Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Court of Appeals held that when a landlord attempts to collect unpaid rent from a tenant during a period when the landlord was unlicensed a tenant may have a claim under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (MCDCA) and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) to the extent that the landlord's unlawful collection activity caused the tenant to suffer damages, including any rent payments made responding to the landlord's attempts to collect unpaid rent.Specifically, the the Court of Appeals held (1) a tenant who voluntarily paid rent to a landlord who lacked a rental license may not bring a private action under the MCPA or MCDCA to recover restitution of rent based upon the landlord's lack of licensure pursuant to the Baltimore City Code, Art. 13, 5-4; and (2) when a municipality or county enacts a rental license law conditioning the performance of a residential lease upon the issuance of a rental license a landlord may not file an action against a tenant to recover unpaid rent attributable to the period when the property was not licensed. View "Assanah-Carroll v. Law Offices of Maher" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Lisa Poitra appealed an order of eviction, arguing the district court lacked jurisdiction to enter the eviction order because the Trenton Indian Housing Authority (“TIHA”) constituted a dependent Indian community, and a contract provision required the eviction to be handled by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians Tribal Court. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the record supported the district court’s finding that TIHA was not a dependent Indian community, the court’s determination that it had subject matter jurisdiction, and the finding TIHA did not have a contractual obligation to bring the eviction action in the tribal court. View "Trenton Indian Housing Authority v. Poitra, et al." on Justia Law

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A boiler exploded in a home owned by a nonprofit regional housing authority, severely injuring a man who lived there. He sued the housing authority in both contract and tort, claiming that his lease-purchase contract included a promise that the authority would inspect the boiler, which it failed to do with reasonable care. After the man dismissed his contract claim, the housing authority asked the court to decide as a matter of law that a breach of a contractual promise could not give rise to a tort claim. But the superior court allowed the man to proceed to trial on his tort claim, and the jury awarded over $3 million in damages, including over $1.5 million in noneconomic damages and separate awards to several of his family members for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The court reduced the man’s noneconomic damages award to $1 million because of a statutory damages cap, but it excluded the family members’ awards from the amount subject to the cap. The housing authority appealed, maintaining it should have been granted a judgment notwithstanding the verdict because the contract did not create a continuing legal duty to inspect the boiler with reasonable care. It also argued it should have been granted a new trial because it had established that the boiler explosion was caused by a product defect rather than negligent inspection. Finally, the authority argued the family members’ damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress should have been included in the amount subject to the statutory damages cap. The man cross-appealed, arguing that the damages cap violated due process because it failed to account for inflation or the severe nature of his physical injuries. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the superior court's judgment on all issues. View "Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority v. Mael, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court that characterized the court's prior order on Appellants' motion for a preliminary injunction as a ruling on the merits and entering a final judgment without holding a hearing, holding that the court's order violated Me. R. Civ. P. 65(b)(2).Appellants filed this complaint alleging violations of the statutory warranty of habitability and an illegal eviction and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. After a hearing, the court entered an order granting in part and denying in part Appellants' request for a preliminary injunction. Thereafter, Appellants filed a request for default judgment. The court denied the request and then entered the order as a final judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment below, holding that the order, which treated the hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction as a consolidated hearing on the motion and on the merits, violated Me. R. Civ. P. 65(b)(2) and offended due process. View "McKeeman v. Duchaine" on Justia Law

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Defendants GMPM Company and 479 Maple Street, LLC, appealed a circuit court order granting the petition for wrongful eviction filed by plaintiff Melissa Natal. On appeal, defendants argued the circuit court erred by determining that its property was not a “shared facility” as defined by RSA 540-B:1 (2021). Specifically, defendants argued RSA 540-B:1 did not require that an owner occupy the premises, but, rather, only that an owner have access to the common areas for the purposes of cleaning, maintaining, and monitoring the premises. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, for property to qualify as a shared facility under RSA 540-B:1, the owner had to reside at the premises with the occupants. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Natal v. GMPM Company & al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, Oakland’s Uniform Residential Tenant Relocation Ordinance, which requires landlords re-taking occupancy of their homes upon the expiration of a lease to pay tenants a relocation payment. Plaintiffs alleged that the relocation fee is an unconstitutional physical taking of their money for a private rather than public purpose, without just compensation. Alternatively, they claimed that the fee constitutes an unconstitutional exaction of their Oakland home and an unconstitutional seizure of their money under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Although in certain circumstances money can be the subject of a physical (per se) taking, the relocation fee required by the Ordinance was a regulation of the landlord-tenant relationship, not an unconstitutional taking of a specific and identifiable property interest. Because there was no taking, the court did not address whether the relocation fee was required for a public purpose or what just compensation would be. The court rejected an assertion that Oakland placed an unconstitutional condition (an exaction), on their preferred use of their Oakland home. The plaintiffs did not establish a cognizable theory of state action; Oakland did not participate in the monetary exchange between plaintiffs and their tenants. View "Ballinger v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law