Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority v. Mael, et al.
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
McKeeman v. Duchaine
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
Natal v. GMPM Company & al.
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
Ballinger v. City of Oakland
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
San Francisco Apartment Association v. City & County of San Francisco
The Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, Civil Code section 1954.50, generally exempts newly constructed residential units, single-family homes, and condominiums from local rent increase limitations. The San Francisco Rent Ordinance acknowledges these exemptions in sections 37.3(d) and (g). Costa Hawkins expressly preserves local authority to “regulate or monitor the grounds for eviction” on all residential rental properties, including properties exempt from local rent control.Landlords challenged a measure that amended the city’s rent ordinance to make it unlawful for a landlord to seek to recover possession of a rental unit that is exempt from rent control by means of a rental increase that is imposed in bad faith to coerce the tenant to vacate the unit in circumvention of the city’s eviction laws, claiming that the amendment is preempted by Costa Hawkins because it seeks to regulate the rent a landlord may charge on exempt properties. The trial court and court of appeal rejected the challenge. The amendment is a valid exercise of the city’s authority to regulate evictions and is designed to deter landlords from attempting to avoid local eviction rules by imposing artificially high rents in bad faith. View "San Francisco Apartment Association v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law
Holding v. Luckinbill
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that the lease of property in this case did not violate Appellants' first refusal to purchase the property, holding that the district court did not err.John and Melanie Lennon leased property owned by the Larry Lee Luckinbill Living Trust for a 125-year term. Thereafter, Appellants - Anne Holding and the Crandall Creek Ranch Company - brought suit against the Lennons and the trust's trustee, seeking a declaratory judgment stating that the lease violated their right of first refusal. The district court concluded that the right of first refusal remained in effect but that the lease did not trigger that right. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the lease did not trigger Appellants' right of first refusal. View "Holding v. Luckinbill" on Justia Law
Boardwalk Realty Associates, LLC v. M & S Gateway Associates, LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court concluding that Boardwalk Realty Associates, LLC (Boardwalk), the court-appointed receiver of rents, lacked authority under Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-163a to impose and collect rent or use and occupancy payments in the place of the subject property's owner, Cadle Properties of Connecticut, Inc., holding that there was no error.This case centered on the Town of Canton's efforts to collect unpaid property taxes on a parcel of real property that was effectively abandoned Cadle and on which M&S Gateway Associates, LLC and Mitchell Volkswagen, LLC (together, Defendants) operated an automobile dealership. Boardwalk brought a complaint seeking rent and use and occupancy payments from Defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that section 12-163a does not permit a receiver of rents to collect rent or use and occupancy payments if the tax delinquent property owner is absent and nor pursuing those payments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a receiver appointed under section 12-163a is not statutorily authorized to impose and collect rent or use and occupancy payments under the facts and circumstances of this case. View "Boardwalk Realty Associates, LLC v. M & S Gateway Associates, LLC" on Justia Law
LKL Associates, et al. v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.
The Union Pacific Railroad charged Heber Rentals, LC (“Heber”) and L.K.L. Associates, Inc. (“L.K.L.”) rent under a lease that allowed L.K.L. to continue operating a building materials supply business on land that was owned in fee by Heber—and leased to L.K.L.—but encumbered by Union Pacific’s right of way. After the Supreme Court stated in 2014 that railroad rights of way like Union Pacific’s were “nonpossessory” easements, L.K.L. and Heber stopped paying rent and filed suit against Union Pacific. In addition to requesting declaratory relief, L.K.L. and Heber sought to have their leases rescinded and to receive restitution for rent already paid. Union Pacific brought counterclaims arising out of their nonpayment. On summary judgment, the district court held that Union Pacific’s easement, while nonpossessory, gave it exclusive use and possession rights “insofar as Union Pacific elected to use the land subject to its easement for a railroad purpose.” Although it found that the lease agreements served no railroad purpose, it denied the rescission claim as “untimely and redundant.” In a follow-up order, it ruled that L.K.L. and Heber had abandoned their remaining claims. The district court also rejected all of Union Pacific’s counterclaims. The Tenth Circuit agreed with Union Pacific that its right of way included the unqualified right to exclude L.K.L. and Heber, but the Court agreed with L.K.L. and Heber that their leases were invalid. “Even if the incidental use doctrine applies, neither the leases nor the underlying business conduct furthered a railroad purpose, as the easement requires.” The Court: reversed the district court’s declaratory judgment rulings to the extent they are inconsistent with the Court’s opinion; affirmed the district court’s ruling that the rescission claim was time-barred; affirmed the district court’s rejection of Union Pacific’s counterclaim for breach of contract; reversed its rejection of Union Pacific’s other substantive counterclaims; and reversed the district court’s finding of abandonment. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "LKL Associates, et al. v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law
Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham
Defendant Town of Windham (Town) appealed a superior court order denying its motion to dismiss the tax abatement appeal of plaintiff Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. (Shaw’s), for lack of standing. The Town also appealed the superior court's order granting Shaw’s requested tax abatement. The owner of the property at issue leased 1.5 acres of a 34.21-acre parcel in Windham established as Current Use. The lease, in relevant part, required Shaw’s to pay the Owner its pro rata share of the real estate taxes assessed on the entire parcel, and the Owner was required to pay the taxes to the Town. If the Owner received a tax abatement, Shaw’s was entitled to its pro rata share of the abatement. In 2017, Shaw’s was directed by the Owner to pay the property taxes directly to the Town, and it did. Shaw’s unsuccessfully applied to the Town’s selectboard for a tax abatement and subsequently appealed to the superior court. The Town moved to dismiss, arguing that Shaw’s lacked standing to request a tax abatement on property it did not own. Finding the superior court did not err in finding Shaw's had standing to seek the abatement, or err in granting the abatement, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's orders. View "Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham" on Justia Law
New West, L.P. v. Fudge
Joliet condemned a housing complex managed by New West and paid $15 million. HUD rent subsidies for low-income tenants provided almost all of the money for operating the development. A $2.7 million fund had been established by New West and HUD, to cover necessary maintenance and repairs in the event of a default by New West. HUD refused to release that account to New West, contending that it now holds the account to cover Joliet’s obligations.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of New West’s suit to recover the account. New West cannot establish conversion of the fund without first establishing ownership. HUD’s lien on the fund does not establish ownership of the fund and New West has not established its ownership by showing that it treated deposits into the fund as taxable income. View "New West, L.P. v. Fudge" on Justia Law