Articles Posted in Landlord - Tenant

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Roland Riemers twice sued Heidee Hill, her husband, Jason Hill, and her three children, Hannah Hill, Ashley Roesler, and Hailey Marie Hill, for unpaid rent, late fees, property damage, and punitive damages arising out of a lease agreement signed by Heidee Hill for a house in Emerado. Only Heidee Hill signed the lease agreement, but Heidee and Jason Hill were both identified as applicants on the agreement and the three children were listed as "others who will be sharing the house." The Hill family moved to dismiss Riemers' complaint for failure to state a claim and sought attorney fees. They asserted the property was uninhabitable and had been condemned by the Grand Forks Public Health Department in July 2013. They also counterclaimed for abuse of process, alleging Riemers' claims for unpaid rent and property damage were "so outrageous and ridiculous" to rise to the level of abuse of process. They claimed that despite the property being condemned in July 2013, Riemers sued them for structural damage to the house that was clearly Riemers' responsibility and Riemers had an ulterior motive to harass and embarrass them with a lawsuit void of any factual or legal basis. Riemers appealed the judgment awarding him $8,245.87 from Heidee Hill for unpaid rent and property damage and ordering him to pay Ashley Roesler $10,164 for abuse of process. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the liability issue of the abuse-of-process claim. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part and reversed the summary judgment on that claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Riemers v. Hill" on Justia Law

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Cheetah Properties 1, LLC and Panther Pressure Testers, Inc. entered into a commercial lease agreement with an initial term that commenced on April 15, 2014, and ended on December 31, 2014. On January 19, 2015, Cheetah brought an eviction action to recover possession of the property. In the complaint, Cheetah sought damages for: (1) delinquent charges for late payment of rent owed up to December 31, 2014; (2) for Panther's willful holdover "in an amount double the yearly value of the Premises for the time of Defendant[']s withholding" under N.D.C.C. 32-03-28; and (3) for any physical damage to the property caused by Panther vacating the premises. Cheetah also sought an award of reasonable attorneys' fees under the lease. Panther vacated the property by January 31, 2015. The district court returned lawful possession of the property to Cheetah and awarded it $22,000 for January 2015 rent and $8,200 for delinquent rent and fees under the lease. The district court declined to impose double damages under N.D.C.C. 32-03-28 based on its finding that Panther's holding over was not willful. After the district court entered its order for judgment, Cheetah moved for an award of reasonable attorneys' fees under the lease. The district court denied Cheetah's request for fees. Cheetah appealed the district court's judgment and the order denying an award of reasonable attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment concluding Cheetah was not entitled to an award of double damages under N.D.C.C. 32-03-28, but reversed the denial of attorneys' fees. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Cheetah Properties 1, LLC v. Panther Pressure Testers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kara and Kent Poppe appealed a district court summary judgment dismissing their conversion claim. The Poppes rented a house from Pamela Hillis for five years, until February 4, 2013 when Hillis served them with an eviction notice for unpaid rent. The district court ordered the Poppes to vacate the property, and entered a money judgment against them for $1,544 for past due rent. The Poppes requested and received permission from Hillis to remain on the property an additional five hours to remove their belongings with the assistance of a moving truck. The Poppes vacated but left some personal property in the house. Hillis arranged for Community Blessings, owned by Theresa Stockert, to pack, remove and store the remaining property. When the Poppes requested to retrieve their remaining property, Hillis referred them to Stockert. Stockert demanded the Poppes pay $4,600 for packing, moving and storage expenses before the property would be returned. The Poppes did not pay Stockert and did not retrieve their property from Community Blessings. The Poppes' washer and dryer remained in the home until sold by Hillis to new renters. The Poppes sued Stockert for conversion and the parties stipulated the Poppes could retrieve undisputed property from Community Blessings. The Poppes were unable to retrieve all of their property from Community Blessings and litigation continued. The Poppes ultimately joined Hillis as a party to the proceedings and moved to amend the complaint to include an exemplary damages claim alleging Hillis' and Stockert's conduct was oppressive or malicious. Hillis filed a cross-motion for summary judgment alleging a statutory right to dispose of the property, which Stockert joined. The district court entered an order denying the Poppes' motion to amend the complaint and granting summary judgment in favor of Hillis and Stockert. The Poppes argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment because it misinterpreted Hillis' right to remove their personal property from the rental property. Hillis argued she had a right to remove the property under N.D.C.C. 47-16-30.1 and was therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law. After review, the Supreme Court concluded Hillis and Stockert did not have a right under N.D.C.C. 47-16-30.1 to dispose of the Poppes' personal property. Because the district court erred in interpreting Hillis' statutory right to dispose of the property, on remand the Poppes could renew their motion to amend the complaint to include exemplary damages. The Court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Poppe v. Stockert" on Justia Law

