Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, Los Angeles imposed an eviction moratorium during a “Local Emergency Period” with the stated purposes of ensuring housing security and promoting public health during the pandemic. Related provisions delay applicable tenants’ rent payment obligations and prohibit landlords from charging late fees and interest. A trade association of Los Angeles landlords, sued, alleging violations of the Constitution’s Contracts Clause.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of the plaintiff’s request for preliminary injunctive relief, noting that other courts, including the Supreme Court, have recently considered various constitutional and statutory challenges to COVID-19 eviction moratoria. Under modern Contracts Clause doctrine, even if the eviction moratorium was a substantial impairment of contractual relations, the moratorium’s provisions were likely “reasonable” and “appropriate” given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city fairly tied the moratorium to its stated goals. The court noted that contemporary Supreme Court case law has severely limited the Contracts Clause’s potency. View "Apartment Association of Los Angeles County, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles." on Justia Law

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Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District supplies water to about 300 households, including the public housing tenants of a Pinal County complex. Property owners like Pinal County are responsible for paying any past tenant’s delinquent water accounts. Pinal County acknowledged that responsibility but consistently refused to pay, contending it was immune to that policy based on its status as a public municipality. In response, the District imposed a new policy that increased to $180 the refundable security deposit required of new public housing customers before the District would provide water services. New non-public housing customers were subject to a $55 deposit.The Ninth Circuit rejected a challenge to the policy under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. 3604 and 3617, which bars discriminatory housing policies and practices, including those that cause a disparate impact according to certain protected characteristics or traits—race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. Although the District’s public housing customers are disproportionately African American, Native American, and single mothers, the District established by undisputed evidence that the policy served in a significant way its legitimate business interests; the plaintiffs failed to establish a triable issue of fact that there existed an equally effective, but less discriminatory, alternative. There was insufficient evidence that discriminatory animus was a motivating factor behind the District’s decision to implement its policy. View "Southwest Fair Housing Council, Inc. v. Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District" on Justia Law

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The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) does not require landlords to accommodate the disability of an individual who neither entered into a lease nor paid rent in exchange for the right to occupy the premises.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, in an action brought by plaintiff against the City for wrongful eviction based on several theories of state law implied tenancy. The panel held that the FHAA applies to rentals only when the landlord or his designee has received consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. As to occupants requesting accommodation, the panel held that the FHAA's disability discrimination provisions apply only to cases involving a "sale" or "rental" for which the landlord accepted consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. Applying a federal standard rather than California landlord-tenant law, the panel concluded that because plaintiff never provided consideration in exchange for the right to occupy Spot 57, the FHAA was inapplicable to his claim for relief. Furthermore, the City was not obligated to provide, offer, or discuss an accommodation. View "Salisbury v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that certain provisions of the City of San Jose's 2017 Ordinance and implementing regulations, pertaining to the City's Apartment Rent Ordinance, violated plaintiffs' Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as the Contracts Clause. The challenged provisions of the Ordinance and Regulations require landlords to disclose information about rent stabilized units to the City and condition landlords' ability to increase rents on providing that information.The panel held that plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the challenged provisions effect a search and thus their Fourth Amendment claim fails. In this case, plaintiffs offered no factual allegations plausibly suggesting that they maintain a reasonable expectation of privacy in information that, generally speaking, they already disclose to the City in other contexts. The panel also held that plaintiffs failed to raise a colorable Fifth Amendment takings claim, a Contracts Clause claim, an equal protection claim, and substantive and procedural due process claims. Finally, the Ordinance does not violate the "unconstitutional conditions" doctrine as enunciated in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, 570 U.S. 595 (2013). View "Hotop v. City of San Jose" on Justia Law

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The Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996 (FCIA) does not limit injunctive relief against an executive branch officer enforcing a court order, and the Sheriff in this case was not entitled to immunity from plaintiffs' request for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a class action challenging the constitutionality of Washington Revised Code 59.18.375, which allows tenants to be evicted from their homes without a court hearing. The panel held that original plaintiffs had standing to sue at the time they filed this action, which was the relevant time frame for analyzing Article III standing; plaintiffs who were subsequently added to the action did not have standing to sue because their circumstances left their prospects of injury too speculative to support Article III standing; and, even after original plaintiffs settled their dispute with their landlord, the action was not moot because the dispute was capable of repetition, yet evading review.On the merits, the panel held that the district court misread the statute and that the text of section 375 makes clear that a hearing was not mandatory; the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not apply because plaintiffs were not asking the district court to review and reject the judgment entered against them in state court; the Sheriff's two alternative arguments for affirmance of the district court's judgment -- that the action must be brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and that the Sheriff was entitled to qualified immunity -- lacked merit; and the Sheriff's remaining arguments were without merit. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Moore v. Urquhart" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment on the pleadings in an action challenging a city ordinance that limits the rights of landlords to commence and conduct buyout negotiations. The panel held that the Ordinance did not prevent plaintiffs, an individual property owner and several landlord organizations, from commencing buyout negotiations if a tenant refuses to sign the disclosure form; the Disclosure Provision did not violate plaintiffs' First Amendment rights; the creation of a publicly searchable database of buyout agreements did not violate landlords' right to privacy under the California Constitution; the Ordinance did not violate landlords' rights to equal protection or due process; and the Condominium Conversion Provision did not violate landlords' "liberty of contract." View "San Francisco Apartment Assoc. v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment on the pleadings in an action challenging a city ordinance that limits the rights of landlords to commence and conduct buyout negotiations. The panel held that the Ordinance did not prevent plaintiffs, an individual property owner and several landlord organizations, from commencing buyout negotiations if a tenant refuses to sign the disclosure form; the Disclosure Provision did not violate plaintiffs' First Amendment rights; the creation of a publicly searchable database of buyout agreements did not violate landlords' right to privacy under the California Constitution; the Ordinance did not violate landlords' rights to equal protection or due process; and the Condominium Conversion Provision did not violate landlords' "liberty of contract." View "San Francisco Apartment Assoc. v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law