This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C2-00-540

 

D.H. Gustafson Co.,

as managing agent for

Country View Mobile Home Community,

Respondent,

 

vs.

 

Troy Rasmussen,

Appellant.

 

 

Filed November 28, 2000

Affirmed; motion granted
Foley, Judge
*

 

Dakota County District Court

File No. C40012441

 

 

Brian R. Martens, Parsinen, Kaplan, Rosberg & Gotlieb, P.A., 100 South First Street, Suite 1100, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for respondent)

 

Allen H. Gibas, Allen H. Gibas, P.A., 1422 West Lake Street, Suite 320, Minneapolis, MN  55408 (for appellant)

 

Peter W. Brown, 3121 Portland Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN  55407 (for amicus curiae All Parks Alliance for Change)

 


Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Mulally, Judge**, and Foley, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

FOLEY, Judge

            Appellant was evicted from a mobile home park for alleged unauthorized use of the landlord’s water.  The district court issued a writ of restitution based on Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 (Supp. 1999), which provides that possession of stolen property on leased premises voids the possessor’s lease.  Appellant contends that a mobile home resident may be evicted only under Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 (1998).  He also argues that if Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 applies, then it applies in conjunction with the requirements in section 327C.09.  Appellant further contends that the unauthorized use of the water did not violate Minn. Stat. § 504B.171.  Finally, he argues that the district court’s findings of fact were clearly erroneous.  We affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Troy Rasmussen owns a mobile home at Country View Mobile Home Community (Country View) and has lived there since 1996. In the fall of 1997, the park installed water meters for each home, so that each resident could be charged monthly for the water that they used. 

In December 1999, Rasmussen’s water line froze.  At Rasmussen’s request, Mobile Home Improvement Services (MHIS) made the necessary repairs.  Rasmussen, however, failed to pay MHIS. 

            After informing Country View, MHIS returned to Rasmussen’s home, dismantled their repairs, and, to prevent further damage to the water meter, took the meter and the pipe that connected the hydrant to the home.  When Rasmussen returned home three days later, he was unable to get water.  He then attached a hose to Country View’s water box located outside his mobile home unit and ran a hose through the window to provide water. Two days later, Country View’s park manager disconnected Rasmussen’s hose without notifying him.  Rasmussen then re-connected it in a manner he perceived would conceal the hose.  Country View responded by having the hose disconnected, placing a cap on the water box, and removing the water meter.

            Rasmussen then received a written notice from Country View stating that the water he had obtained the previous two days belonged to Country View, and because of this, his lease was being terminated because he had allowed stolen property on the premises. 

            Country View began an unlawful detainer action when Rasmussen would not vacate the property.  The district court ruled in Country View’s favor, finding no conflict between Minn. Stat. §§ 327C.09 and 504B.171.  The court found that Rasmussen had violated Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 by allowing stolen property on the premises and ordered his eviction.  This appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

Rasmussen argues that his eviction was improper because it did not comply with Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 (1998), which establishes the rights of manufactured home tenants with regard to termination of their leases and lists exclusive situations where it is proper for a manufactured home park owner to recover possession of land in the park from a lessee.  Id., subd. 1.  Country View counters that, under Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, subd. 1(1)(iv) (Supp. 1999), it had the right to evict Rasmussen because that statute establishes a covenant prohibiting stolen property on the premises, and, according to Country View, Rasmussen’s actions violated this covenant.  Rasmussen also argues that he did not violate Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, and that the court applied the wrong standard of proof in determining that he had violated the provisions of this section.

I.

Rasmussen first argues that Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 takes precedence over Minn. Stat. § 504B.171.  The limits of each statute’s application are matters of statutory construction.  Statutory construction is a legal determination, which this court reviews de novo.  State v. Loge, 608 N.W.2d 152, 155 (Minn. 2000).

Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 expressly limits situations where a park owner may recover a tenant’s leased land.  SeeMinn. Stat. § 327.09, subd. 1.  But Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, passed subsequently, appears to apply to manufactured home tenants as well. 

In every lease or license of residential premises, * * * the landlord * * * and the tenant * * * covenant that: (1) neither will: * * * allow stolen property or property obtained by robbery in those premises * * *.