Posted in: Landlord - Tenant

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Jose Santoyo appealed a judgment that awarded damages to Darwin Savre for overpayments under the parties' lease and purchase option agreement and dismissed Santoyo's counterclaim for damages to the leased property. Savre owned and operated Savre's Heavy Truck & Auto Repair in Fargo. Santoyo owned the two parcels of real property and building that are the subject of the leases and option agreement in this case. The original lease term was from June 15, 2008, to June 15, 2010, with Savre paying rent of $2,300 per month until June 15, 2009, at which time the rent would increase to $2,708.33. About the time of the rent increase, Savre and Santoyo entered into a "Lease to Purchase Option Agreement." Although the lease and option agreement required Savre to pay his monthly rent payments on the first of each month, Savre was frequently late in his payments from the beginning of the lease. Santoyo accepted the payments and did not give Savre written notice of any intent to terminate the lease based on Savre's late payment. Savre made monthly payments in varying amounts under the option agreement, and the district court found he paid at least a total of $4,000 each month. In the fall of 2012, Savre and another individual formed JDDS, LLC, intending to use the entity to finance the purchase of Santoyo's property. The district court found, however, that Savre did not attempt to assign, convey, delegate or transfer his purchase option to JDDS. In late 2012, Savre made his first attempt to exercise his option to purchase the property with a handwritten notice to Santoyo. In early 2013, Savre made a second attempt to exercise the option with another handwritten notice to Santoyo. Santoyo did not respond to Savre. By the time of the second attempt to exercise the option, Savre had paid at least $180,000 in monthly payments, satisfying an option agreement requirement. After Santoyo did not sell him the property, Savre stopped making monthly payments. Santoyo initiated eviction proceedings against Savre in the district court. The court granted the eviction and entered judgment against Savre for unpaid rent and Santoyo's costs and disbursements. Savre vacated Santoyo's property at the end of June 2013 and began leasing a different space in Fargo. Savre subsequently commenced this action, alleging that Santoyo breached the option agreement when he failed to sell the property leased to Savre after he exercised his option and that Santoyo had been unjustly enriched. Santoyo denied the allegations and counterclaimed, alleging Savre violated his contractual and statutory duties by damaging the property upon being evicted from the premises. Santoyo argued the district court erred as a matter of law when the court concluded Santoyo had a contractual duty to sell his property to a third party that did not exist at the time of the agreement and had no rights under the agreement. The Supreme Court concluded the district court did not clearly err in finding that Santoyo had breached the agreement and that Santoyo had waived strict compliance with the option agreement's terms when he accepted Savre's late lease payments. Furthermore, the Court concluded the court failed to make sufficient findings of fact to explain dismissal of Santoyo's counterclaim for damages. The Court accordingly affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Savre v. Santoyo" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on a dispute between the Chegwiddens, as tenants, and Mitch Evenson, and Evenson Properties, LLP, as landlord. In November 2011, the parties entered into a one-year written lease for a residential apartment in Minot. The parties did not enter into a subsequent written lease, and it was undisputed that, after November 2012, it converted to a month-to-month tenancy. Michael and Jean Chegwidden appealed the district court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of Elda Evenson Living Trust, Mitch Evenson, and Evenson Properties, LLP (collectively "Evenson"). The Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in granting Evenson's summary judgment motion, in denying the Chegwiddens' motion to amend, and in denying the Chegwiddens' summary judgment motion. View "Chegwidden v. Evenson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Landlord - Tenant

