Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
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Plaintiffs-landlords Richard and Janice Horton appealed a circuit court order dismissing their petition to evict defendants-tenants David Clemens and April Hanks, for nonpayment of rent on the ground that the eviction notice failed to comply with RSA 540:5, II because it did not contain the same information as was provided on the judicial branch form eviction notice. It was undisputed the language on the eviction notice at issue here was legally insufficient. According to the landlords, the information in the quoted paragraph “is outside the scope of any language necessitated by law and beyond the scope of the Circuit Court’s authority to create forms that comply with existing law.” The landlords asserted the missing quoted paragraph “essentially functions to provide tenants with unsolicited legal advice,” and “disrupts the careful statutory balance and the self-help provisions of RSA [chapter] 540 by informing the tenants that they are under no obligation to vacate the premises.” Alternatively, the landlords contend that even if the information from the quoted paragraph is required, dismissal of the eviction proceeding is not the proper remedy for their failure to include it in the eviction notice. The New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed with the landlords' interpretation of the statute, and affirmed the circuit court. View "Horton v. Clemens" on Justia Law

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Defendant Nicholas Saykaly appealed a circuit court order issuing a writ of possession to plaintiff, Amanda Colburn. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear plaintiff’s landlord-tenant action because the home in question was marital property subject to the parties’ ongoing divorce proceeding, and because defendant was not a “tenant” of the plaintiff. He contended the circuit court's Family Division had exclusive jurisdiction over the home until either the divorce proceeding was finalized or the family division relinquished jurisdiction over the home. Because it concluded the district division had jurisdiction to hear and decide this case, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Colburn v. Saykaly" on Justia Law

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Defendant Centennial Estates Cooperative, Inc., appealed, and plaintiff, Mark DiMinico, cross-appealed a superior court order awarding declaratory and injunctive relief to plaintiff. Plaintiff was a tenant at a manufactured housing community owned by defendant. Defendant decided to improve the lot that abutted the east side of plaintiff’s lot. In order to make the lot habitable, defendant had to dig a trench and install buried electrical conduit, install a new septic system, install fill over the septic system, regrade the lot, and construct a concrete pad upon which a manufactured home could be placed. As part of this project, defendant decided to make changes to plaintiff’s lot by removing trees and vegetation on the eastern portion of plaintiff’s lot and filled in the area with truckloads of boulders and dirt, creating a six-foot berm on the lot’s eastern section. Plaintiff was not made aware of defendant’s plans to alter his lot, and did not discover the changes until after they occurred because he had been away visiting his father. Plaintiff complained to defendant’s Board of Directors, seeking to have his lot restored to its prior condition and to limit defendant’s work to the abutting lot. In response, the defendant told the plaintiff that he had no rights with respect to his lot outside of the physical footprint of his manufactured home. The trial court ruled that Defendant violated plaintiff’s right to quiet enjoyment when it deforested and regraded a portion of the lot leased by plaintiff. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mark DiMinico v. Centennial Estates Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sandra Moscicki appealed a superior court order denying her motion to exclude expert testimony proffered by the appellees, Charles and Heidi Leno. In July 2008, the Lenos’ twin children, a boy and a girl, were born. In September 2009, the Lenos and their children moved into an apartment owned by Moscicki’s trust. Shortly thereafter, when the children were approximately eighteen months old, Heidi Leno “expressed concerns” regarding their son’s “speech and development.” Charles Leno had also observed that their son exhibited “significant developmental problems in the months before his eighteen-month checkup.” In October 2009, both children were tested for lead. The test revealed that both children had elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs). The children were again tested for lead in July 2010, shortly after their second birthday. This test revealed that they again had EBLLs, higher than previously recorded. Thereafter, the Lenos and their children moved out of Moscicki’s apartment. Moscicki brought an action against the Lenos, seeking unpaid rent. The Lenos then filed an action against Moscicki, alleging that their children suffered harm as a result of lead exposure while living in the apartment. The trial court consolidated these actions. The interlocutory question transferred to the New Hampshire Supreme Court called for the Court to decide whether for an expert opinion on causation to be admissible in a toxic tort case, the expert had to consider the “dose-response relationship” in reaching that opinion. The Supreme Court answered in the negative and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Moscicki v. Leno" on Justia Law

