This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C6-01-1023

 

 

W. J. Properties, Inc.,

Respondent,

 

vs.

 

Ronald Schneider, et al.,

Appellants.

 

 

Filed February 12, 2002

Affirmed; motion granted

Halbrooks, Judge

 

 

Stearns County District Court

File No. C2011959

 

John F. Bonner, III, Robert J. Borhard, Bonner & Borhart, L.L.P., Suite 1550, AT&T Tower, 901 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3205 (for respondent)

 

Thomas J. White, Klein & White, 4570 West 77th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55435 (for appellants)

 

 

 

            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

HALBROOKS, Judge

            Appellants challenge an eviction judgment and the denial of their motion for a new trial.  Because appellants’ eviction was properly based on their breach of a negotiated confession of judgment and stipulation for unlawful detainer and because the trial court’s denial of the motion for new trial was not error, we affirm.  Respondent’s motion to strike a document submitted on appeal that was not part of the trial court record is granted.

FACTS

Appellants Ronald and Jodelle Schneider moved into the St. Joseph Mobile Home Park (Park) on November 30, 1999, and began paying rent on December 1, 1999.  Although Park rules did not permit pets, then-Park management allowed some residents to keep cats and small dogs as long as they did not bother other residents.  Respondent W. J. Properties, Inc. purchased the Park after appellants moved in. 

On November 27, 2000, respondent provided appellants with written notification that, pursuant to the terms of Minn. Stat. § 327C.09, subd. 7 (2000), their lease was being terminated in 60 days as a result of their material misstatement concerning their rental history on the rental application.

Minn. Stat. § 327C.09, subd. 7, provides that a park resident may be evicted if

The resident’s application for tenancy contained a material misstatement which induced the park owner to approve the applicant as a resident, and the park owner discovers and acts upon the misstatement within one year of the time the resident began paying rent.

 

Appellants stated on their application that they had never been evicted, when, in fact, they had been subject to at least two unlawful detainer actions. 

In response to the eviction notice, counsel for appellants and respondent drafted a confession of judgment and stipulation for unlawful detainer (agreement), which appellants signed on February 8, 2001.  In part, the agreement provided that appellants would repair and improve the condition of their property according to a schedule of deadlines and would remove their rabbits and rabbit pen from the Park premises within three days of the signed stipulation.  Respondent agreed to stay its unlawful detainer action so long as appellants complied with the conditions of the agreement.  If appellants violated the terms of the agreement, the agreement provided that respondent could seek a writ of restitution from the court with 48 hours’ notice to appellants’ counsel.

On April 2, 2001, respondent notified all Park residents that effective July 1, 2001, it would begin stricter enforcement of the existing “no pet” rule.  Residents would not be allowed to have any pets, with limited exceptions.  Residents with one cat or dog under 15 pounds could keep their pet, and residents with two pets would be allowed to keep both pets until one pet died or otherwise left the Park. 

On April 26,2001, respondent’s counsel saw a leashed rabbit tied to the steps of the appellants’ home.  Appellants admitted that it was their rabbit.  On May 3, 2001, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, respondent’s counsel filed an affidavit of default with the court and requested a writ of restitution.  Respondent notified appellants on May 4, 2001, that they had to vacate the property by May 6, 2001.  When they failed to do so, an eviction summons was issued on May 8, 2001. 

Appellants contested the eviction.  At trial, respondent presented uncontroverted testimony that, following the agreement, appellants moved the rabbit pen to a location just off the Park premises, but continued to visit the rabbits and bring them back to their home.  Park residents testified that the rabbits would often run loose in the Park and that the pen gave off an offensive odor.  The trial court ruled that appellants violated the terms of the agreement and issued an order and judgment of unlawful detainer against them.

Appellants moved to vacate the judgment and for a new trial on several grounds.  They alleged that the agreement required them to sacrifice their right to notice and an opportunity to cure violations pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 327C.09, subd. 4 (2000).  Under that section, park owners may recover possession of a manufactured home lot when

[t]he resident fails to comply with a rule within 30 days after receiving written notice of the alleged noncompliance * * * .  To be effective, the notice must specify the date, approximate time, and nature of the alleged rule violation. 

