Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
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Defendant Antonio Barletta appealed a circuit court order that awarded plaintiff Jacquelyn Lane $66,000 in damages for his willful interruption of plaintiff’s heat utility service for thirty-three days. Plaintiff rented an apartment from defendant. Shortly after moving in, plaintiff and her grandfather noticed the heating system did not produce heat. Plaintiff notified the defendant of the problem via text message on September 26, 2016, and was told to call the maintenance person for the property. When the maintenance person arrived, he turned on the heating system and observed the pilot light, and instructed plaintiff to leave the system on for a while. He told plaintiff that if she did not begin to feel any heat to contact defendant. The heating problems persisted, and when plaintiff informed defendant, he told her that he would send over a space heater and repair or replace the heating system. Plaintiff received the space heater in November 2016, and, in December, she informed defendant the space heater “[wa]sn’t cutting it.” However, the space heater remained her only source of heat. In August 2017, plaintiff called the local health inspector hoping that a letter from that office might prompt defendant to take action. Nevertheless, the heating system was not repaired. On appeal defendant argued the trial court erred in finding that he caused a “willful interruption” of the plaintiff’s heating service. Alternatively, he argued that even if he did violate RSA 540- A:3, I, the trial court erred in awarding enhanced damages pursuant to RSA 540-A:4, IX(a) (Supp. 2018) and RSA 358-A:10, I (2009). Plaintiff cross-appealed the trial court's denial of her motion for reconsideration as untimely. The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the order of the trial court and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that although defendant willfully failed to repair plaintiff’s original heat source, he may not have willfully interrupted plaintiff’s heat in violation of RSA 540-A:3, I, if the space heater he provided was an adequate alternative source of heat. The adequacy of the space heater was not considered by the trial court in the first instance. Therefore, the trial court’s finding of a statutory violation was vacated, as was the damages award resulting from that violation. Plaintiff’s argument that the trial court erred in denying her motion for reconsideration became moot. View "Lane v. Barletta" on Justia Law

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Defendants, 150 Realty, LLC and Harbour Links Estates, LLC, appeal superior court orders denying their motions to dismiss or stay actions filed by plaintiffs, Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc. (HTA), McLean Communications, LLC (McLean), and At Comm Corporation. Plaintiffs leased commercial space located at 150 Dow Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. Their tenancies commenced between 1992 and 2001, after they entered into separate lease agreements with the property owner, One Dow Court, Inc. (ODC). The lease agreements allotted each plaintiff a specific number of parking spaces adjacent to the 150 Dow Street building and allowed plaintiffs to use additional spaces in other parking areas. Each agreement also provided that “lessee’s parking rights are subject to lessor’s reasonable rules and regulations.” The trial court ruled that plaintiffs’ claims relating to defendants’ imposition of certain parking rules and fees did not fall within the scope of identical arbitration clauses included in each of the plaintiffs’ lease agreements. The trial court also granted partial summary judgment to HTA and McLean on their declaratory judgment claims, concluding that defendants’ parking rules that assess fees for certain parking spaces were unenforceable. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc. v. 150 Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff The Skinny Pancake-Hanover, LLC, appealed superior court decisions to grant partial summary judgment to defendants, Crotix and James and Susan Rubens, on plaintiff’s breach of contract claim, and that dismissed plaintiff’s claim against defendants for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiff entered into a lease with defendants for a single unit in the Hanover Park Condominium building. The lease gave plaintiff the option to purchase its rental unit along with certain other units in the building. Less than a year later, plaintiff notified defendants it wanted to exercise its purchase option. Defendants “declined” plaintiff’s request, stating that plaintiff’s attempted exercise of the option was untimely under the terms of the agreement. Plaintiff sued; defendants answered, asserting the notice plaintiff sent regarding purchase of the rental unit was insufficient to trigger the option under the original lease agreement. Finding the superior court did not err in granting judgment in favor of defendants, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "The Skinny Pancake-Hanover, LLC v. Crotix" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Natalie Anderson appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of defendant Adam Robitaille on her petition seeking damages and other relief pursuant to RSA chapter 540-A. Defendant was the general manager of the Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel in Nashua. In November 2015, plaintiff and her husband began residing at Homewood. According to plaintiff, she and her husband shared a full-size apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen, a separate bedroom, separate bathroom, living room, and a dining area, for which they were charged $84 per night plus tax for the unit. Their stay was originally intended to last approximately one year. Plaintiff asserted their stay was extended until May 2017. According to plaintiff, on or about January 4, 2017, defendant informed her by e-mail that her stay would not be extended past January 6. Plaintiff contended that the deadline was later extended to January 10, but was told that if she and her husband did not leave on January 10, the police would be called. Plaintiff brought the instant petition under RSA chapter 540-A on January 9, requesting, in addition to statutory damages, that the trial court enjoin the defendant from ejecting her and her husband from their residential unit. At a January 18 hearing, the parties agreed that the dispositive issue before the court was whether plaintiff and her husband were “tenants” entitled to remedies under RSA chapter 540-A. They further agreed that