Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Judicial Court held that Tenant was not entitled to personal injury damages based on Landlord's failure keep the driveway reasonably free of snow and ice.Tenant was severely injured when he slipped and fell on ice in the driveway adjacent to the premises he rented. A jury found Landlords negligent for failing to exercise reasonable care in keeping the driveway free of ice. However, the jury rendered a verdict of no liability, finding that Tenant was comparatively negligent and more responsible for the injury than Landlords. Based on the jury's finding, the judge found Landlords not liable on Tenant's additional claims alleging breach of the common-law implied warranty of habitability and violation of the statutory covenant of quiet enjoyment. Tenant appealed, arguing that he should recover personal injury damages on his remaining claims because the jury found Landlords negligent. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) a tenant may not be awarded personal injury damagers on a claim for breach of the implied warranty of habitability arising from a landlord's failure to keep common areas reasonably free of snow and ice; and (2) in this case, Tenant may not recover personal injury damages under the statutory covenant of quiet enjoyment. View "Goreham v. Martins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court denying Plaintiffs' complaint for relief in the nature of mandamus and for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice correctly denied relief on all of Plaintiffs' claims.Each plaintiff is or was a defendant in a post-foreclosure summary process action. After an adverse judgment, each plaintiff was required to post an appeal bond or to make periodic use and occupancy payments during the pendency of each plaintiff's summary process appeal. The appellate division affirmed the bond or use and occupancy order in each case. Plaintiffs then collectively filed this complaint for relief in the nature of mandamus and for extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking relief from the bond and use and occupancy orders. The single justice denied all substantive relief sought. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not demonstrate the absence of an adequate and effective alternative remedy. View "Bigelow v. Massachusetts Courts Promulgator of Official Forms" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the Housing Court for Landlord on its summary process complaint and affirmed the denial of relief on Tenants' counterclaims, holding that Landlord's summary process complaint must be dismissed because the summons and complaint were served within fourteen days of Tenants' receipt of the notice to quit.Landlord brought this summary process action against Tenants seeking to recover possession of the premises at issue and damages for unpaid rent. Tenants filed several counterclaims. The judge ordered judgment for Tenants on two counterclaims and awarded nominal damages. The parties later filed cross appeals. The Appeals Court dismissed Tenants' appeal on timeliness grounds. The Supreme Judicial Court granted further appellate review and held (1) Tenants' appeal was timely; (2) because the summary process proceeding was commenced before the fourteen-day deadline had come and gone, judgment must enter for Tenants; and (3) the judge did not err in denying relief on Tenants' counterclaims. View "Youghal, LLC v. Entwistle" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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