Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
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The case involves Northland Investment Corporation (N Co.), a landlord of multiunit residential buildings, and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). N Co. sought a declaratory ruling from PURA that it could use ratio utility billing (RUB) to recoup utility costs from tenants in buildings without individual meters. Under RUB, N Co. would bill tenants for their proportionate share of utility usage, calculated based on factors like unit square footage and number of occupants. PURA concluded that RUB violated the statute because it prohibited charging a tenant for utilities they did not exclusively use. However, PURA suggested N Co. could use the "building in" methodology, incorporating estimated utility costs into fixed rent.PURA's decision was appealed to the trial court, which remanded the case back to PURA for further consideration of whether its decision on RUB conflicted with its conclusion on the "building in" approach. PURA reaffirmed its prior ruling, and N Co. appealed again to the trial court, which dismissed the appeal. N Co. then appealed from the trial court's judgment.The Supreme Court of Connecticut upheld the trial court's decision, agreeing with PURA's determination that the statute prohibits N Co.'s proposed use of RUB to recoup building-wide utility costs by billing tenants for their estimated proportionate share of the total cost. The court concluded that the "building in" approach was acceptable as it allowed for consistent and predictable payments each month and placed the risk of higher-than-anticipated utility usage on the landlord. View "Northland Investment Corp. v. Public Utilities Regulatory Authority" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Lori Randolph, who was injured after falling down stairs in a rental property owned by Aidan, LLC. Randolph sued Aidan, alleging negligence in failing to provide safe stairs. Aidan, in turn, filed a third-party claim against Sioux City, asserting that a city employee had inspected the property and declared it compliant with the municipal code. Aidan claimed that the city was negligent in hiring, retaining, or supervising the unqualified inspector, and thus, should indemnify Aidan for any damages owed to Randolph. Sioux City moved to dismiss Aidan’s claim, arguing it was immune under Iowa Code section 670.4(1)(j).The district court denied Sioux City's motion to dismiss Aidan's claim. Sioux City and Randolph requested interlocutory review, which was granted. The Supreme Court of Iowa was tasked with reviewing the denial of Sioux City's motion for the correction of errors at law.The Supreme Court of Iowa reversed the district court's decision. The court held that Sioux City was immune from Aidan's claim under Iowa Code section 670.4(1)(j). The court reasoned that Aidan's claim for negligent hiring was "based upon" the negligence of Sioux City's employee in inspecting the stairs. Therefore, the claim fell within the scope of the immunity provided by section 670.4(1)(j). The court remanded the case for further proceedings, including the dismissal of Aidan's claim against Sioux City. View "Randolph v. Aidan, LLC" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court's grant of summary judgment, based on qualified immunity, in favor of government attorneys Michael Spindler-Krage and Thomas Canan. The plaintiff, Michael Davitt, had brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Spindler-Krage and Canan, alleging they violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they advised police that Davitt could be removed from his hotel room without eviction proceedings.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Olmsted County, Minnesota, arranged temporary, non-communal housing for elderly and vulnerable homeless individuals. Davitt, who was 69 years old and homeless, was moved into a Super 8 hotel room. When the county stopped paying for his room, Davitt refused to leave, citing a Minnesota governor's executive order temporarily prohibiting evictions. Spindler-Krage and Canan, after reviewing the relevant state law, the executive order, and the Agreement for Hotel Guests, advised the police that Davitt was a hotel guest, not a tenant protected by the executive order.In granting Spindler-Krage and Canan summary judgment based on qualified immunity, the district court found that no case law, statute, or other legal authority clearly established that Davitt was a tenant with a constitutionally protected right to his hotel room. The court also found that the advice provided to the police was objectively reasonable. The Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that Spindler-Krage and Canan did not violate Davitt’s clearly established rights and were thus entitled to qualified immunity. View "Davitt v. Krage" on Justia Law

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In early 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, Los Angeles County passed the “Resolution of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles Further Amending and Restating the Executive Order for an Eviction Moratorium During Existence of a Local Health Emergency Regarding Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)” (the “Moratorium”). The Moratorium imposed temporary restrictions on certain residential and commercial tenant evictions. It provided tenants with new affirmative defenses to eviction based on nonpayment of rent, prohibited landlords from charging late fees and interest, and imposed civil and criminal penalties to landlords who violate the Moratorium. Id. Section V (July 14, 2021). Plaintiff, a commercial landlord, sued the County, arguing that the Moratorium impaired his lease, in violation of the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court found that Plaintiff had not alleged an injury in fact and dismissed his complaint for lack of standing.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that Plaintiff had standing to bring his Contracts Clause claim. Plaintiff’s injury for Article III purposes did not depend on whether Plaintiff’s tenant provided notice or was otherwise excused from doing so. Those questions went to the merits of the claim rather than Plaintiff’s standing to bring suit. Plaintiff alleged that the moratorium impaired his contract with his tenant because it altered the remedies the parties had agreed to at the time they entered into the lease. The panel held that these allegations were sufficient to plead an injury in fact and to state a claim under the Contracts Clause, and remanded to the district court. View "HOWARD ITEN V. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES" on Justia Law