the court could decide the matter based upon the parties’ pleadings. The trial court found in favor of defendant, concluding that plaintiff and her husband were not “tenants” entitled to RSA chapter 540-A remedies. Plaintiff unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court: plaintiff and her husband were not tenants entitled to remedies under RSA chapter 540-A as a matter of law. View "Anderson v. Robitaille" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-landlord, Mountain View Park, LLC appealed a circuit court decision in which the court declined to approve an agreement concerning, in part, rent arrearages owed by defendant-tenant Gerald Robson, Jr., and issued a writ of possession. In June 2013, the parties entered into a rental agreement, whereby defendant rented a mobile home owned by plaintiff. Defendant eventually fell behind in his rent payments. In May 2014, plaintiff served defendant with a demand for rent and an eviction notice. When defendant failed to pay the rent arrearages, plaintiff filed this possession action. In June 2014, the parties entered into an agreement to cure defendant’s arrearages and avoid eviction. The agreement was submitted to the trial court for approval; however, the court declined to approve it. In its denial of plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, the court explained that the “agreement provides for issuance of a writ of possession for an indefinite period of time in the future for the nonpayment of future rent not yet due, in addition to the unpaid rent which forms the basis of this eviction action,” and that RSA 540:13-c, II (2007) “does not include authority of the court to issue a writ of possession at some indefinite time in the future for the nonpayment of future rent not yet due.” Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "Mountain View Park, LLC v. Robson" on Justia Law

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Respondent J Four Realty, LLC appealed a circuit court order that found it violated RSA 540-A:2 and :3, II (2007) by using self-help to evict petitioner Mary Evans, and awarding her actual damages of $3,000 and attorney’s fees and costs. Petitioner did not have a written lease; she resided in the apartment as a tenant at will pursuant to an informal agreement with the prior owner. Respondent purchased the property from a foreclosure sale. Petitioner continued to pay rent to the prior owner. Respondent dispatched an agent to evict petitioner. She then brought suit and won at trial. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that petitioner was a tenant at sufferance, and that respondent was not her landlord under New Hampshire law. However, pursuant to case law and statutory authority, even though respondent was not petitioner's landlord, respondent was not entitled to use self help to evict petitioner. The case was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Evans v. J Four Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Joel Harrington appealed a superior court order in favor of Respondent Metropolis Property Management Group, Inc. (Metropolis). On May 27, 2005, Petitioner entered into a residential lease for an apartment at Hollis Commons Apartments in Concord. The lease agreement required the petitioner to pay a security deposit of $875 to be held "until the termination of Lessee's occupancy." Petitioner entered into two lease renewals, the first in May 2006 renewing the lease for one year, and another in June 2007. The second renewal called for a term commencing on July 1, 2007, and ending "60 days after written notice has been given." The original lease agreement and both lease renewals identified "Hollis Commons Apartments, LLC" as the lessor. The parties had a dispute over the lease agreement and return of the security deposit. Petitioner argued that the trial court erred in finding that Metropolis was not a party to the lease agreement, and in dismissing his contract claims. Although the lease agreement and renewals all show "Hollis Commons Apartments, LLC" as the lessor and either Petitioner or the Petitioner and his wife as the lessees, Petitioner contended that Metropolis must be considered a party to the agreement. Upon review of the trial court record and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision to dismiss Petitioner's case. View "Harrington v. Metropolis Property Management Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-Tenant Wendy Wilson appealed a district court ruling that she breached her lease with Plaintiff Nashua Housing Authority. She rented an apartment in a public housing development. The lease provided that tenants "shall not engage in any drug related criminal activity on or off NHA property." Breach of that clause is cause for eviction from the leased unit. After reading a newspaper article about Defendant's arrest, the landlord sent her an eviction notice and subsequently brought a possessory action against Defendant for breach of the lease. At the eviction proceeding, the landlord introduced three criminal drug complaints that alleged Defendant "unlawfully dispensed and sold a certain narcotic drug, to wit: morphine." Defendant contended on appeal that the criminal complaints were not sufficient to prove she breached her lease. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court found that the criminal complaints were not sufficient to prove that Defendant had actually engaged in the alleged activity. As such, the Court reversed the eviction court's decision to the contrary. View "Nashua Housing Authority v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Defendant Alicia Prentice appealed a district court’s judgment in favor of Plaintiff Phyllis Buatti. Defendant rented an apartment from Defendant. In September 2010, Defendant was served with a demand for rent alleging that the rent was three months in arrears. Subsequently, Defendant was served with a “notice to quit” requiring her to vacate the premises unless the rent was paid. Defendant’s argument on appeal to the Supreme Court was that the demand for rent exceeded the amount of back rent that was actually owed. Upon review, the Court found that the demand for rent exceeded the amount on the landlord’s "notice to quit." The trial court specifically found that neither party was able to prove the amount of the arrearage — the court simply found that an unspecified amount of rent had not been paid as required. The Supreme Court held that because the Plaintiff did not prove the actual amount in arrearage, the judgment in her favor should be reversed. Accordingly, the Court remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Buatti v. Prentice" on Justia Law