 

Id.  Under this section, a breach of the covenant automatically voids the tenant’s right to possession.  Id., subd. 2.  The landlord is permitted to then bring, or have brought, an eviction action against the tenant.  Id.  Although chapter 504B does not define “residential premises,” both “residential building” and “residential tenant” are defined so as to include manufactured home parks and manufactured home tenants.  Minn. Stat. § 504B.001, subds. 11 & 12 (Supp. 1999).

Rasmussen argues that Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 does not apply to manufactured home tenants because the language of Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 provides the exclusive list of grounds for terminating possession of a rented manufactured home lot.  But all provisions of Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, including those pertaining to stolen property, were enacted subsequent to chapter 327C’s enactment.  As such, they can modify the provisions of that chapter if there is unmistakable legislative intent to that effect.  See State v. Sobelman, 199 Minn. 232, 236, 271 N.W. 484, 486 (1937).

Here, the language of Chapter 504B clearly indicates the legislative intent.  As noted, Minn. Stat. § 504B.001 includes manufactured home parks and tenants within the meaning of residential buildings and residential tenants.  Although Rasmussen attempts to distinguish between “residential buildings” as defined in Minn. Stat. § 504B.001 and “residential premises” as addressed in Minn. Stat. § 504.171, this distinction is not significant.  Because “premises” is a broader term than “building,” “residential premises” necessarily encompasses more than “residential buildings.”  Furthermore, Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 does not specifically exclude manufactured home tenants and landlords.  As manufactured home park tenants and landlords are specifically excluded from several statutory sections throughout Chapter 504B, see e.g., Minn. Stat. §§ 504B.151 (Supp. 1999) (restriction on residential lease terms for buildings in financial distress); 504B.211 (Supp. 1999) (residential tenant’s right to privacy), the doctrine of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, applies to clearly reinforce that Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 was intended to apply to manufactured home parks and tenants.  See Underwood Grain Co. v. Harthun, 563 N.W.2d 278, 281 (Minn. App. 1997) (“It is a principle of statutory construction that the expression of one thing means the exclusion of others.").

Rasmussen’s next approach is to characterize Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 as a specific statute and Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 as a general statute, and argue that section 327C.09 is therefore dominant.  Indeed, Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 specifically addresses the situations under which the owner of a manufactured home park may regain possession of land.  But Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, written to solve the negative effect of chronic illegal activities on other members of the rental housing unit and surrounding community, is also a specific statute.  Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 creates an additional covenant between landlords and tenants in an effort to reduce certain crimes in certain areas.  Both statutes specifically address distinct but interrelated issues.  Whereas one grants certain rights to tenants, the other creates duties.  Because Minn. Stat. § 504.171 is not a general statutory provision, it does not defer to Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 and is therefore applicable in this case.

II.

Rasmussen next argues that, even if Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 applies to mobile home tenants, Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 must nevertheless be used to construe the proper notice and procedures involved in the eviction.  In listing the causes for recovery of possession over a manufactured home park lot, Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 provides for unique and specific procedures to be followed for each violation, including an opportunity to cure the violation.  However, these procedural requirements cannot apply because Rasmussen did not violate a provision covered by section 327C.09.  Rasmussen violated Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, a completely different rule, which disallows unlawful activities and does not provide the same procedural guarantees or any opportunity to cure the violation. 

Rasmussen argues that this conclusion effectively voids the procedural safeguards of Minn. Stat. § 327C.09, but, in reality, Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 provides a different solution to a different problem.  The relative lack of procedural safeguards in section 504B.171 makes sense given the limited scope of that statutory section to the prevention of criminal activity.  The legislature could not have intended to provide the same procedural safeguards to tenants committing criminal activities.  If it had, it would be requiring manufactured home park owners to both give notice to a tenant to, for example, stop illegally using firearms or selling drugs on the premises, and give them a “reasonable time” to cease those illegal activities.  This clearly would undermine the effectiveness of Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 and cannot be the intent of the legislature.

In order to merge these two distinct statutory provisions into one that applies the rights established by Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 to the duties of Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, Rasmussen attempts to construe Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 as duplicative of Minn. Stat. § 327C.09, subd. 3.  This maneuver is also without merit.  Under Minn. Stat. § 327C.09, subd. 3, a park owner may recover possession of park land if,

[t]he resident fails to comply with a local ordinance, state law or state rule relating to manufactured homes within the time the ordinance, state law or state rule provides or, if no time is provided, within a reasonable time after the resident has received written notice of noncompliance.

