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Landlord/Tenant Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Zigadto, Janet


SC19762 - Presidential Village, LLC v. Phillips ("The principal issue in this appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion by relying on the 'spirit' of certain regulations issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (department), which generally concern accommodations for handicapped persons, in support of an equitable defense to the eviction of a tenant who kept an 'emotional support dog' in her federally subsidized rental apartment in violation of a pet restriction clause contained within her lease. The plaintiff . . . appeals from the judgment of the trial court in favor of the named defendant . . . in this summary process action. On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the trial court improperly: (1) relied on the 'spirit' of the department's regulations because the defendant's niece, M, who lived in the defendant's apartment, was not disabled within the meaning of those regulations and, as such, federal disability law did not require the plaintiff to allow M to keep a dog in the apartment as a reasonable accommodation; (2) weighed the equities as a defense to eviction when the plaintiff lacked notice of the defense of equitable nonforfeiture and, thus, could not offer evidence about the purpose of the pet restriction; and (3) admitted into evidence, over the plaintiff's hearsay objection, a letter signed by a physician and social worker who had provided services to M. In response, the defendant contends to the contrary, and also argues that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because this appeal was rendered moot when the plaintiff commenced an ancillary summary process action against the defendant. We conclude that the plaintiff's appeal is not moot, and further conclude that the trial court abused its discretion by relying upon an improper ground in determining that the defendant was entitled to equitable relief from the forfeiture of her tenancy in accordance with Fellows v. Martin, 217 Conn. 57, 66–67, 584 A.2d 458 (1991). Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for a new hearing with regard to the defendant’s equitable defense.")