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Jones Lang LaSalle Brokerage, Inc. (JLL) represented both parties to an agreement to lease property in northwest Washington, D.C. Because dual representations of that kind pose inherent conflicts of interest, the District of Columbia’s Brokerage Act required JLL to obtain the written consent of all clients on both sides. JLL’s client on the landlord side of the transaction, 1441 L Associates, LLC, declined to pay JLL’s commission. JLL then brought this action to recover the commission. In defending against the suit, 1441 L argued that JLL, when disclosing its dual representation, failed to adhere to certain formatting specifications set out in the Brokerage Act that aim to highlight such a disclosure. The district court granted summary judgment to 1441 L.   The DC Circuit vacated and remand for further proceedings. The court concluded that that the Act does not invariably require adherence to those formatting specifications. Rather, the specifications go to whether the broker can gain an optional presumption that it secured the required written consent for its dual representation. Even without the benefit of that presumption, a broker can still demonstrate that it obtained the requisite written consent. View "Jones Lang Lasalle Brokerage, Inc. v. 1441 L Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2014 the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution directing various City departments and officials to prepare and execute the necessary approvals and agreements to convey the property to Childhelp in exchange for Childhelp’s agreement to continue using the property to provide services for victims of child abuse. Ultimately, however, the City decided not to transfer the property to Childhelp. Childhelp filed this action against the City for, among other things, declaratory relief, writ of mandate, and promissory estoppel, and the City filed an unlawful detainer action against Childhelp. After the trial court consolidated the two actions, the court granted the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s cause of action for promissory estoppel, sustained without leave to amend the City’s demurrer to Childhelp’s causes of action for declaratory relief and writ of mandate, and granted the City’s motion for summary judgment on its unlawful detainer complaint. Childhelp appealed the ensuing judgment.   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Childhelp had occupied the property for almost 30 years and had an expectation it would eventually own the property. The 2014 resolution certainly suggested the City was seriously considering selling the property to Childhelp. But it was undisputed the parties never completed the transaction in accordance with the City Charter. While Childhelp cites cases reciting general principles of promissory estoppel, it does not cite any cases where the plaintiff successfully invoked promissory estoppel against a municipality in these circumstances. The trial court did not err in granting the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s promissory estoppel cause of action. View "Childhelp, Inc. v. City of L.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Clearview Realty Ventures, LLC, JHM HIX Keene, LLC, VIDHI Hospitality, LLC, NAKSH Hospitality, LLC, 298 Queen City Hotel, LLC, ANSHI Hospitality, LLC, 700 Elm, LLC, Bedford-Carnevale, LLC, and Carnevale Holdings, LLC, owned commercial real estate on which they operated hotels, some of which offered restaurant services along with banquet or function facilities. They contended that the COVID-19 pandemic was a “natural disaster” and that their buildings were “damaged” within the meaning of RSA 76:21, I. Plaintiffs sought relief from the New Hampshire municipalities involved: the Cities of Laconia, Keene, and Manchester, and the Town of Bedford. After denial of their applications, they appealed to the superior court in the applicable county. Observing that there were thirteen separate lawsuits pending in six counties, they then filed an assented-to motion for interlocutory transfer without ruling and motion to consolidate to allow the coordinated transfer of the common questions of law to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. In this interlocutory transfer without ruling, the Supreme Court was asked to determine: (1) whether, for purposes of RSA 76:21, the COVID-19 pandemic constituted a “natural disaster”; and (2) if so, whether the buildings owned by the plaintiffs were “damaged” by COVID-19 such that they were “not able to be used for [their] intended use” within the meaning of RSA 76:21, I. The Court answered the second question in the negative. View "Clearview Realty Ventures, LLC v. City of Laconia; et al." on Justia Law

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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

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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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Plaintiffs were tenants at Arbor Court, a Houston apartment complex that received subsidies from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). After flooding that occurred during Hurricane Harvey, Arbor Court’s owner failed to maintain the property in decent, safe, and sanitary condition. Accordingly, HUD approved a transfer of the complex’s subsidy to a different property, offering Arbor Court tenants a choice between moving at no cost to the new property or receiving housing vouchers that they could use at new housing of their choice. After choosing the latter option, Plaintiffs sued HUD, seeking relocation assistance under the Uniform Relocation Act (“URA”). The district court dismissed the complaint.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The court held that Plaintiffs are not entitled to relocation assistance under the URA. The court explained, as required by statute, Plaintiffs have not pled that they moved from Arbor Court “as a direct result of a written notice of intent to acquire or the acquisition of such real property [i.e. Arbor Court] in whole or in part for a program or project undertaken by a Federal agency or with Federal financial assistance.” Plaintiffs argued that under the applicable Department of Transportation (“DOT”) regulations, the Section 8(bb) subsidy transfer from Arbor Court to Cullen Park qualifies as “such other displacing activity.” However, this regulation merely defines the phrase “program or project.” It does not prescribe any “displacing activit[ies]” that cause one to become a “displaced person” under the URA. View "Jackson v. HUD" on Justia Law