Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
by
In this case, tenants Matthew Raines and Melissa Clayton complained to their landlord, Tuyen Dinh, about the habitability of their rented unit, particularly due to issues with their utilities and the presence of unauthorized tenants in the building. The tenants withheld rent and requested reimbursement for additional utilities costs. When Dinh refused and subsequently evicted the tenants for nonpayment of rent, a dispute ensued. The Superior Court of the State of Alaska held a damages trial, finding largely in favor of the tenants.The Supreme Court of the State of Alaska affirmed the lower court's findings that Dinh failed to maintain the premises in a habitable condition and willfully diminished the tenants' essential services under the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA). However, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court's conclusion that the tenants could recover for the landlord's failure to deliver possession of the property. The Supreme Court also affirmed some aspects of the lower court's award of damages, but reversed those awards that were not supported by the record.The court found that Dinh's violation of housing codes and his conditional use permit diminished the value of the tenants' leasehold by the $8,800 owed in past rent. The court also found that Dinh was responsible for additional costs incurred by the tenants due to the unauthorized use of their utilities by unauthorized tenants in the building. However, the court ruled that the tenants could not recover for Dinh's failure to deliver possession of the property, despite finding that Dinh did not deliver habitable premises at the commencement of the lease. View "Dinh v. Raines" on Justia Law

by
This case involves a dispute between Melissa Sanchez, a tenant, and Chris and Jennifer Pickering, her landlords, over the terms of a lease agreement for a mobile home owned by the Pickerings. Sanchez believed the agreement was a lease-to-own contract, while the Pickerings asserted it was a lease with a purchase option contract. After the Pickerings initiated an eviction action due to Sanchez's alleged violations of the agreement, Sanchez caused extensive damage to the home.The Pickerings sued Sanchez for waste, claiming she caused $40,000 in damages and sought treble damages. Sanchez counterclaimed, alleging violation of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act (ICPA), breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and retaliatory eviction. The district court found Sanchez liable for damages to the residence and awarded treble damages. It also determined that there was no deception on the Pickerings' part to sustain Sanchez's ICPA claim, the agreement was unenforceable due to a lack of mutual understanding, and that the Pickerings were unjustly enriched by the $10,000 down payment and offset the Pickerings' damages award by this amount. The remaining claims were dismissed.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the district court's decision. The court found substantial and competent evidence supporting the district court's decision that the Pickerings did not engage in a deceptive act under the ICPA. The court also rejected Sanchez's contention that the district court's damages award should have been reduced to reflect an insurance payment received by the Pickerings as Sanchez failed to provide an adequate record for review. Finally, the court upheld the district court's unjust enrichment award, finding that Sanchez had not demonstrated an abuse of discretion. The Pickerings were awarded attorney fees for having to respond to the collateral source issue. View "Pickering v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

by
In this case from the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado, petitioner Claire E. Miller and respondent Jesse A. Amos were involved in a dispute related to eviction proceedings. Miller was a tenant who lived in a home owned and occupied by Amos. Their arrangement was an oral tenancy agreement where Miller agreed to provide pet care and light housekeeping services instead of paying rent. After six months, Amos served Miller with a notice to quit, alleging breach of their oral agreement. Miller refused to move out, and Amos filed a forcible entry and detainer (FED) complaint seeking eviction. Miller contended that her eviction was due to her refusal to engage in sexual acts with Amos, which she stated was a form of sex discrimination and retaliation under the Colorado Fair Housing Act (CFHA).The county court ruled in favor of Amos, stating that a landlord can serve a notice to quit for “no reason or any reason,” dismissing the CFHA violation claim as an affirmative defense for eviction. The district court affirmed this decision.On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado reversed the lower court's ruling. The court held that a tenant can assert a landlord’s alleged violation of the CFHA as an affirmative defense to an FED eviction. The court noted that the purpose of the CFHA is to prevent discriminatory practices, and therefore, a tenant must be able to use it as a shield against a discriminatory eviction. The court also emphasized that a tenant's right to due process must be preserved even in eviction proceedings, which are intended to be expedited. This decision allows tenants in Colorado to assert discrimination or retaliation under the CFHA as a defense in eviction cases. View "Miller v. Amos" on Justia Law

