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Sargent v. Bethel Properties

December 10, 2002

NANCY SARGENT, COLLEEN BARRETT AND MICHELLE NISBIT, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, RESPONDENTS,
v.
BETHEL PROPERTIES, INC., APPELLANT.



Anoka County District Court File No. CX004699

Considered and decided by Shumaker , Presiding Judge, Schumacher , Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Under Minn. Stat. §§á327C.01-.12 (2002), the addition of utility charges to an existing manufactured-home park rental agreement is a new rule that substantially modifies the agreement and renders the agreement unenforceable.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert H. Schumacher, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

Appellant Bethel Properties, Inc., a manufactured-home park owner, challenges the district court's order granting partial summary judgment and injunctive relief to respondents Nancy Sargent, Colleen Barrett and Michelle Nisbit, on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated (Sargent, Barrett, and Nisbit), residents in Bethel's park. Bethel argues that the court's ruling is based on an erroneous interpretation of Minn. Stat. §á327C (2002). We affirm.

FACTS

The relevant facts in this matter are undisputed. Bethel owns and operates a manufactured-home park in which Sargent, Barrett and Nisbit rent lots. Sargent, Barrett and Nisbit's lease agreements provide that water and sewer services are included in each respondent's monthly lot-rental fee. In a June 1999 letter, Bethel announced that it would soon begin charging Sargent, Barrett and Nisbit for water and sewer services in addition to rent.

Sargent, Barrett and Nisbit brought a class action complaint alleging, among other things, that Bethel's addition of water and sewer fees was a new rule that substantially modified their existing rental agreements, thereby violating both Minn. Stat. §§á327C.01-12 (2002) and Sargent, Barrett, and Nisbit's rental agreements, which contained language modeled on chapter 327C. Bethel argued that the utility fees were a permissible rent increase. Sargent, Barrett, and Nisbit moved for summary judgment on the statutory and breach of contract claims and requested injunctive relief precluding Bethel from charging the fees. The district court granted Sargent, Barrett and Nisbit's motion and issued the injunction requested. This appeal followed.

ISSUE

Did the district court err by concluding that Bethel's addition of utility charges to Sargent, Barrett, and Nisbit's rental agreements was a new rule that substantially modified the agreements and that was consequently unenforceable under Minn. Stat. §á327C.02 (2002)?

ANALYSIS

On appeal from summary judgment, we consider whether any genuine issue of material fact exists and whether the district court erred in applying the law. O'Malley v. Ulland Bros., 549 N.W.2d 889, 892 (Minn. 1996). Where, as here, a district court grants summary judgment based on the application of a statute to undisputed facts, the result is a legal conclusion ...


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