Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
Aleti v. Metropolitan Baltimore, LLC
The Court of Appeals held that Baltimore City Council's enactment of a local law did not create a private right of action for Baltimore City tenants to recoup rent payments and related fees they paid in connection with their use and occupancy of rental dwellings during a period when the landlord did not have a valid rental license.Petitioners, tenants in a multi-unit apartment building, filed a putative class action alleging that Respondent did not hold an active rental license for the property, as required by the Baltimore City Code, and seeking to recoup paid rent and other fees paid to Respondent. The circuit court dismissed the case prior to a determination of issues relating to class certification. The court of special appeals largely agreed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that section 5-4(a)(2) of Article 13 of the Baltimore City Code does not provide a private right of action to recover rent and related payments that a tenant made during a period in which the landlord was unlicensed. View "Aleti v. Metropolitan Baltimore, LLC" on Justia Law
Gaucher v. Waterhouse
Plaintiff Jerry Gaucher appealed a superior court order denying his claim for payment of a $20,000 lease termination fee and awarding one of the defendants, Waterhouse Realty Trust (the Trust), costs associated with a separate eviction proceeding against plaintiff. Plaintiff argued the court erred by: (1) finding that he, and not defendants, materially breached a lease termination agreement (LTA); (2) awarding the Trust costs incurred in the separate eviction proceeding; and (3) awarding no damages in connection with the court’s prior final default judgment against another defendant, Kevin Waterhouse. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly found that plaintiff, and not defendants, materially breached the LTA and, therefore, he had no right to the termination fee. However, because defendants assigned all of their rights set forth in the LTA to a third party, the Supreme Court also concluded the trial court erred in finding that the Trust was entitled to the costs associated with plaintiff’s eviction. Lastly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s reconsideration of its prior default judgment order against Kevin Waterhouse. View "Gaucher v. Waterhouse" on Justia Law
ROSS DRESS FOR LESS, INC. V. MAKARIOS-OREGON, LLC
Plaintiff Ross Dress for Less, Inc. sued Makarios seeking declaratory relief regarding its end-of-lease obligations in connection with Ross’s lease of the Richmond Building, as to which Makarios had received an assignment of rights and thereafter acted as Ross’s landlord. Makarios demanded a jury trial on its counterclaims. Ross filed a document waiving its right to a jury trial under Fed. R. Civ. P. 38. Makarios moved to withdraw its jury demand. Ross argued it was entitled to rely on Makarios’s request for a jury. The district court held a four-day Phase II bench trial and entered judgment in favor of Makarios. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling granting Defendant’s motion to withdraw its demand for a jury trial. The court explained that because jurisdiction in the district court was based on diversity of citizenship, Oregon substantive law and federal procedural law governed. The court wrote that neither party argued that the waiver in Section 13.04 of the lease was unknowing or involuntary, but the parties disagreed on the scope of the provisions. The court held that the ordinary meaning of Section 13.04 was clear and it established that Ross waived its right to a jury trial on counterclaims filed by Makarios. The court rejected Ross’s argument that even if it contractually waived its jury trial right, it was still entitled to rely on Makarios’s jury demand under Rules 38(d) and 39(a). The court held that typically, the combination of Rules 38(d) and 39(a) prevents a party from unilaterally withdrawing its jury demand, even when no other party has requested a jury trial. View "ROSS DRESS FOR LESS, INC. V. MAKARIOS-OREGON, LLC" on Justia Law
NCO Financial Systems, Inc. v. Montgomery Park, LLC
In 2002, NCO leased roughly 100,000 square feet of commercial space from Montgomery in its Baltimore building, which has over 1.2 million leasable square feet. NCO vacated the property in 2011. Montgomery was left with roughly 500,000 vacant square feet to lease. The lease and common law required Montgomery to mitigate damages after NCO breached the lease by using commercially reasonable efforts to re-lease NCO’s space.In 2016, the Fourth Circuit held that NCO failed to satisfy the conditions for exercising the lease’s early termination option and that its vacation of the leased premises left it potentially liable for the payment of rent for the full term. In 2019, that court held that Montgomery’s obligation to mitigate damages was not a condition precedent to an award of damages and did not require Montgomery to “develop a unique, preferred plan for leasing the NCO space . . . at the expense of its other vacant spaces” in the building. Montgomery was required only “to reasonably market NCO’s space on an equal footing with the other spaces that it was seeking to rent” in the building. The district court, on remand, found that Montgomery’s efforts to mitigate damages were commercially reasonable. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Montgomery did not sit on its hands to benefit from NCO’s ongoing rent obligation; it made substantial efforts to mitigate damages. View "NCO Financial Systems, Inc. v. Montgomery Park, LLC" on Justia Law
Jackson v. HUD
Plaintiffs were tenants at Arbor Court, a Houston apartment complex that received subsidies from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). After flooding that occurred during Hurricane Harvey, Arbor Court’s owner failed to maintain the property in decent, safe, and sanitary condition. Accordingly, HUD approved a transfer of the complex’s subsidy to a different property, offering Arbor Court tenants a choice between moving at no cost to the new property or receiving housing vouchers that they could use at new housing of their choice. After choosing the latter option, Plaintiffs sued HUD, seeking relocation assistance under the Uniform Relocation Act (“URA”). The district court dismissed the complaint. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The court held that Plaintiffs are not entitled to relocation assistance under the URA. The court explained, as required by statute, Plaintiffs have not pled that they moved from Arbor Court “as a direct result of a written notice of intent to acquire or the acquisition of such real property [i.e. Arbor Court] in whole or in part for a program or project undertaken by a Federal agency or with Federal financial assistance.” Plaintiffs argued that under the applicable Department of Transportation (“DOT”) regulations, the Section 8(bb) subsidy transfer from Arbor Court to Cullen Park qualifies as “such other displacing activity.” However, this regulation merely defines the phrase “program or project.” It does not prescribe any “displacing activit[ies]” that cause one to become a “displaced person” under the URA. View "Jackson v. HUD" on Justia Law