Minn. Stat. § 327C.09, subd. 4.  Appellants also alleged that the agreement that they negotiated and agreed to in lieu of eviction for making a material misrepresentation violated a prohibition against waiver of Park residents’ rights contained in Minn. Stat. § 327C.02, subd. 4 (2000), which states:  “Any attempt to waive or circumscribe any privilege or right guaranteed by law to a resident or a park owner is void.”  Finally, appellants alleged that, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 327C.02, subd. 2a (2000), the trial court erred in its failure to consider whether the April 2, 2000 general letter to all Park residents created a “new rule” with respect to pets, and, if so, whether the rule was reasonable or not a substantial modification.

Minn. Stat. § 327C.02, subd. 2a, provides, in part:

 

[I]n an action to recover possession of land for violation of a new or amended rule, if the court finds that the rule is reasonable or is not a substantial modification, the court shall issue an order in favor of the plaintiff for costs.  The court shall order the defendant to comply with the rule within ten days. 

 

Appellants argued in their posttrial motions that the alleged notice defects and the trial court’s failure to address the “new-rule” issue deprived the court of subject-matter jurisdiction.  Appellants also requested permission to proceed in forma pauperis and requested a stay of execution of the eviction judgment. 

            The trial court ruled that appellants could proceed in forma pauperis and granted appellants’ request for a stay of execution of the eviction, provided that they paid rent until the final disposition of the appeal.  The trial court denied appellants’ motions to vacate the judgment and for a new trial, finding that appellants had the assistance of counsel in negotiating the February 8, 2001 agreement and that appellants failed to raise the notice and “new-rule” arguments at trial. 

Appellants challenged the denial of their request for a new trial and the eviction judgment in this court.  We remanded for a ruling on whether appellants’ case was frivolous, in order to determine whether or not appellants could proceed before this court informapauperis.  On remand, the trial court issued an amended order deeming the appeal to be frivolous.

            Appellants sought review of that determination.  Based on the limited record then before us, we were unable to determine whether appellants’ motion for a new trial was authorized and proper.  We denied appellants’ motion to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.  This appeal follows.

D E C I S I O N

1.         The trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the case.

Appellants assert that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because respondent failed to give the appellants the 30 days’ notice and an opportunity to cure any rule violation required by Minn. Stat. § 327C.09, subd. 4 (2000).  This argument was raised for the first time in appellants’ posttrial motion.  Appellants cite Benson v. Johnson, 392 N.W.2d 890 (Minn. App. 1986), in support of their position that a party can properly assert an argument on appeal that was not made until a posttrial motion.  We disagree with appellants’ interpretation of Benson.  This court’s decision in Benson turned on its holding that the trial court erred in allowing a tortfeasor in a personal-injury action to join the plaintiff’s no-fault insurer, thereby creating an adversarial relationship between the insurer and its insured at trial.  Id. at 897-98.  Although Benson, the insured, consistently opposed joinder, the trial court ruled against her and permitted the tortfeasor to assert a third-party claim against her no-fault insurer.  Id. at 897.

On appeal, Benson argued that, if the trial court properly permitted the tortfeasor to assert a third-party claim, it was error not to bifurcate the third-party and main actions.  Id.  Although this court permitted that argument to be asserted on appeal, our discussion of it was dictum.  Id. at 898.  Benson was reversed and remanded for a new trial not on the basis that the claims should have been bifurcated for trial, but on the ground that joinder was improper and operated to taint the entire verdict.  Id. at 899.

We review questions of subject-matter jurisdiction de novo.  Federal-Hoffman, Inc. v. Fackler, 549 N.W.2d 93, 96 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Aug. 20, 1996).  But this case does not involve a valid subject-matter-jurisdiction challenge.

The alleged notice defects did not deprive the trial court of subject-matter jurisdiction over appellants’ case.  Appellants rely on Rainbow Terrace, Inc. v. Hutchens, 557 N.W.2d 618 (Minn. App. 1997), a case involving Minn. Stat. § 327C.09 (2000), in which appellants were given 30 days’ notice to vacate the premises, but the notice failed to specify the grounds for the termination.  Id. at 620.  The district court issued a writ of restitution.  Id.  We reversed the district court, concluding that the inadequate notice deprived appellants of an opportunity to remedy the violation within a reasonable time.  Id. at 621.  Rainbow Terrace did not involve a challenge to the district court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter.