 

This provision applies to ordinances, laws, and rules pertaining to manufactured homes, and does not encompass the same criminal behavior as Minn. Stat. § 504B.171.  But even if it does relate to general violations of law, Minn. Stat. § 504B.171 applies to specific violations of specific laws and as a subsequent and more specific statute, its provisions supercede those of Minn. Stat. § 327C.09, subd. 3.  See Minn. Stat. § 645.26 (1998) (special provisions prevail over general provisions).

III.

Rasmussen next argues that his actions did not violate the statutory covenant in Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, which provides:

In every lease or license of residential premises, * * * the landlord * * * and the tenant * * * covenant that:

(1)              neither will:

(i)                unlawfully allow controlled substances in those premises or in the common area and curtilage of the premises;

(ii)             allow prostitution * * * to occur on the premises * * *;

(iii)           allow the unlawful use or possession of a firearm * * * on the premises * * * ; or

(iv)            allow stolen property or property obtained by robbery in those premises * * *.

Minn. Stat. § 504.171.  The question here is whether Rasmussen allowed stolen property on his rented land in the manufactured home park. 

Rasmussen argues that he could not have “allowed” the water on the land because “allow” implies the affirmative action of consenting to a third party’s action in a situation where he either expressly or impliedly had the option of granting or denying permission. This interpretation is without merit.  To argue that the statute only prohibits a renter from allowing a third party to traffic in stolen merchandise in his rental unit, but does not prohibit the renter himself from engaging in the same activity in the same residence is nonsense.  The statute used the broad language “allow” simply because that language applies to both tenants and landlords.  The statute prohibits tenants from “allowing” themselves to keep stolen property on the premises, just as it prohibits landlords from “allowing” tenants to keep stolen property on the premises.

Rasmussen argues that Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, according to its author, is designed to cure the “community livability impact on a residential area as a result of the comings and going of the principals and customers of a criminal enterprise,” which is not the situation in this case.  We look only to a statute’s plain language when it is free from all ambiguity, Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (1998); Tuma v. Commissioner of Econ. Sec., 386 N.W.2d 702, 706 (Minn. 1986) (citations omitted), unless the literal meaning of the words would produce an absurd result.  Olson v. Ford Motor Co., 558 N.W.2d 491, 494 (Minn. 1997).  Although this court recognizes that forfeiture of one’s residence for what amounts to petty theft of water is a substantial consequence, it is not an absurd result.

IV.

Rasmussen also argues that the district court’s factual findings were unsupported.  A reviewing court must uphold a district court’s findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (1999).  A finding is clearly erroneous if the reviewing court is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made. Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999).  When determining whether findings are clearly erroneous, this court views the record in the light most favorable to the findings, Lossing v. Lossing, 403 N.W.2d 688, 690 (Minn. App. 1987), and defers to the district court’s credibility determinations.  Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988).  Here, the district court had ample evidence from which to make its findings.  Rasmussen admitted to taking the water and the water unquestionably belonged to Country View.  Furthermore, Rasmussen deliberately concealed the fact that he was running a hose from Country View’s water supply to his home.  The district court was under no obligation to believe Rasmussen’s testimony that he took this action to conceal the hose from MHIS’s plumber.  Although Rasmussen presented evidence of his misunderstanding that Country View, and not MHIS, was responsible for disconnecting his hose, the court was permitted to believe that Rasmussen knew exactly what he was doing.

Rasmussen also argues that the court erroneously determined the water was stolen because the intent to steal was not proven to the extent required in a criminal trial.  But this court has not required in unlawful detainer cases that the elements of the underlying crime be proven as if in a criminal case.  See Minneapolis Pub. Hous. Auth. v. Greene, 463 N.W.2d 558 (Minn. App. 1990) (landlord had cause to terminate lease with copy of search warrant and police report indicating police seizure of crack cocaine on premises despite no lab tests to verify actual nature of substance).  Accordingly, the district court’s findings were properly supported.

V.

            Respondent moved the court to strike the affidavits of Representatives Mullery and Dawkins from the record.  The motion to strike is granted.  The affidavits played no part in the consideration or decision in this case.

            Affirmed; motion granted.



* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

** Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.