DM Trans, LLC v. Scott
Arrive and Tech, compete to help customers coordinate shipments. Six employees at Arrive departed for Tech despite restrictive covenants. Arrive sued the six individuals and Tech for injunctive relief under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1836(b)(3), claiming irreparable harm because the individuals had breached their restrictive covenants and misappropriated trade secrets.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction. Arrive has an adequate remedy at law for each of its claimed injuries, and faces no irreparable harm. Even if its argument were not forfeited, lost opportunities cannot support a showing of irreparable harm under these circumstances. The type of harm Arrive alleges would ultimately translate into lost profits, albeit indirectly, as in the end there is no economic value to opportunities that are not converted to sales. Given the balance of harms, the district court was within its discretion to deny injunctive relief. The court noted that the expiration of the time period of a former employee’s restrictive covenants does not render moot an employer’s request for an injunction to prevent the former employee from violating those restrictive covenants. A court could still grant Arrive effectual relief in the form of an injunction, even though certain individual defendants no longer work for Traffic Tech. View "DM Trans, LLC v. Scott" on Justia Law
JJD-HOV Elk Grove, LLC v. Jo-Ann Stores
The co-tenancy provision in the parties’ lease required a shopping center to have either: (1) three anchor tenants; or (2) 60 percent of the space leased, and, if it did not, Tenant-respondent JoAnn Stores, LLC was permitted to pay “Substitute Rent.” In 2018, Jo-Ann informed JJD it intended to start paying Substitute Rent effective July 1, 2018, because the co-tenancy provision was not met after two anchor tenants closed. Landlord-appellant JJD-HOV Elk Grove, LLC (JJD) responded that the co-tenancy provision was an unenforceable penalty under the holding in Grand Prospect Partners, L.P. v. Ross Dress for Less, Inc., 232 Cal.App.4th 1332 (2015). Jo-Ann contended Grand Prospect was distinguishable and the co-tenancy provision was enforceable. JJD and Jo-Ann filed competing complaints for declaratory relief and cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court found the co-tenancy provision was enforceable, and thus granted Jo- Ann’s motion, denied JJD’s, and entered judgment accordingly. JJD appealed. The Court of Appeal declined to follow the rule announced in Grand Prospect here, and instead held that this case was governed by the general rule that courts enforce contracts as written. The Court therefore agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the co-tenancy provision at issue in this case was enforceable, and affirmed the judgment. View "JJD-HOV Elk Grove, LLC v. Jo-Ann Stores" on Justia Law
EDC Investment, LLC v. UTGR, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant and dismissed this complaint alleging, among other things, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract, holding that the complaint was properly dismissed.In 2000, Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a lease agreement whereby Plaintiff rented space from Defendant. In 2011, the parties entered into a termination of lease and release agreement providing Plaintiff with a buyout. Plaintiff later brought this action. Defendant want moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Plaintiff released all claims against Defendant in a release. The hearing justice granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's claims of breach of fiduciary duty and breaches of contract and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "EDC Investment, LLC v. UTGR, Inc." on Justia Law
55 Oak Street LLC v. RDR Enterprises, Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming the judgment of the district court that denied Landlord's forcible entry and detainer (FED) action to oust Tenant from possession of Landlord's property, holding that Tenant's breach of the terms of its lease entitled Landlord to issuance of a writ of possession.The district court concluded that Landlord was not entitled to possession of the subject property because Tenant's failure to pay its rent was at least in part excused by the force majeure clause in the parties' lease. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that Tenant's breach of the terms of its lease entitled Landlord to issuance of a writ of possession. View "55 Oak Street LLC v. RDR Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
Caswell, et al. v. AHTNA, Inc.
A miner signed a 20-year lease with a corporate landowner for an easement allowing him access to his limestone-mining operation. The lease included an option to extend it for up to three additional 10-year terms as long as the miner was not in default and gave prior written notice of his intent to extend. At the close of year 19, the miner sent a check prepaying the final calendar year, plus the six weeks following the lease’s expiration date. And after the expiration date the miner sent another check prepaying the next year (year 21) without ever providing the express notice of intent to extend required by the lease. The corporation accepted both of the rent checks. Five months later the corporation sued the miner and his company, contending that he was in breach and the lease had expired. The corporation later amended its complaint to add a claim for forcible entry and detainer seeking to recover possession of the premises by court order, and shortly afterward served the miner with a notice to quit. The court held a hearing nearly 11 months later and granted the forcible-entry claim. Appealing, the miner contended the parties’ dispute was too complex to be resolved through forcible entry and detainer proceedings with limited opportunities for discovery; that the forcible entry and detainer proceeding was unlawful because at the time the claim was asserted the corporation had not yet served the notice to quit; and that the miner’s company was improperly named as a defendant and included in the forcible entry and detainer judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "Caswell, et al. v. AHTNA, Inc." on Justia Law