Appellants filed a class action law suit against appellee because appellee threatened to evict the appellants for non-payment. Appellants refused to pay their rent unless appellee fixed what they deemed to be substandard conditions. The city had prior to the suit declared the space uninhabitable. The landlord threatened eviction pursuant to the Forcible Entry and Wrongful Detainer Statute, which addressed how and when a landlord can take possession of a lessee’s property. The statute states that trial must occur no later than 6 days after a complaint is filed and limits the landlord’s breach of duty to maintain a habitable space as a legitimate defense to non-payment. Finally, the statute mandates that as a precursor to appeal, the tenant must pay an amount twice the level of one month’s rent in holding. The tenants (appellants) brought the case to federal court, arguing that the statute was unconstitutional and violated the equal protection clause.
Whether the trial provisions and/or the limitations placed on litigations in the Forcible Entry and Wrongful Detainer statute violate the equal protection clause.
No, the law is valid in terms of the six day period, affirmed. The statute is not irrational or oppressive because of the six day period to settle simple rent disputes. Moreover, the appellants are not unduly burdened or oppressed because the statute requires that they pay rent during a period of appeal. Appellants are entirely permitted to sue for damages under state or common law and are afforded a wide array of defenses, none of which are excluded by the statute. The state has a legitimate objective in achieving fast trials which lead to fast and efficient settlements. It is a legitimate government interest to maintain efficient courts.
Yes, the portion of the law which requires double rent is unconstitutional and invalid. There is no legitimate government interest in discriminating against a tenant by requiring double rent payment in order to appeal. There is no reasonable purpose that justifies this sort of obstacle to appeal. The right to appeal is a very basic one; and the purpose of preserving the landlord’s property or speeding trial is not related to the policy of double rent payment.