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SmartLease USA, LLC was a limited liability company with three principals, Kent Guthrie, Tony Marshall, and Steve Furst, which described itself in a business proposal as an entity seeking "to capitalize on the demand for quality housing [in the Williston Basin] by providing a high quality, exceptionally clean and professionally managed RV/mobile park" in partnership with a landowner. The Abelmanns owned farmland in the Williston Basin. They executed a written agreement to lease approximately 110 acres of their farmland to SmartLease for the stated purpose of "use as a short/long term RV (recreational vehicle), mobile home, cabin units, and truck parking." According to the Abelmanns, SmartLease agreed to develop the leased land into a high quality, clean, and professionally managed full service RV and mobile home park for housing and accommodations for the labor force in northwestern North Dakota. They claimed SmartLease started to develop the land, but thereafter neglected its obligations under the written lease. They claimed SmartLease failed to pay them rent or the security deposits required by the lease and failed to provide proper management for the land. According to them, a property manager hired by SmartLease, Aaron Smith, failed to provide proper on-sight management for the property and eventually quit, which resulted in no on-site management for the property. The Ablemanns claimed they provided SmartLease with written notice of termination of the lease in February 2013, and claimed SmartLease refused to vacate the premises and attempted to transfer the lease to a third party. In May 2013, the Abelmanns served SmartLease with a notice of intention to evict. The Abelmanns appealed the dismissal of their eviction action against SmartLease. The Abelmanns argued the district court erred as a matter of law in construing their written lease with SmartLease and in determining any breaches of the lease by SmartLease were immaterial and of nonessential terms. The Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded. The Court concluded the district court erred in interpreting the purpose of the parties' lease and failed to make adequate findings to understand the basis for its decision. View "Abelmann v. SmartLease USA, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Pro se appellant Cody Schmitt appealed a district court's eviction order, arguing service of an amended notice of eviction was insufficient. Schmitt and Lisa Stahlberg resided in a mobile home located on property owned by Rodney and Pamela Schmitt. Stahlberg resided on the property since April 25, 2013, and Schmitt resided on the property prior to that. There was no written lease between the parties. On March 19, 2014, Rodney and Pamela Schmitt sent Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg an amended notice of eviction, directing Cody Schmitt vacate by April 15, 2014, and Stahlberg vacate within three days. Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg did not vacate the property by April 15, 2014. On April 17, 2014, the Pierce County Sheriff's Office served Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg with the notice of intention to evict them from the property. According to the notice of intention to evict, Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg had three days to vacate the property. After three days elapsed, Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg remained on the property. Accordingly, Rodney and Pamela Schmitt started this eviction action requesting the district court order Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg to vacate the property. A hearing was held on the eviction action. On May 2, 2014, the district court issued an Eviction Order requiring Cody Schmitt and Stahlberg vacate the property by May 13, 2014. Cody Schmitt appealed the district court's decision. Having no transcript to review of the district court's evidentiary hearing, the Supreme Court concluded the district court's finding that service of the notice of termination was proper was not clearly erroneous, and affirmed. View "Schmitt v. Schmitt" on Justia Law

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Roland Riemers appealed a district court judgment dismissing his claims for unpaid rent, late fees, property damage, and punitive damages. Riemers leased a rental property he owned to Heidee Hill, who lived in the home with her family. After the Hills vacated the property, Riemers sued Hill, her husband, and their three children for unpaid rent, late fees, property damage, and punitive damages. The Hills filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and, alleging Riemers' claims were frivolous, also sought attorney fees. The Hills also filed a counterclaim seeking damages for abuse of process. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded it did not have jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal.View "Riemers v. Hill" on Justia Law

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Quality Auto Body, Inc. and Bradley R. Huebner ("Quality Auto Body") appealed a trial court's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order for judgment awarding immediate possession of leased premises, a money judgment for past due rent and late fees, and a money judgment for reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and disbursements to Working Capital #1, LLC. Although an order for judgment is not appealable, "an attempted appeal from an order for judgment will be treated as an appeal from a subsequently entered consistent judgment, if one exists." The Supreme Court treated this case as an appeal, and affirmed the trial court's judgment awarding Working Capital immediate possession of the leased premises, a money judgment for past due rent and late fees, and a money judgment for reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and disbursements. View "Working Capital #1 v. Quality Auto Body" on Justia Law