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Media Alerts - Sixth Circuit -- Eviction Notice Need Not Advise Tenant of Appeals Process
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March 1, 2016
  Sixth Circuit -- Eviction Notice Need Not Advise Tenant of Appeals Process
Case: Gardner v. Evans -- Sixth Circuit

Headline: Sixth Circuit holds that eviction notices need not contain language advising tenants of appeals process to be constitutional.

Area of law: Landlord-Tenant Law; Eviction; Constitutional Law

Issue presented: Are city inspectors immune from a suit alleging constitutionally unsound eviction notices when the notices did not tell tenants how to pursue a timely appeal?

Brief summary: Eight tenants received notices of eviction for alleged violations to the Lansing Housing and Premises Code. The notices were left at each home on a "red-tag," which did not include any information about the tenant's right to appeal the inspector's decision and obtain an administrative hearing. Unaware of this option, none of the tenants filed an appeal within the 20-day period. Thus, they all waived their right to an administrative review. The tenants sued, alleging that the lack of appeal-process information on the eviction notices was unconstitutional. The inspectors claimed qualified immunity, but the district court rejected their defense. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that there is no established requirement to notify tenants of the appeals process.

Extended summary: Eight tenants were evicted from their homes for alleged violations of the Lansing Housing and Premises Code. In each instance, after the inspector had gone through the home, he summarized his findings in an eviction "red-tag" notice form, which he gave to the tenant. Each red-tag form was filled out as specified by the Code, but none indicated that if an evicted tenant failed to appeal within 20 days after receiving the red-tag, the tenant waived the right to administrative review. Unaware of these appeal requirements, none of the tenants filed an appeal within the 20-day period. Thus, they inadvertently waived their right to an administrative review. The tenants sued, claiming that the lack of notice of the appeals process made their evictions unconstitutional. The inspectors claimed qualified immunity. The district court denied the inspectors' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, and the inspectors appealed.

In determining whether the inspectors were entitled to qualified immunity, the Sixth Circuit considered two questions: First, did the inspectors violate a constitutional right? And second, were the contours of that right clearly established? The Sixth Circuit decided that it didn't need to decide the question of whether a constitutional right was violated because the tenants could not show a clearly established right. The court noted that while the requirement of who is to be given notice has been clearly established by previous caselaw, there is no clarity on the requirement for providing notice of the appeals process. The court noted that both the Supreme Court and other circuits have specifically found that no such requirement exists, finding that tenants have other ways to obtain this information, including the phone numbers found on the eviction notices and readily available public codes. The Sixth Circuit reasoned that based on the availability of this information, it was not unreasonable for the inspectors to believe that their actions were constitutional. Accordingly, the court reversed, holding that the inspectors enjoyed qualified immunity.

Panel: Circuit Judges, Alice M. Batchelder, and Richard A. Griffin; and District Judge, James G. Carr.

Date of issued opinion: February 4, 2016


Docket number: 15-1200

Decided: Reversed and Remanded.

Counsel: ARGUED: F. Joseph Abood, OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellants. J. Nicholas Bostic, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellees. ON BRIEF: Mary Massaron, PLUNKETT COONEY, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Appellants. J. Nicholas Bostic, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellees.

Author of opinion: ALICE M. BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge

Case alert author: Luciana Viramontes, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School

Case alert circuit supervisor: Professor Mark Cooney

Link to the case: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/op...ns.pdf/16a0023p-06.pdf

Edited: 03/07/2016 at 02:43 PM by Mark Cooney

    Posted By: Mark Cooney @ 03/01/2016 02:36 PM     6th Circuit  

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