by
A plaintiff, Robert Trebelhorn, suffered a serious knee injury at his apartment complex when a section of an elevated walkway collapsed due to deterioration. The defendants, Prime Wimbledon SPE, LLC, and Prime Administration, LLC, who owned and managed the apartment complex, were aware of the deteriorated condition of the walkway but chose not to repair it. Trebelhorn sued the defendants for negligence and violation of Oregon's Residential Landlord-Tenant Act and won. The jury awarded him just under $300,000 in damages and also imposed punitive damages of $10 million against each defendant. On post-verdict review, the trial court concluded that although the evidence supported some amount of punitive damages, the amount of $10 million would violate the defendants' due process rights. The trial court reduced the punitive damages to just under $2.7 million against each defendant. On cross-appeals, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court and affirmed. The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon also agreed with the trial court that $10 million in punitive damages would violate the defendants' due process rights and affirmed the judgment of the trial court and the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Trebelhorn v. Prime Wimbledon SPE, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a plaintiff, Joni Fraser, who was attacked by two pit bulls owned by a tenant, Hebe Crocker, who rented a single-family residence from landlords Ali Farvid and Lilyana Amezcua. Fraser sued both Crocker and the landlords. After settling with Crocker, the case proceeded against the landlords. A jury found that the landlords had actual knowledge of the dangerous propensity of the dogs and could have prevented foreseeable harm to Fraser, awarding her damages exceeding $600,000. However, the trial court granted the landlords' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), finding no substantial evidence to demonstrate the landlords' knowledge of the dogs' dangerous propensities.Under California law, a landlord who lacks actual knowledge of a tenant's dog's vicious nature cannot be held liable when the dog attacks a third person. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's ruling. The Court held that the email from a neighbor mentioning "guard dogs" did not constitute substantial evidence that the landlords knew or must have known the dogs were dangerous. The Court also rejected the plaintiff's argument that the landlords' alleged false statements denying knowledge of the dogs constituted evidence of their knowledge of the dogs' dangerous nature. The Court concluded that there was no direct or circumstantial evidence that the landlords knew or should have known the dogs were dangerous. View "Fraser v. Farvid" on Justia Law

by
In this case from the Supreme Court of North Dakota, Ryan Kratz, who had entered into a purchase agreement to buy a business and building from Donald and Carol McIlravy, failed to make the agreed-upon payments. The McIlravys initiated two eviction actions, and a separate action seeking damages, cancellation of the contract, and release of funds held in a trust account. The district court initially dismissed one of the eviction actions, but eventually ruled in favor of the McIlravys, awarding them damages and ordering release of the trust funds. Several years later, Kratz filed a motion under Rule 60(b), alleging the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the eviction actions and seeking to vacate or void all findings, conclusions, and orders, except the dismissals of the eviction actions. The district court denied this motion and awarded attorney’s fees to the McIlravys.On appeal, the Supreme Court of North Dakota held that Kratz's appeal was limited to the judgment denying his Rule 60(b) motion and that the motion was timely. The court determined that the district court had jurisdiction over the eviction cases and that any violation of N.D.R.Ct. 7.1(b)(1) was harmless error. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees. Consequently, the court affirmed the decision of the lower court. View "Don's Garden Center v. The Garden District" on Justia Law

