Leaseholds

Banks are both owners and landlords when they buy tenant-occupied property at a foreclosure sale

Banks seem to have a hard time understanding that when they obtain title to property through a foreclosure sale that they not only own the property but have taken on themselves all the obligations that an owner has. If the property is occupied by tenants, the bank-owner is automatically the new landlord and the law imposes duties on landlords. The law also requires owners not to let their property become a nuisance. But this simple legal truth is repeatedly resisted by some banks. This rule extends to any entity that is the legal owner of the property and that includes the trustee of...

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Eviction moratorium does not violate contract clause

The Ninth Circuit upheld a city eviction moratorium against a contracts clause challenge. Apartment Ass'n of Los Angeles County, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 2021 WL 3745777 (9th Cir. 2021). While the law did affect contract rights, it was reasonable and appropriate and did not constitute retroactive deprivation of vested rights as required for the clause to apply. The court cited Home Building...

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Sexual harassment of tenant by property manager violates Fair Housing Act

The Eleventh Circuit joins other courts that have held that sexual harassment by a landlord (or an agent of the landlord) can constitute sex discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3601 to §3613 if the behavior would not have occurred but for the tenant's sex.

This formulation has been adopted by other courts, see United States v. Hurt, 676 F.3d 649 (9th Cir. 2012), Quigley v. Winter, 598 F.3d 938 (8th Cir. 2010), and suggests that a landlord that sexually harasses both men and women would not be liable for engaging in sex discrimination — a result that...

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Damages awarded tenant when landlord threatens to engage in illegal self-help eviction

The Maryland Supreme Court held that residential tenants can sue for damages if the landlord posts a notice telling them that they are being evicted. This constitutes a form of "nonjudicial self-help eviction" prohibited by state law, which requires landlords to use court eviction procedures to recover possession of the premises. State law would have allowed self...

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Commercial lease disclaimer of liability for negligence held to be enforceable

A California appeals court has found a disclaimer of liability for negligence in a commercial lease to be enforceable and not to violate public policy even though a state statute made them invalid as to cases involving fraud, willful injuries, gross negligence, or violations of law. Garcia v. D/AQ Corp., 271 Cal. Rptr. 3d 861 (Ct. App. 2020). This case did not fit in...

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Tenant not entitled to damages under the implied warranty of habitability for injuries from slipping on an icy driveway

The Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts held, in Goreham v. Martins, 147 N.E.3d 478 (Mass. 2020), that a landlord is not liable for injuries to a tenant who slips on ice in the driveway under the implied warranty of habitability because such claims are, in effect, strict liability claims and injuries to the body in the context of landlord-...

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Two court reject impossibility defense to tenant rent obligations under government shutdown orders while one abates rent under the wording of the force majeure clause

When Governor Cuomo ordered most businesses to stop serving the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, some could not generate the income needed to pay rent. Some have argued that the impossibility of earning profits to pay rents should constitute a defense to the contractual obligation to pay rent. Two courts in New York have now rejected that argument, including the federal Southern District and a state supreme court.

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Tenants have the right to receive guests

Affirming a traditional rule of law, the D.C. Court of Appeals held that tenants have the right to receive guests even over the objections of the landlord. Odumn v. United States, 227 A.3d 1099 (D.C. 2020). Defendant was charged with criminal trespass for violating a no-trespass order by the landlord but because he was on the property at the invitation of his aunt, who was a tenant...

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