            Here, after negotiating an agreement with respondent that permitted them to continue living in the Park despite a material misrepresentation on their rental application that constituted grounds for eviction, and after agreeing to get rid of their rabbits as a condition of that agreement, appellant now claims that the agreement is unenforceable under Minn. Stat. § 327C.02, subd. 4 (2000).  The trial court properly relied on the agreement in denying appellants’ posttrial motions.

The language of the agreement indicates that it is a continuation, rather than a waiver, of the prior notice: 

The Plaintiff has grounds to file an Unlawful Detainer Complaint against the Defendants.  The parties agree as follows to resolve all issues as follows and the Defendants hereby state, agree, and confess that:

 

1.The Plaintiff is entitled to immediate possession of the premises * * * .

2.The filing of this confession of judgment and issuance of a Writ of Restitution in this matter will be stayed by Defendants’ complete compliance with the terms and conditions of this Stipulation * * * . 

 

Appellants’ argument that they lost their right to 30 days’ notice of a rule violation is unfounded because they were alreadysubject to an eviction action for the misrepresentations on their rental application.  The same analysis applies to appellants’ argument that any waiver of tenant rights under Minn. Stat. ch. 327C (2000) is void.  Appellants acknowledged in the signed agreement that respondent had a right to bring an unlawful detainer action against them.  Eviction proceedings in this case are based on appellants’ misrepresentation and subsequent violation of a negotiated term of their agreement, not on an unrelated violation that would trigger independent notice or waiver issues. 

Appellants further claim that the trial court’s failure to address the Park’s revised pet policy deprived it of subject-matter jurisdiction.  Appellants provide no authority for this proposition.  We do not find that the “new-rule” question has any jurisdictional implication.  Appellants’ argument that the revised “new rule” entitled them to ten days to remove the rabbits is flawed if for no other reason than that the “new rule” did not affect the Park’s rabbit policy.  Although management did not consistently enforce it, the prior rule prohibited all pets.  The “new rule” also forbids pets, except for a grandfather clause for certain cats and dogs.  Neither rule permitted rabbits.  Even if the “new rule” marked a change in policy relating to rabbits, appellants are bound by the terms of the agreement they made.

 

2.              Motions for new trial are not appropriate in summary unlawful detainer proceedings.                                      

 

Unlawful detainer actions are summary proceedings intended to ascertain which party has the right to possess the land in question.  Dahlberg v. Young, 231 Minn. 60, 63‑64, 42 N.W.2d 570, 573-74 (1950).  As such, motions for new trial are inappropriate, as they lead to delays in determining present possessory rights.  Id.  The trial court appropriately denied appellants’ motion for a new trial. 

 

3.         The evidence supports the trial court’s decision to issue an eviction judgment against appellants.     

 

The standard of review for judgments of restitution is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the trial court’s conclusions.  Minneapolis Pub. Hous. Auth. v. Greene, 463 N.W.2d 558, 560 (Minn. App. 1990).  Respondent presented witnesses at trial who testified that appellants moved the rabbit pen onto adjacent non-Park property, but then frequently brought the rabbits back to their residence and allowed them to run loose on Park property.  The evidence sustained the trial court’s conclusion that appellants violated the agreement. 

 

4.              Motion to Strike.

Respondent argues that we should strike appellant’s affidavit as being outside the record.  Appellants did not submit this affidavit to the trial court until one week after trial.  Since this affidavit was not part of the record before the trial court, this court should not consider it in deciding this case.  See Scroggins v. Solchaga, 552 N.W.2d 248, 253 (Minn. App. 1996) (“We * * * do not consider tenant’s postjudgment filings because we review the unlawful detainer judgment on the record as it existed when the district court made its decision.”), review denied (Minn. Oct. 29, 1996).  Respondent’s motion to strike is granted.  

Affirmed; motion granted. 



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