Robert J. Wise, Attorney at Law

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by Robert J. Wise, Attorney at Law, April 8, 2005

EVICTIONS. In 2003, a landlord filed a rent and possession suit claiming rent from July 1, 2003. At trial, the landlord presented evidence of delinquent rent owing from 2002 and that the tenant failed to pay rent for May and June 2003. The landlord won a judgment for rent and possession and $3,061.05 but the Missouri Court of Appeals reversed the judgment because the evidence presented did not conform to the pleadings. The tenant’s attorney, at trial, had objected to any evidence being present relating to the period prior to July 2003, the date specified in the landlord’s suit. The Medve Group v. Sombright, (Mo. App. 2005). The court should not allow evidence pertaining to any period before that specified in the suit; the landlord must have correct information in the suit.

LEAD PAINT. A federal court of appeals held that a tenant’s children do not have the right to sue the landlord for failing to comply with lead-paint disclosure requirements. The RLPHRA (“Residential Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Act”) requires property owners to make certain disclosure to potential “purchasers or lessees” prior to entering into any contract. In this New Hampshire case, a landlord failed to make the required disclosures and, subsequently, the tenant’s children were found to have dangerous amounts of lead. The children (through their guardian) sued the landlord. The First Circuit Court of Appeals held that the children could not bring the suit because they were not the “lessees.” The only party who can bring the suit is the actual purchaser or “lessee.” Mason v. Morrisette, (1st Cir. 2005).

BANKRUPTCY. The new bankruptcy legislation, which is expected to pass and be signed by the President, will help landlords evict tenants who file bankruptcy. Under the present law, a tenant can get free rent for months by filing bankruptcy. Under the new Section 311 of the bankruptcy law, an owner can proceed with eviction (1) if he obtains a judgment for possession before the tenant files bankruptcy or (2) if the property is endangered or illegal use of controlled substances is taking place on the property.

METHAMPHETAMINE. The National Apartment Association and the National Multi-Housing Council supports the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2005 (H.R. 798) which would help develop uniform standards for cleaning up meth labs. The NAA-NMHC said, ” The bill would direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop remediation guidelines in cooperation with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It also directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct research on the potential health effects of residual chemical exposure, a provision strongly supported by NAA/NMHC.”

PREMISES LIABILITY. A mother and son in Massachusetts won $223,000 damages from their landlord for emotional distress suffered as the result of several home invasions. The jury found that the Cambridge Housing Authority had been negligent in maintaining the premises by failing to change the door locks, and that such negligence had been a proximate cause of two of the three home invasions. Rodriguez v. Cambridge Housing Authority (Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, 2005.)