Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Melendez v. City of New York
In May 2020, at the height of the pandemic, New York City amended its Residential and Non-Residential Harassment Laws, to prohibit “threatening” tenants based on their “status as a person or business impacted by COVID-19, or . . . receipt of a rent concession or forbearance for any rent owed during the COVID-19 period,” and added the “Guaranty Law,” which renders permanently unenforceable personal liability guarantees of commercial lease obligations for businesses that were required to cease or limit operations pursuant to a government order. For rent arrears arising during March 7, 2020-June 30, 2021, the Guaranty Law extinguishes a landlord’s ability to enforce a personal guaranty.In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the plaintiffs alleged that the Harassment Amendments violated the Free Speech and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. and New York Constitutions by impermissibly restricting commercial speech in the ordinary collection of rents and by failing to provide fair notice of what constitutes threatening conduct. Plaintiffs further alleged that the Guaranty Law violated the Contracts Clause, which prohibits “State . . . Law[s] impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” The district court dismissed the suit.The Second Circuit affirmed in part, agreeing that the plaintiffs failed to allege plausible free speech and due process claims. The court reinstated the challenge to the Guaranty Law. The Guaranty Law significantly impairs personal guaranty agreements; there are at least five serious concerns about that law being a reasonable and appropriate means to pursue the professed public purpose. View "Melendez v. City of New York" on Justia Law
Chrysafis v. Marks
Landlords challenged Part A of New York’s residential eviction moratorium statute, the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (CEEFPA), and attempted to challenge the new residential eviction moratorium, (Subpart C(A) 2021), enacted in Sept. 2021, after several provisions of the old moratorium statute expired. The Supreme Court enjoined enforcement of Part A 2020 on August 12, 2021, based on due process defects.The Landlords argued that Subpart C(A) 2021 did not remedy the defect but is merely a continuation of the previous statute. State officials sought dismissal of the appeal as moot, arguing that the challenged provisions of the old statute have expired, Subpart C(A) 2021 does remedy the defect identified by the Supreme Court, and any challenge to the 2021 provisions must be brought in a new lawsuit.The Second Circuit concluded that the due process claims are moot, dismissed them, and remanded the case. With the appeal remanded, the court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to enjoin enforcement of Subpart C(A) 2021. The “mootness is attributable to a change in the legal framework,” so the Landlords “may wish to amend their complaint so as to demonstrate that the repealed statute retains some continuing force or to attack the newly enacted legislation.” View "Chrysafis v. Marks" on Justia Law
Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc.
In this Fair Housing Act of 1968 case, plaintiff's claims stemmed from his neighbor's verbal attacks and attempted intimidation of plaintiff based on his race. The principal question presented to the en banc court is whether a plaintiff states a claim under the Act and parallel state statutes for intentional discrimination by alleging that his landlord failed to respond to reported race-based harassment by a fellow tenant.The en banc court concluded that landlords cannot be presumed to have the degree of control over tenants that would be necessary to impose liability under the FHA for tenant-on-tenant misconduct. In this case, plaintiff failed to state a claim that the KPM Defendants intentionally discriminated against him on the basis of race in violation of the FHA, Sections 1981 and 1982, or the New York State Human Rights Law. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to state a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress against the KPM Defendants under New York law. View "Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc." on Justia Law
Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc.
The Second Circuit held that a landlord may be liable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) for intentionally discriminating against a tenant who complains about a racially hostile housing environment that is created by and leads to the arrest and conviction of another tenant. In this case, the landlord allegedly refused to take any action to address what it knew to be a racially hostile housing environment created by one tenant targeting another, even though the landlord had acted against other tenants to redress prior, non‐race related issues. In holding that a landlord may be liable in those limited circumstances, the court adhered to the FHA's broad language and remedial scope. The court also held that post-acquisition claims that arise from intentional discrimination are cognizable under section 3604 of the FHA. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the FHA and analogous New York State law, as well as his claims under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and 82. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc." on Justia Law
Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc.
A landlord may be liable under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA) for failing to take prompt action to address a racially hostile housing environment created by one tenant targeting another, where the landlord knew of the discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it. The Second Circuit adhered to the FHA's broad language and remedial scope, holding that the FHA reaches conduct that, as here, would constitute discrimination in the enjoyment of residence in a dwelling or in the provision of services associated with that dwelling after acquisition. Furthermore, HUD's 2016 Final Rule, HUD's other implementing regulations, and the views expressed in its amicus brief only reinforce the court's textual interpretation that a landlord may be liable under the FHA for failing to intervene in tenant-on-tenant racial harassment of which it knew or reasonably should have known and had the power to address.In this case, plaintiff alleged that defendants had actual knowledge of the tenant's criminal racial harassment of plaintiff but, because it involved race, intentionally allowed it to continue even though defendants had the power to end it. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the FHA and analogous New York State law, as well as his claims under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and 1982. The panel remanded for further proceedings. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc." on Justia Law
Winston v. City of Syracuse
Plaintiff filed a putative class action challenging the City's policy of denying tenants the opportunity to open water accounts in their own name and shutting off water service to tenants when landlords fail to pay water bills. The Second Circuit held that the City's policy of denying tenants the opportunity to open water accounts satisfied the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court held, however, that the City's water shutoff policy violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. While the City has offered sufficient reasons for its policy of refusing to allow tenants to open their own water accounts and thus satisfied the rational basis test, the City's practice of terminating water service to tenants when a landlord failed to pay the water bill was not rationally related to a legitimate government interest. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Winston v. City of Syracuse" on Justia Law