Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
Davis v. Comerford
In this summary process eviction action, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the housing court judge's order for use and occupancy payments, holding that a court has statutory and equitable authority to order use and occupancy payments that become due pending trial to be paid into the court, into private escrow accounts, and directly to the landlord. Specifically, the Court held (1) to exercise its authority to order a tenant at sufferance to make interim use and occupancy payments during the pendency of an eviction action the judge, on motion by the landlord, must hold a use and occupancy hearing where the factors and circumstances described in this opinion are considered; and (2) payment into an escrow account maintained by the court or counsel for one of the parties will typically provide adequate protection to the landlord, but a judge may order payments directly to the landlord if certain factors are present. Based on the foregoing, the Court held that the order for use and occupancy payments in this case was deficient in two respects, and the case is remanded for further proceedings. View "Davis v. Comerford" on Justia Law
Boston Housing Authority v. Y.A.
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed a lower court judge's order of execution on the fifth agreement for judgment between Y.A., an alleged victim of domestic violence, and the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), a covered housing provider, holding that the motion judge failed to consider whether domestic violence contributed to Y.A.'s failure to make the agreed-upon payments. The Housing Court found that Y.A.'s failure to make required payments set forth in the parties' agreement constituted a violation of a material term of the agreement. The judge made no reference to Y.A.'s allegations of an abusive relationship in his findings. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter to the Housing Court for further proceedings, holding that where a judge is given reason to believe that domestic violence is or might be relevant to a landlord's basis for eviction, the judge must ensure that the judge has sufficient evidence to make a determination whether the tenant is entitled to protections under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), 34 U.S.C. 12291 et seq., and such a determination must be supported by findings. View "Boston Housing Authority v. Y.A." on Justia Law
Cambridge Street Realty, LLC v. Stewart
In this summary process eviction action the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the Housing Court allowing an execution to issue on Landlord’s representation that Tenant had violated a nonfinancial condition of the appeals bond, holding that the Housing Court judge’s order of execution of judgment for failure to comply with a nonfinancial condition of the bond was improper. Landlord served Tenant with a notice of termination of tenancy before bringing a summary process eviction action against her. Following a trial, Landlord received a judgment of execution, and the Housing Court judge allowed the execution to issue. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) a legally effective notice to quit is a condition precedent to a summary process action and part of the landlord’s prime facie case but is not jurisdictional; (2) the notice to quit in this case was not defective; (3) the Housing Court judge abused his discretion when, without providing advance notice that he would conduct trial on the same day as a scheduled hearing on Tenant’s motion to vacate a default judgment, he denied a volunteer attorney’s request for a continuance provided by Housing Court Standing Order 1-01; and (4) the judge lacked statutory authority to impose a nonfinancial condition on the appeals bond. View "Cambridge Street Realty, LLC v. Stewart" on Justia Law
Anderson v. Panagiotopoulos
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed an order of a single justice of this Court dismissing without prejudice Petitioner’s petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 for failure to pay the filing fee or to file a proper affidavit of indigency, holding that the petition was now moot and that the single justice did not err in dismissing the petition. Petitioner filed her petition seeking review of an interlocutory ruling of the trial court denying her late request for a jury trial on a summary process action brought against her. The single justice denied the petition. Thereafter, Petitioner petitioned for review pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The single justice dismissed the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the petition has become moot because the underlying case proceeded to a final judgment, and the eviction has occurred; (2) the single justice did not err in dismissing the petition for failure to execute a proper affidavit of indigency or infringe on Petitioner’s right of access to the courts in doing so; and (3) Petitioner was unable to demonstrate the unavailability of adequate alternative means of obtaining appellate review. View "Anderson v. Panagiotopoulos" on Justia Law
Phillips v. Equity Residential Management, LLC
Under the Security Deposit Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, 15B, the treble damages provision in section 15B(7) does not apply to a landlord’s violation of the requirements for an itemized list set out in section 15B(4)(iii), second-degree sentence, or to the amount forfeited for violation of section 15B(6)(b). At issue in this certified question was whether a tenant is entitled to treble the amount of his entire security deposit under section 15B(7) where a landlord fails to provide to the tenant a statement of damages that meets the statutory requirements, see section 15B(4)(iii), second sentence, thereby forfeiting the entire security deposit, see section 15B(6)(b), and also fails to return that forfeited deposit within thirty days after the tenancy’s termination. The Supreme Court answered the certified question in the negative, holding (1) a landlord violates section 15B(6)(e) only where she fails to return or account for any portion of the security deposit within thirty days, or where the landlord makes a deduction that does not fall within the categories authorized by section 15B(4)(i), (ii), (iii), first sentence; and (2) a violation of section 15(6)(e) does not apply to any portion of the security deposit that was forfeited under another provision of section 15B(6). View "Phillips v. Equity Residential Management, LLC" on Justia Law
Beacon Residential Management, LP v. R.P.
