The Raleigh Housing Authority ("RHA") brought a complaint to evict Ms. Winston, who was holding over on a month-to-month basis following the end of the apartment lease, on the basis of inappropriate conduct. The trial court granted this eviction, with the Court of Appeals affirming, holding that RHA had complied with both the lease and applicable federal regulations because it had "identified- and quoted- the specific provision serving as the basis for [Ms. Winston's] lease termination." Ms. Winston appealed, arguing that RHA had not provided "specific grounds" for the eviction.
Construing 24 C.F.R. § 966.4(l)(3)(ii), the Supreme Court held that "[t]he plain meaning of 'specific grounds' therefore requires RHA to clearly identify the factors forming the basis for termination of the lease." RHA had, however, merely asserted that Ms. Winston violated the provision in the lease that tenants had an obligation to conduct themselves in a manner that would not disturb other residents, but did not identify specific facts or factors that formed the basis for the lease termination.
This insufficiency was compounded because Ms. Winston had, in response to several incidents that caused disruptions at the apartment, sought (but not obtained) Domestic Violence protective orders. The Violence Against Women Act, prohibits covered housing programs, including RHA, from terminating participation in or evicting a tenant from housing “on the basis that the . . . tenant is or has been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking,” 34 U.S.C. § 12491(b)(1).
Accordingly, the notice of termination was fatally defective and the Court of Appeals reverse.
As this appeal would have been moot if Ms. Winston had vacated the apartment, either by voluntarily moving or through eviction, she presumably remained there despite the original term of the lease having terminated before April 2018.
That raising these issues appear to have resulted in a stay of eviction while this case was pending for now nearly three years, provides not only the ability to hold off evictions in state court actions, but arguably in a Chapter 13 case as well.
All too often, bankruptcy courts will hold that the ability to cure a residential lease delinquency is limited to the remaining term of the lease. This tends to limit the time period over which a tenant can cure any rent delinquencies. That court's often rule this way sua sponte or at the request of a Chapter 13 Trustee (who has absolutely no interest in the question) out of some vaguely defined "gatekeeping" obligation, is all the worse. Winston, however, would support the contention that even if the term of a lease has ended, that a landlord may not have an unfettered right to unilaterally and without clearly specified reason to evict a tenant.
For a copy of the opinion, please click here: