Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-HG-CV-13-787.
Timothy B. Poirier, Lowry Hill Law Offices, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondents).
Carl Newquist, Sarah Marie Kimball, Newquist & Herrick, Fridley, Minnesota (for appellants).
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge.
On appeal from an eviction judgment, appellant-tenants Jamal Aden, et al., argue that the district court (1) erred in ruling that tenants breached the lease, (2) should have appointed an interpreter for tenants, (3) exhibited partiality favoring respondent-landlords, Thomas Haung, et. al, and (4) improperly limited tenants' ability to present their case. We reverse the district court's determination that the tenants breached their lease, and, therefore, do not address tenants' other arguments.
Tenants operated a store on premises they leased from landlords. Paragraph 11 of the lease precludes tenants from making "any alterations, repairs, additions, or improvements" to the premises "without prior written consent of the Landlord . . . ." After entering into the lease, tenants sought landlords' approval to install a new thermostat, to fix the air conditioning, and to replace the carpet with tile, but they received no response from landlords. Tenants then made each of these changes to the premises.
After the store was robbed twice, tenants sought landlords' permission to install a bulletproof enclosure around the store's cash register. Getting no response from landlords, tenants had the enclosure installed. When landlords learned of the enclosure, they sent tenants a letter stating that the enclosure violated paragraph 11 of the lease and directed tenants to remove it. When tenants did not do so, landlords started this proceeding to evict tenants.
After trial, the district court ordered judgment for landlords, ruling that tenants violated paragraph 11 of the lease. Tenants appealed, made a posttrial motion in district court, and moved this court to stay the appeal to allow the district court to address their posttrial motion. This court denied the motion, noting that posttrial motions are unauthorized in eviction proceedings. Later, this court granted landlords' motion to strike the portion of tenants' brief stating that tenants removed the enclosure and that portion of the brief referring to the posttrial motion.
An eviction proceeding is a summary proceeding, Minn. Stat. § 504B.001, subd. 4 (2012), in which the only issue for decision is whether the facts alleged in the complaint are true. Cimarron Vill. v. Washington, 659 N.W.2d 811, 817 (Minn.App. 2003); Fraser v. Fraser, 642 N.W.2d 34, 40 (Minn.App. 2002). Appellate courts review a district court's findings of fact for clear error, Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01; Cimarron Vill., 659 N.W.2d at 817, and those findings are not disturbed on appeal unless they are "manifestly contrary to the weight of the evidence or they are not reasonably supported by the evidence as a whole." Tonka Tours, Inc. v. Chadima, 372 N.W.2d 723, 726 (Minn. 1985).
Paragraph 11 of the lease prohibits "any alterations, repairs, additions, or improvements in or to the Leased Premises . . . without prior written consent of the Landlord . . . ." The district court noted that tenants "do not deny that the enclosure in question was constructed without prior written approval of Landlord[, ]" and stated that "[t]here can be little doubt that the structure built by Tenants within the leased premises constitutes either an 'alteration, ' an 'addition, ' or an 'improvement' of the leased premises." ...