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Real Estate Law

Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – August 6th, 2012 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate is a weekly update on real estate law, with legal principles illustrated and explained by lawsuits from around the country. The topics are wide-ranging for appeal to a broad spectrum of readers including lawyers, homeowners, investors and the general public. Andrea Lee Negroni, a Washington DC attorney and legal writer with 25 years of experience in financial services and mortgage law, contributes the case summaries.

Followers of Real Cases in Real Estate will learn and be entertained by lawsuits involving nuisance, trespass, zoning violations, deed restrictions, title insurance, public utilities, mechanics liens, construction defects, adverse possession, foreclosure and eviction, divorce and marital property rights, tenants' rights, and more. Real Cases in Real Estate uncovers the unpredictable, amusing, and sometimes outrageous disputes between next-door neighbors, contractors and homeowners, condo boards and residents, real estate brokers and homebuyers, and zoning administrators and developers.

Each fully cited case summary highlights the essential law of the case and explains the principal legal theories and concepts relevant to the outcome. Plain language treatment makes Real Cases in Real Estate accessible to lawyers and laymen alike.

Whether you follow real estate law professionally or as a hobby, you'll find something new and useful every week in Real Cases in Real Estate.

Updates for the Week of August 6th, 2012

Landlord Can Assess a Late Charge for Late Rent, or Declare His Tenant in Breach of the Lease for Non-Payment, but Not Both.

The Morelands rented an apartment at Pecan Valley Apartments in San Antonio, Texas, for $559 a month. Claiming that the tenant was in default for non-payment of two months' rent, the landlord brought a forcible detainer action against his tenants. Forcible detainer means that a tenant at will or a tenant by sufferance (see Real Cases, Apartment Complex Owner's 17-Year Battle Over Possession of the Laundry Rooms, July 31st, 2012, for definitions of the terms tenant at will and tenant by sufferance), or a tenant from month to month, whose tenancy has been terminated, retains possession of the premises after he receives the landlord's written demand for possession. In a forcible detainer suit, the landlord sues the tenant to recover possession of property.

The Morelands said they had always paid their rent on time; their lease allowed them to pay the rent at the manager's office or by dropping the rent in a mail slot. At the trial, Mr. Moreland produced copies of money orders for the disputed two months' rent and said he put those money orders in the mail slot. Rent was due on the first of each month; Moreland's copies of the money orders were dated March 5 and April 3. The landlord claimed the money orders were never received and that Moreland breached his lease anyway, because the money order receipts proved his rent wasn't paid on the first of the month.

Even though the lease contained no grace period for rent payments, it had a provision for an initial late charge of $30 plus an additional $5 per day if rent wasn't paid by the 3rd of a month. The landlord's late charge provision caused him to lose his case, with the court stating that "because the lease allows for late payments, payment of rent after the first day of the month does not amount to a breach of the lease."

Pecan Valley Golf Apartments v. Moreland, 2011 Tex. App. LEXIS 1509 (March 2, 2011) [enhanced version available to subscribers].


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