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Defendant Antonio Barletta appealed a circuit court order that awarded plaintiff Jacquelyn Lane $66,000 in damages for his willful interruption of plaintiff’s heat utility service for thirty-three days. Plaintiff rented an apartment from defendant. Shortly after moving in, plaintiff and her grandfather noticed the heating system did not produce heat. Plaintiff notified the defendant of the problem via text message on September 26, 2016, and was told to call the maintenance person for the property. When the maintenance person arrived, he turned on the heating system and observed the pilot light, and instructed plaintiff to leave the system on for a while. He told plaintiff that if she did not begin to feel any heat to contact defendant. The heating problems persisted, and when plaintiff informed defendant, he told her that he would send over a space heater and repair or replace the heating system. Plaintiff received the space heater in November 2016, and, in December, she informed defendant the space heater “[wa]sn’t cutting it.” However, the space heater remained her only source of heat. In August 2017, plaintiff called the local health inspector hoping that a letter from that office might prompt defendant to take action. Nevertheless, the heating system was not repaired. On appeal defendant argued the trial court erred in finding that he caused a “willful interruption” of the plaintiff’s heating service. Alternatively, he argued that even if he did violate RSA 540- A:3, I, the trial court erred in awarding enhanced damages pursuant to RSA 540-A:4, IX(a) (Supp. 2018) and RSA 358-A:10, I (2009). Plaintiff cross-appealed the trial court's denial of her motion for reconsideration as untimely. The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the order of the trial court and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that although defendant willfully failed to repair plaintiff’s original heat source, he may not have willfully interrupted plaintiff’s heat in violation of RSA 540-A:3, I, if the space heater he provided was an adequate alternative source of heat. The adequacy of the space heater was not considered by the trial court in the first instance. Therefore, the trial court’s finding of a statutory violation was vacated, as was the damages award resulting from that violation. Plaintiff’s argument that the trial court erred in denying her motion for reconsideration became moot. View "Lane v. Barletta" on Justia Law

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Defendants, 150 Realty, LLC and Harbour Links Estates, LLC, appeal superior court orders denying their motions to dismiss or stay actions filed by plaintiffs, Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc. (HTA), McLean Communications, LLC (McLean), and At Comm Corporation. Plaintiffs leased commercial space located at 150 Dow Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. Their tenancies commenced between 1992 and 2001, after they entered into separate lease agreements with the property owner, One Dow Court, Inc. (ODC). The lease agreements allotted each plaintiff a specific number of parking spaces adjacent to the 150 Dow Street building and allowed plaintiffs to use additional spaces in other parking areas. Each agreement also provided that “lessee’s parking rights are subject to lessor’s reasonable rules and regulations.” The trial court ruled that plaintiffs’ claims relating to defendants’ imposition of certain parking rules and fees did not fall within the scope of identical arbitration clauses included in each of the plaintiffs’ lease agreements. The trial court also granted partial summary judgment to HTA and McLean on their declaratory judgment claims, concluding that defendants’ parking rules that assess fees for certain parking spaces were unenforceable. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc. v. 150 Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff The Skinny Pancake-Hanover, LLC, appealed superior court decisions to grant partial summary judgment to defendants, Crotix and James and Susan Rubens, on plaintiff’s breach of contract claim, and that dismissed plaintiff’s claim against defendants for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiff entered into a lease with defendants for a single unit in the Hanover Park Condominium building. The lease gave plaintiff the option to purchase its rental unit along with certain other units in the building. Less than a year later, plaintiff notified defendants it wanted to exercise its purchase option. Defendants “declined” plaintiff’s request, stating that plaintiff’s attempted exercise of the option was untimely under the terms of the agreement. Plaintiff sued; defendants answered, asserting the notice plaintiff sent regarding purchase of the rental unit was insufficient to trigger the option under the original lease agreement. Finding the superior court did not err in granting judgment in favor of defendants, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "The Skinny Pancake-Hanover, LLC v. Crotix" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Natalie Anderson appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of defendant Adam Robitaille on her petition seeking damages and other relief pursuant to RSA chapter 540-A. Defendant was the general manager of the Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel in Nashua. In November 2015, plaintiff and her husband began residing at Homewood. According to plaintiff, she and her husband shared a full-size apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen, a separate bedroom, separate bathroom, living room, and a dining area, for which they were charged $84 per night plus tax for the unit. Their stay was originally intended to last approximately one year. Plaintiff asserted their stay was extended until May 2017. According to plaintiff, on or about January 4, 2017, defendant informed her by e-mail that her stay would not be extended past January 6. Plaintiff contended that the deadline was later extended to January 10, but was told that if she and her husband did not leave on January 10, the police would be called. Plaintiff brought the instant petition under RSA chapter 540-A on January 9, requesting, in addition to statutory damages, that the trial court enjoin the defendant from ejecting her and her husband from their residential unit. At a January 18 hearing, the parties agreed that the dispositive issue before the court was whether plaintiff and her husband were “tenants” entitled to remedies under RSA chapter 540-A. They further agreed that the court could decide the matter based upon the parties’ pleadings. The trial court found in favor of defendant, concluding that plaintiff and her husband were not “tenants” entitled to RSA chapter 540-A remedies. Plaintiff unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court: plaintiff and her husband were not tenants entitled to remedies under RSA chapter 540-A as a matter of law. View "Anderson v. Robitaille" on Justia Law