‘Lived-in’ look leads to landlord nightmare

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[Screencap taken from CBSDFW.com video]

Upon moving to a new home, I’ve heard many people loudly proclaim that they aren’t selling their old one because they’ll just rent it out and make money off of it. Many times, they wind up with a crash course in landlord-tenant law when their tenant turns out to be something less than ideal.

A woman in Texas was sitting on a McMansion she was trying to sell after moving back to Boston. She didn’t want to keep the house, but had a hard time selling it.

Her realtor had a great idea: give the home a more “lived-in” feel by hiring a company to temporarily place a family. And by family, I’m sure the landowner was thinking Mom, Dad, Connor, Tucker and Chloe, a tricycle on the front walk and may even a sandbox in the back.

Instead, she got the Evil Clampetts. [CBSDFW.com

The tenants were supposed to be two brothers. But then they invited the whole family to move in. Then they brought in a  pitbull, despite the lease forbidding pets. Then they parked a pickup on the grass that leaked oil on the lawn. Finally, they started planting crucifixes everywhere, including one that was 10 feet tall.

In other words, this house wasn’t selling.

She had wanted lived in, and she got it. She complained that the crosses violated homeowner association laws. They claimed they were being discriminated against on religious grounds and threatened to go to the Department of Justice.

So just evict them, right? They violated the terms of the deal by having the dog and other family members move in.

She and the company filed for eviction of the family. The brothers left … but Dear Old Dad — the trunk on that family tree — isn’t going anywhere.

It doesn’t matter, [Nathan] Burgess told CBS 11, that he wasn’t expected to be in the home in the first place. He was “invited” by his sons, he said, before the eviction order came down.

“Sometimes, I’ve learned, you can’t run from things. You just have to hit em head on,” Burgess said.

He said he would have likely moved out with the rest of his family if Aji and Castle Keepers had been nice about it.

“They call and said, ‘Oh, you have a dog on the property.’ Ever since then, the level of abuse has gotten worse and worse,” Burgess said.

Burgess is vowing to exhaust all appeals before he leaves, like he’s on death row or something.

When the listing agent brought in a prospective buyer, they were met with a sign instructing them that the house is occupied and that nothing is to be touched.

The house was eventually removed from the market while the eviction mess is sorted out. She claims that neither she, nor her agent, can go into the house until it’s sorted out.

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In their opinions . . .

“Because I question defendant’s right to appellate relief while she is in contempt of the trial court’s orders, and to avoid the harsh sanction of outright dismissal, I would explore the approach of the Arizona Supreme Court in Stewart v Stewart, 91 Ariz 356 (1962), and condition the grant of any relief this Court concludes is otherwise appropriate on defendant’s compliance with the trial court’s orders.”

– Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan, concurring in the MSC’s leave granted order in Friend v. Friend.

Exactly. The fugitive disentitlement doctrine is based on the notion that an appellate court can boot an on-the-run criminal defendant’s appeal.

The MSC is mulling whether to adopt some version of the doctrine in civil settings and has asked the parties in this hotly contested divorce case for briefs on the issue.

* * *
“It cannot reasonably be disputed that, in general, senior citizens and the elderly are more susceptible to falls and injuries from falls, especially where there is some defect present in a walking surface, considering natural frailities and the loss of agility and balance that unfortunately come with age.”

– Michigan Court of Appeals Judge William B. Murphy, dissenting in Ford v. Nat’l Church Residences, Inc.

Everyone needs to watch their step. Ford, an 88-year-old woman, tripped on a cracked sidewalk leading to her senior-citizens’ apartment.

The majority turned aside Ford’s argument that her landlord breached the covenant in MCL 554.139(1)(a) or (1)(b) “[t]hat the premises and all common areas are fit for the use intended by the parties” and “[t]o keep the premises in reasonable repair.”

The majority noted that the crack was “open and obvious.”

Murphy acknowledged

that, in the context of the open and obvious danger doctrine, an objective standard is used and that the fact-finder must consider the condition of the premises, “not the condition of the plaintiff.”

But, Murphy continued, under MCL 554.139(1)(a)

defendant had a legal obligation to keep the sidewalk “fit for the use intended by the parties.” (emphasis added.)

The express language of the statute has a subjective component to it, where the language refers to the parties’ intent as to use. The parties’ intent here, clearly and necessarily, was that the sidewalks would be used to walk on for purposes such as ingress and egress relative to the apartments.

But encompassed within that intent and the parties’ knowledge was the fact that the sidewalks would be used to a great extent by the elderly.

Murphy argued that a jury should decide whether the sidewalk was fit for the use intended by the parties.