Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
24th & Hoffman Investors, LLC v. Northfield Insurance Co.
Northfield issued a policy to insure an apartment complex. The coverage excludes liability for violations of the insured’s duty to maintain habitable premises; this exclusion also encompasses coverage for “any claim or ‘suit’ ” that also alleges habitability claims. Tenants sued the insured, alleging multiple habitability claims and other causes of action that were arguably not based on habitability. Northfield declined to defend the tenants’ lawsuit. After settling the underlying action, the insured sued Northfield for breach of its duty to defend. The trial court concluded the case presented a “mixed” action containing both potentially covered and uncovered claims, and that Northfield was obliged to provide a defense.The court of appeal reversed. The policy exclusion is plain and clear. The court rejected arguments that claims for retaliation, conversion, and trespass to chattels did not arise from the duty to provide habitable premises. The retaliation concerned complaints about habitable conditions and the claims are alleged in a suit that also alleges habitability claims. View "24th & Hoffman Investors, LLC v. Northfield Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Brady v. Hiett
This appeal and cross-appeal involved a residential lease agreement with an option to purchase executed by Tony Hiett, Sr., and his wife Kelly ("the tenants") and Beverlye Brady ("the landlord"). The landlord leased to the tenants a house ("the property") located in Auburn for a term of five years, beginning September 1, 2011, and ending August 31, 2016, for $2,000 per month. By letter dated August 29, 2016, the tenants informed the landlord that they were exercising their option to purchase the property. According to the tenants, they accepted the first option to purchase the property presented in an email from the landlord and began making monthly holdover rental payments of $2,500. In April 2017, they informed the landlord that they had obtained financing and were ready to close on the property by April 30, 2017. The landlord, however, refused to convey title to the property because, she claimed, the tenants had never responded to her email; thus, according to the landlord, the option to purchase had expired. The tenants thereafter stopped paying rent under the lease agreement, but continued to occupy the property, and sued the landlord, seeking specific performance of the option to purchase. The landlord counterclaimed, asserting a claim for ejectment and a claim of breach of contract, based on unpaid rent and late fees owed under the lease agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed judgment on a jury’s verdict in favor of the tenants on their specific performance claim, and against the landlord on her ejectment claim. The Supreme Court reversed judgment entered on the jury’s verdict in favor of the landlord on her breach-of-contract claim based on the inadequacy of damages awarded, and the Court remanded the case with directions to the trial court to grant a new trial only as to that claim unless the tenants consented to an additur. View "Brady v. Hiett" on Justia Law
New Lansing Gardens Housing Limited Partnership v. Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees the Section 8 low-income housing assistance program, 42 U.S.C. 1437f. New Lansing renewed its Section 8 contract with Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority in 2014 for a 20-year term. In 2019, at the contractual time for its fifth-year rent adjustment, New Lansing submitted a rent comparability study (RCS) to assist CM Authority in determining the new contract rents. Following the 2017 HUD Section 8 Guidebook, CM Authority forwarded New Lansing’s RCS to HUD, which obtained an independent RCS. Based on the independent RCS undertaken pursuant to HUD’s Guidebook requirements, the Housing Authority lowered New Lansing’s contract rents amount.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of New Lansing’s suit for breach of contract. The Renewal Contract requires only that the Housing Authority “make any adjustments in the monthly contract rents, as reasonably determined by the contract administrator in accordance with HUD requirements, necessary to set the contract rents for all unit sizes at comparable market rents.” HUD has authority to prescribe how to determine comparable market rents, the Renewal Contract adopted those requirements, and thus the Housing Authority was required to follow those HUD methods. The Housing Authority did not act unreasonably by following the requirements in the 2017 HUD guidance. View "New Lansing Gardens Housing Limited Partnership v. Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority" on Justia Law
Creditors Adjustment Bureau v. Imani
