Agreement to Settle Nonpayment Case Prevents Resident’s Unjust Enrichment Claim
Facts: A Section 8 resident sued the management company for unjust enrichment. She claimed that the company raised her rent without authorization and unjustly retained money paid to the company by HUD on her behalf.
In September of 2015, the manager initiated an eviction action against the resident in state court, alleging that she had failed to pay her full portion of the rent. The parties entered into an “Agreement for Judgment” on Sept. 18, 2015. Under that agreement, the resident agreed to judgment in favor of the company for possession of the apartment and an award of unpaid rent in the amount of $4,447.50. The agreement, however, also provided that execution would be postponed in exchange for her making $500 monthly payments until satisfaction of the unpaid rent and prompt payment by the resident of her base rent for the succeeding six months. The agreement included a clause releasing “any and all claims she/he has or may have had arising out of her/his occupancy of the premises from the commencement of her/his tenancy to the date of this Agreement.”
Not long after, the management company sought execution of the judgment in December 2015, asserting that the resident had failed to comply with the terms of the agreement. The state court eventually issued an execution of judgment on Jan. 28, 2016, for an amount totaling $5,773.81. She was evicted shortly thereafter.
After leaving, she received a letter from the local housing authority warning her that it was considering terminating her Section 8 voucher because she had failed to provide them with a copy of her eviction notice and was in “serious or repeated violation” of her lease terms. The resident claimed that as a result of her eviction, she has been rendered homeless. She also claimed that the management company was particularly callous in its treatment of her because they knew, or should have known, that she has a daughter who suffers from lupus.
Ruling: A Massachusetts district court dismissed the resident’s case.
Reasoning: The court found that the resident’s unjust enrichment claim failed because she previously released all claims related to her tenancy as part of the Agreement for Judgment. Also, although she suggested that the housing authority and HUD continued to pay money to the management company on her behalf after she left her apartment, this didn’t establish that the company unjustly retained money belonging to her.
- Lee v. Quincy Housing Authority, et al., January 2017