaska Department of Administration" on Justia Law

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In this case brought by a tenant against her landlord and a neighboring tenant alleging breach of the lease's no-pets provision the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing the case, holding that the landlord's accommodation of an emotional support dog was not reasonable.Plaintiff moved into an apartment building because of its no-pets policy. Afterwards, another tenant requested a reasonable accommodation to have his emotion support animal (ESA), a dog, with him on the apartment premises. The landlord allowed the ESA and tried to accommodate the two tenants, but Plaintiff still suffered from allergic attacks. Plaintiff sued, alleging breach of the lease and interference with the quiet enjoyment of her apartment. The landlord asserted in its defense that its waiver of the no-pets policy was a reasonable accommodation that it was required to grant under the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). The small claims court concluded that the landlord's accommodations were reasonable. The district court dismissed the case. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the landlord's accommodation of the ESA was not reasonable because Plaintiff had priority in time and the dog's presence posed a direct threat to her health; and (2) Plaintiff was entitled to recover on her claims. View "Cohen v. Clark" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that B.E.B. Properties reserved the right to receive future rental payments for leased land underneath a cell tower when it conveyed the property, holding that the deed did not contain such a reservation.B.E.B. Properties leased a portion of commercial property it owned to a cellular telephone company, and a cellular tower was erected on the site. B.E.B. subsequently sold the property to Keith Baker and Joseph Cyvas. Thereafter, two of the general partners in B.E.B. sold their interests in the partnership to Bruce and Sheila Bird, who believed this transaction included the assignment of the right to receive rental payments for the tower. When LRC Realty, Inc. acquired the property it sought a declaratory judgment that it was entitled to the annual rental payments. The trial court granted summary judgment for LRC Realty. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Birds were entitled to rental payments based on the language contained in the deed transferring the property from B.E.B. to Baker and Cyvas. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) absent a reservation in the deed conveying the property, the right to receive rents runs with the land; and (2) the deed here did not create such a reservation. View "LRC Realty, Inc. v. B.E.B. Properties" on Justia Law

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Shadow Industries, LLP, appealed a district court judgment dismissing its eviction action and holding the tenants David and Chris Hoffman had timely exercised their option to extend the term of the parties’ lease agreement. Shadow argued the district court erred in finding the parties’ lease agreement to be ambiguous, finding the option to extend the lease expired on February 1, 2019, and finding the Hoffmans timely exercised their option to extend the lease. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court’s interpretation of the lease as having ambiguity as to when the lease terminated was premised upon the court’s observation that “[w]hen ‘crop years’ end and begin is undefined.” To this, the Supreme Court disagreed that the lease was ambiguous and failed to define the end of the lease. The Supreme Court found the lease terminated at the end of the 2018 crop year. "While determining when the end of the 2018 crop year occurred may be a question of fact, the term is not ambiguous simply because it requires a future event or contingency." There was testimony that the crop year ended no later than October 2018; following the harvesting of their crops and still in 2018, the Hoffmans deep ripped the land, tilled to create fall bedding, and applied fertilizer to prepare for the 2019 crop year. "On the basis of these facts, and the absence of any contrary facts in the record, we conclude as a matter of law the 2018 crop year ended and the lease terminated in 2018." Because the facts of this case compelled a finding the 2018 crop year ended in 2018 and the lease terminated at the end of the 2018 crop year, the Court found the exercise of the option in January 2019 was not timely and the lease terminated. It therefore reversed judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Shadow Industries, LLP v. Hoffman, et al." on Justia Law

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In this commercial forcible entry and detainer action brought by 20 Thames Street LLC and 122 PTIP LLC (collectively, 20 Thames) the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to award lease-based attorney fees upon finding for Ocean State Job Lot of Maine 2017, LLC, holding that the superior court did not err.Ocean State rented a commercial retail space from 20 Thames. 20 Thames later filed its compliant for forcible entry and detainer, alleging that Ocean State breached the terms of its lease. The business and consumer docket found in favor of Ocean State. The court awarded Ocean State costs and $206,076 in attorney fees based on a provision in the lease. The superior route affirmed the judgment for Ocean State but vacated the attorney fee award, concluding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to award lease-based attorney fees. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 6017 did not provide authority for the district court to award lease-based attorney fees. View "20 Thames Street LLC v. Ocean State Job Lot of Maine 2017, LLC" on Justia Law