Appellant appealed the order denying his motion to vacate the judgment entered against him for $251,200.13 after he failed to pay $30,000 as required pursuant to a stipulation for entry of judgment. Appellant contends the trial court erred because the judgment is an unenforceable penalty and is therefore void. The Second Appellate disagreed with Appellant and affirmed the order denying the motion to vacate the $251,200.13 judgment. Here, the $251,200.13 damage provision in the stipulation for entry of judgment is not arbitrarily drawn from thin air. It is the actual and stipulated amount of damages. This is not a penalty or a liquidated damage provision. The court explained it cannot delete the terms of the stipulated judgment calling for monthly payments and it cannot add a provision to the terms of the stipulated judgment allowing a seven-year moratorium on monthly payments. Money has value over time. Appellant has had the use of the money for seven years. Respondent has been deprived of the use of the money for seven years. Respondent’s “more than reasonable” settlement terms should not be used against it to show “liquidated damages” or a “penalty.” View "Creditors Adjustment Bureau v. Imani" on Justia Law
Chen v. Valstock Ventures, LLC
Shao Yan Chen, Han Lin Liu, Zhi Hua Mo, Yuk Yee Cheng, Hui Zhen Hu, Ruizhao Wu, and Qi Di Wu (collectively, tenants) had a dispute with Valstock Ventures, LLC and 371 Broadway Street, LLC (together, Valstock) over which of two documents was the operative lease governing the tenants’ tenancies in two of Valstock’s apartment buildings. The tenants filed suit against Valstock seeking a declaratory judgment on this question, alleging a civil conspiracy, and stating claims for violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Unfair Competition Law (UCL), and section 37.10B of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. The trial court awarded the tenants approximately $1.1 million in attorney’s fees under Civil Code section 1717 after granting their motion for summary adjudication of the sole cause of action on the contract in this case, before trial or disposition of the remaining non-contract causes of action. The defendants appealed, arguing the award of attorney’s fees was premature because the litigation as a whole had not yet ended. To this the Court of Appeal agreed and therefore reversed. View "Chen v. Valstock Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law
JJD-HOV Elk Grove, LLC v. Jo-Ann Stores
The co-tenancy provision in the parties’ lease required a shopping center to have either: (1) three anchor tenants; or (2) 60 percent of the space leased, and, if it did not, Tenant-respondent JoAnn Stores, LLC was permitted to pay “Substitute Rent.” In 2018, Jo-Ann informed JJD it intended to start paying Substitute Rent effective July 1, 2018, because the co-tenancy provision was not met after two anchor tenants closed. Landlord-appellant JJD-HOV Elk Grove, LLC (JJD) responded that the co-tenancy provision was an unenforceable penalty under the holding in Grand Prospect Partners, L.P. v. Ross Dress for Less, Inc., 232 Cal.App.4th 1332 (2015). Jo-Ann contended Grand Prospect was distinguishable and the co-tenancy provision was enforceable. JJD and Jo-Ann filed competing complaints for declaratory relief and cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court found the co-tenancy provision was enforceable, and thus granted Jo- Ann’s motion, denied JJD’s, and entered judgment accordingly. JJD appealed. The Court of Appeal declined to follow the rule announced in Grand Prospect here, and instead held that this case was governed by the general rule that courts enforce contracts as written. The Court therefore agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the co-tenancy provision at issue in this case was enforceable, and affirmed the judgment. View "JJD-HOV Elk Grove, LLC v. Jo-Ann Stores" on Justia Law
EDC Investment, LLC v. UTGR, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant and dismissed this complaint alleging, among other things, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract, holding that the complaint was properly dismissed.In 2000, Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a lease agreement whereby Plaintiff rented space from Defendant. In 2011, the parties entered into a termination of lease and release agreement providing Plaintiff with a buyout. Plaintiff later brought this action. Defendant want moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Plaintiff released all claims against Defendant in a release. The hearing justice granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's claims of breach of fiduciary duty and breaches of contract and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "EDC Investment, LLC v. UTGR, Inc." on Justia Law
Horizon Ventures of W. Va., Inc. v. American Bituminous Power Partners, L.P.