A mother may intervene both on her own behalf and on behalf of her children in an eviction action brought by a landlord against the mother’s husband and their young children where the mother has lived with her family in the apartment throughout the tenancy and alleges domestic violence in the home, despite her not being a named tenant on the lease. The mother in this case (Mother) appealed from the denial by a judge of the housing court of her motion to intervene in a summary process action brought by Landlord. Because Mother’s husband did not appear, the judge entered a judgment of default. The Supreme Court vacated both the denial of the motion to intervene and the judgment of default and remanded the case, holding (1) Mother was permitted to assert affirmative defenses to the eviction action on behalf of herself and her children; and (2) the motion judge prematurely reached the merits of the case. View "Beacon Residential Management, LP v. R.P." on Justia Law
Bishay v. Clerk of the Superior Court in Norfolk County
Bahig Bishay brought an action bringing various claims arising from Plaintiff’s eviction from his home. Bishay named as defendants National Investigations, Inc. and its principals (collectively, National), Harvard 45 Associates, LLC and its principals (collectively, Harvard), and Allied Finance Adjusters Conference, Inc. (Allied). Allied’s motion to dismiss was allowed. Also allowed was Harvard’s motion for summary judgment as to both the claims against it and a counterclaim it asserted against Bishay. Thereafter, Bishay and National (collectively, Petitioners) settled their dispute and moved for entry of final judgment. The motion was denied. Petitioners then filed a petition seeking relief in the nature of mandamus and requesting that the clerk of the superior court be ordered to enter final judgment as Petitioners proposed. A single justice denied relief without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice neither erred nor abused her discretion by denying extraordinary relief, as Petitioners had other remedies available to them. View "Bishay v. Clerk of the Superior Court in Norfolk County" on Justia Law
Meikle v. Nurse
Landlord brought a summary process action against Tenant for possession of the premises. Tenant counterclaimed, alleging violations of the security deposit statute and other causes of action. The Housing Court found in favor of Landlord on all but the security deposit claim, ruling that Tenant could properly assert a violation of the security deposit statute as a counterclaim for damages but that a counterclaim on this basis was not a defense to Landlord’s claim for possession. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the Housing Court judgment granting possession to Landlord, holding that a counterclaim or defense on the basis of a violation of the security deposit statute may be asserted as a defense to a landlord’s possession in a summary process action under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 239, 1A. View "Meikle v. Nurse" on Justia Law
Burbank Apartments Tenant Ass’n v. Kargman
Defendants, the principals and owners of Burbank Apartments (Burbank), decided not to renew Burbank’s project-based Section 8 housing assistance payments contract (HAP) with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development when its mortgage subsidy contract expired. Instead of the project-based subsidies, Defendants chose to accept from its tenants Section 8 enhanced vouchers. Plaintiffs, current and potential Burbank tenants, filed a complaint alleging subsidy discrimination in violation of Massachusetts antidiscrimination law and the Federal Fair Housing Act. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants’ decision not to renew the HAP was discriminatory based on both disparate treatment and disparate impact on members of otherwise protected classes of citizens. The motion judge granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss both counts for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) even where the property owner has acted in accord with statute, regulation, and contract, a disparate impact claim can be brought under the fair housing statutes, subject to “rigorous pleading requirements”; but (2) Plaintiffs in this case failed sufficiently to plead a prima facie case of disparate impact discrimination. View "Burbank Apartments Tenant Ass’n v. Kargman" on Justia Law
Figgs v. Boston Housing Auth.
Trenea Figgs was a participant in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 program, which was administered by the Boston Housing Authority. After the discovery by police officers of marijuana and a loaded firearm in Figgs’s apartment, the BHA notified Figgs of its intent to terminate her participation in the Section 8 program due to violations of her lease. A hearing officer concluded that termination of Figgs’s Section 8 housing subsidy was proper in light of her serious lease violation. The Housing Court reversed and ordered the BHA to reinstate Figgs’s Section 8 housing subsidy. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the Housing Court, holding that, notwithstanding the enactment of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94C, 32L, which decriminalized the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, the hearing officer properly concluded that Figgs violated her lease based on evidence of other criminal activity in Figgs’s rental premises, and the violation warranted Figgs’s termination from the Section 8 program. View "Figgs v. Boston Housing Auth." on Justia Law