by
In this case, Epochal Enterprises, Inc., also known as Divine Orchids, entered into a commercial lease agreement with LF Encinitas Properties, LLC and Leichtag Foundation. The lease included a limitation of liability clause which stated that the defendants were not personally liable for any provisions of the lease or the premises, and the plaintiff waived all claims for consequential damages or loss of business profits. After the plaintiff sued the defendants, a jury found the defendants liable for premises liability and negligence.The jury awarded the plaintiff damages for lost profits and other past economic loss. However, the trial court granted the defendants’ motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), reasoning that the lease agreement’s limitation of liability clause prevented the plaintiff from recovering the economic damages the jury awarded.The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One State of California, reversed the order granting JNOV in the defendants' favor, finding that the limitation of liability clause did not bar plaintiff’s recovery of damages. The court reasoned that the jury's award of damages necessarily implied a finding of gross negligence on the part of the defendants, which would be outside the scope of the indemnification clause. Further, the court held that the limitation of liability clause was void to the extent that it sought to shield the defendants from liability for their violations of the Health and Safety Code, as it violated public policy under Civil Code section 1668.On the defendants' cross-appeal regarding the damages award, the court affirmed the denial of the defendants' motion for partial JNOV, finding that substantial evidence supported the damages award. The court concluded that the jury could reasonably interpret the term "other past economic loss" on the verdict form as a different form of lost profits, and that the evidence presented to the jury provided a reasonable basis for calculating the amount of the plaintiff's lost profits. View "Epochal Enterprises, Inc. v. LF Encinitas Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this case, residents of the Waples Mobile Home Park in Fairfax, Virginia, challenged the park's policy that required all adult tenants to provide proof of their legal status in the United States in order to renew their leases. The plaintiffs, four Latino families, argued that this policy violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) because it disproportionately ousted Latinos from the park. The district court initially granted summary judgment in favor of the park, reasoning that the policy was necessary to avoid criminal liability under a federal statute prohibiting the harboring of undocumented immigrants.However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment. The court of appeals found that the district court had misunderstood the federal anti-harboring statute. The court of appeals noted that the statute requires more than simply entering into a lease agreement with an undocumented immigrant to be in violation. Rather, a person must knowingly or recklessly conceal, harbor, or shield undocumented immigrants from detection. The court of appeals concluded that the park's policy of verifying tenants' legal status did not serve the park's stated interest of avoiding liability under the anti-harboring statute. Consequently, the park had not met its burden at the second step of the three-step burden-shifting framework established for disparate-impact claims under the FHA. As such, the court of appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment for the park and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

by
In a case brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, residents of the Waples Mobile Home Park in Fairfax, Virginia, challenged the Park's policy requiring all adult tenants to provide proof of their legal status in the United States in order to renew their leases. The plaintiffs, noncitizen Latino families, argued that this policy disproportionately ousted Latinos from the Park and therefore violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The district court initially granted summary judgment in favor of the Park, reasoning that the policy was necessary to avoid criminal liability under a federal statute prohibiting the harboring of undocumented immigrants.On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The court determined that the anti-harboring statute did not plausibly put the Park at risk for prosecution simply for leasing to families with undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, the court found that the Park's policy did not serve a valid interest in any realistic way to avoid liability under the anti-harboring statute. Therefore, the Park did not meet its burden at the second step of the three-step burden-shifting framework established for disparate-impact claims in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. Given these findings, the Court of Appeals did not need to reach the third step to determine whether a less discriminatory alternative was available. As such, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment for the Park and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

by
In the case under consideration, the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois affirmed the dismissal of Waukegan Hospitality Group, LLC's appeal by the appellate court due to lack of jurisdiction. Waukegan Hospitality Group, LLC filed a notice of appeal five days after the deadline and did not file a motion seeking leave to show good cause or a reasonable excuse for the late filing. Despite the Group's claim that it had electronically submitted the notice of appeal on the due date and that the clerk erroneously rejected it, the Court ruled that the Group failed to seek recourse for its untimely filing as required by the rules of the Illinois Supreme Court. The Court noted that the record did not support the Group's factual assertions and that the Group did not utilize the remedies available to it, making its claim of due process violation baseless. Therefore, the Court held that the appellate court correctly ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the Group's appeal. The case originated from a two-count complaint for eviction filed by the Group against Stretch's Sports Bar & Grill Corporation, in which the trial court ruled in favor of the defendant. View "Waukegan Hospitality Group, LLC v. Stretch's Sports Bar & Grill Corp." on Justia Law