The Supreme Court reversed the business court's orders in this rent dispute, holding that the business court erred in granting summary judgment to either party.American Bituminous Power Partners, LP (AMBIT) and Horizon Ventures of West Virginia, Inc. created a contractual relationship with a lease agreement. The current rent dispute involved the relationship between the lease, a 1996 settlement agreement, and a 2017 order of the business court. Without resolving the relationship between those documents the business court granted summary judgment to AMBIT on Horizon's claims and summary judgment to Horizon on AMBIT's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that summary judgment was improper because the various agreements were ambiguous and the parties' intent was not clear. View "Horizon Ventures of W. Va., Inc. v. American Bituminous Power Partners, L.P." on Justia Law
Meng v. Rahimi
Li Meng ("Tenant") leased a commercial property from the Plaintiffs, Mohammad Rahimi and Tahereh Dinpajooh ("Landlords") in August, 2019 for the sole purpose of operating a massage business for a two year term. The parties specifically agreed in the written lease that Tenant use of the commercial space was for the sole purpose of conducting a massage business and Tenant was prohibited from using the space for any other purpose. The Landlords prohibited any use of the leased premises which could endanger life. The Landlords noted that even though Tenant was prohibited from any use of the premises which violated public law or governmental rule, the lease specified there would be no abatement of rent even if there was a loss of business arising from some future law. Landlords argued that Tenant's obligation to pay rent was not excused because of these lease provisions. In January, 2020, approximately five months after the parties executed the lease, the first case of the COVID-19 virus was reported within the United States and soon thereafter in Oklahoma. In March, the Oklahoma governor declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 and businesses that were not part of critical infrastructure were ordered to close for a period of time. Tenant stated that she closed the business on March 19, 2020 after she and her sole employee became ill with symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Tenant did not pay rent after March 2020, and she never re-opened her business. By June 2020, Landlords filed this action against the Tenant for past due rent and eviction. Tenant argued that rent was not due from April through August because performance of the contract had become impossible in light of the public health risk with massage which temporarily excused the payment of rent under the doctrine of frustration of purpose or impracticability. The court stated that the defense of impracticability was not a legitimate excuse for the nonpayment of rent and did not allow Tenant to present any evidence in support of this defense. The trial court awarded Landlords $6,400 in past due rent and granted them possession. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the trial court, finding that the trial court erred when it did not allow Tenant to present evidence in support of the affirmative defense. View "Meng v. Rahimi" on Justia Law
Fischer v. Hoyt
Ralph Fischer appealed from an order denying his request for attorney’s fees under N.D.C.C. 27-08.1-04. In February 2018, Fischer and Darin Hoyt executed a Cattle Share Lease. Under the terms of the lease, Fischer rented pasture land to Hoyt. In July 2019, Fischer sued Hoyt in small claims court arguing he was entitled to $15,000 for Hoyt’s failure to pay pasture rent in 2018. Hoyt removed the case to district court and filed an answer and counterclaim, asserting Fischer breached terms of the agreement. Fischer answered the counterclaim and requested attorney’s fees under N.D.C.C. 27-08.1-04. In February 2020, Fischer received leave of court to amend his complaint and increased his alleged damages to $25,000. After a bench trial, the district court found both parties breached the lease in different respects. Pertinent here, the district court found Hoyt breached the lease by failing to pay rent in 2018. The district court denied Fischer’s request for attorney’s fees, finding "the claims and counterclaims in this matter were far too complex for small claims court and would have been dismissed without prejudice to refile in district court." To the North Dakota Supreme Court, Fischer argues the district court erred in denying his request because he is the prevailing plaintiff after removal from small claims court. Fischer also argued he was entitled to attorney’s fees incurred in this appeal. The Supreme Court agreed, and reversed and remanded for an award of Fischer’s attorney’s fees in the district court action and on appeal. View "Fischer v. Hoyt" on Justia Law