Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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Under the Security Deposit Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, 15B, the treble damages provision in section 15B(7) does not apply to a landlord’s violation of the requirements for an itemized list set out in section 15B(4)(iii), second-degree sentence, or to the amount forfeited for violation of section 15B(6)(b). At issue in this certified question was whether a tenant is entitled to treble the amount of his entire security deposit under section 15B(7) where a landlord fails to provide to the tenant a statement of damages that meets the statutory requirements, see section 15B(4)(iii), second sentence, thereby forfeiting the entire security deposit, see section 15B(6)(b), and also fails to return that forfeited deposit within thirty days after the tenancy’s termination. The Supreme Court answered the certified question in the negative, holding (1) a landlord violates section 15B(6)(e) only where she fails to return or account for any portion of the security deposit within thirty days, or where the landlord makes a deduction that does not fall within the categories authorized by section 15B(4)(i), (ii), (iii), first sentence; and (2) a violation of section 15(6)(e) does not apply to any portion of the security deposit that was forfeited under another provision of section 15B(6). View "Phillips v. Equity Residential Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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A mother may intervene both on her own behalf and on behalf of her children in an eviction action brought by a landlord against the mother’s husband and their young children where the mother has lived with her family in the apartment throughout the tenancy and alleges domestic violence in the home, despite her not being a named tenant on the lease. The mother in this case (Mother) appealed from the denial by a judge of the housing court of her motion to intervene in a summary process action brought by Landlord. Because Mother’s husband did not appear, the judge entered a judgment of default. The Supreme Court vacated both the denial of the motion to intervene and the judgment of default and remanded the case, holding (1) Mother was permitted to assert affirmative defenses to the eviction action on behalf of herself and her children; and (2) the motion judge prematurely reached the merits of the case. View "Beacon Residential Management, LP v. R.P." on Justia Law

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Bahig Bishay brought an action bringing various claims arising from Plaintiff’s eviction from his home. Bishay named as defendants National Investigations, Inc. and its principals (collectively, National), Harvard 45 Associates, LLC and its principals (collectively, Harvard), and Allied Finance Adjusters Conference, Inc. (Allied). Allied’s motion to dismiss was allowed. Also allowed was Harvard’s motion for summary judgment as to both the claims against it and a counterclaim it asserted against Bishay. Thereafter, Bishay and National (collectively, Petitioners) settled their dispute and moved for entry of final judgment. The motion was denied. Petitioners then filed a petition seeking relief in the nature of mandamus and requesting that the clerk of the superior court be ordered to enter final judgment as Petitioners proposed. A single justice denied relief without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice neither erred nor abused her discretion by denying extraordinary relief, as Petitioners had other remedies available to them. View "Bishay v. Clerk of the Superior Court in Norfolk County" on Justia Law

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Landlord brought a summary process action against Tenant for possession of the premises. Tenant counterclaimed, alleging violations of the security deposit statute and other causes of action. The Housing Court found in favor of Landlord on all but the security deposit claim, ruling that Tenant could properly assert a violation of the security deposit statute as a counterclaim for damages but that a counterclaim on this basis was not a defense to Landlord’s claim for possession. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the Housing Court judgment granting possession to Landlord, holding that a counterclaim or defense on the basis of a violation of the security deposit statute may be asserted as a defense to a landlord’s possession in a summary process action under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 239, 1A. View "Meikle v. Nurse" on Justia Law

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Defendants, the principals and owners of Burbank Apartments (Burbank), decided not to renew Burbank’s project-based Section 8 housing assistance payments contract (HAP) with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development when its mortgage subsidy contract expired. Instead of the project-based subsidies, Defendants chose to accept from its tenants Section 8 enhanced vouchers. Plaintiffs, current and potential Burbank tenants, filed a complaint alleging subsidy discrimination in violation of Massachusetts antidiscrimination law and the Federal Fair Housing Act. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants’ decision not to renew the HAP was discriminatory based on both disparate treatment and disparate impact on members of otherwise protected classes of citizens. The motion judge granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss both counts for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) even where the property owner has acted in accord with statute, regulation, and contract, a disparate impact claim can be brought under the fair housing statutes, subject to “rigorous pleading requirements”; but (2) Plaintiffs in this case failed sufficiently to plead a prima facie case of disparate impact discrimination. View "Burbank Apartments Tenant Ass’n v. Kargman" on Justia Law