This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Castaways Marina, Inc.,
Filed April 29, 2003
Dakota County District Court
File No. C8022158
Michael J. O’Loughlin, Michael O’Loughlin & Associates, P.A., 1012 Grain Exchange Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415 (for respondent)
Stephen M. Meisinger, Meisinger and Meisinger, 60 East Marie, Suite 109, West St. Paul, Minnesota 55118 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this landlord-tenant dispute, appellant argues that the trial court erred when it concluded that section 504B.291, subdivision 1 (2002), did not apply to respondent’s eviction action. Appellant contends that under section 504B.291, subdivision 2(c) (2002), he is entitled to repossession of a boat slip. Because respondent’s eviction action was based on appellant’s material violation of the lease, we affirm.
Appellant Richard Dedrickson and respondent Castaways Marina, Inc., entered into a lease agreement on January 27, 1987. The lease was for a term of 99 years and provided that respondent would lease to appellant Slip No. 36 at its marina. The lease incorporated articles, bylaws, and marina operating rules, and made the lessee subject to marina operating rules. The lease provided for termination on default by the lessee, which can occur through failure to follow the bylaws and marina operating rules, or other regulations of the lessor as amended from time to time. The termination provision provided that, in the event of termination, all rights, title, and interest of the lessee shall terminate, and the lessor shall assume possession of the boat slip within sixty days following the date on which the lessor gave written notice to the lessee of the default under the lease, if it had not previously done so. The marina operating rules provide, in relevant parts, as follows:
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2). Any changes of Electrical Wiring or Electrical Service to a shareholder’s slip must be in writing from the Board of Directors.
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1). Shareholders and Tenants shall not add to, take away from or alter in any manner, without written permission from the Board of Directors, their slips or adjacent dock ways or electrical and/or water service facilities.
On or about December 1, 2001, Thomas Lind (Lind), president of the board of directors of the marina, together with John Remington (Remington), a board member, observed that an electrical outlet on the marina’s electrical panel had been loosened and a cord was hanging from it. The electrical outlet that was loosened was not metered to any slip, but was available with permission to be used by marina lessees in emergency situations, or for other valid reasons approved by the board of directors. Lind and Remington observed that the cord ran from the outlet, underneath the dock, and to appellant’s boat. On December 3, 2001, Lind noticed that the outlet had been reinstalled in the box, but a black cord continued to run from the box to appellant’s boat. When looking in the windows of appellant’s boat, Lind further observed that an electrical heater connected to the cord from the marina’s outlet was being used to heat appellant’s boat. In addition, the propane usually used to heat appellant’s boat had been disconnected at the tanks, and was not used to heat appellant’s boat.
As a consequence of appellant’s actions, respondent filed a complaint for eviction on February 6, 2002. The unlawful detainer trial was held on February 22, 2002. In an order dated April 19, 2002, the trial court concluded that appellant was in violation of the lease because he altered his electrical system to use respondent’s electrical power without permission of the marina board of directors and without making arrangements to compensate respondent for the electrical power used to heat his boat. Appellant does not contest this finding. Accordingly, appellant was ordered to remove his boat and all other property belonging to him from the marina within sixty days.
On June 18, 2002, appellant moved the trial court for an order restoring him to possession of the boat slip, arguing that section 504B.291, subdivision 2(c) (2002), is applicable and provides him with a right of redemption since the lease was for greater than twenty years. The trial court denied appellant’s motion, concluding that the statute is not applicable because the eviction action was not for nonpayment of rent, but rather for appellant’s theft of respondent’s electrical power. This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
Appellant argues that the trial court erred when it concluded that section 504B.291 (2002) does not apply to this eviction action. Appellant contends that respondent brought this eviction action under section 504B.291, and that under subdivision 2(c) of that section, he is entitled to repossession of the boat slip. We disagree.
This court is not bound by and need not give deference to a trial court’s decision on a purely legal issue. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass’n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm’n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984). Statutory construction is a question of law which this court reviews de novo. Brookfield Trade Ctr., Inc. v. County of Ramsey, 584 N.W.2d 390, 393 (Minn. 1998). The standard of review in an unlawful detainer action is whether the trial court’s findings of fact are clearly erroneous. Minneapolis Cmty. Dev. Agency v. Smallwood, 379 N.W.2d 554, 555 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1986).
Section 504B.291, subdivisions 1, 2, provide, in relevant parts:
504B.291 EVICTION FOR NONPAYMENT; REDEMPTION; OTHER RIGHTS.
Subdivision 1. Action to recover. (a) A landlord may bring an eviction action for nonpayment of rent irrespective of whether the lease contains a right of reentry clause. Such an eviction action is equivalent to a demand for rent. In such an action, unless the landlord has also sought to evict the tenant by alleging a material violation of the lease under section 504B.285, subdivision 5, the tenant may, at any time before possession has been delivered, redeem the tenancy and be restored to possession by paying to the landlord or bringing to court the amount of the rent that is in arrears, with interest, costs of the action, and an attorney’s fee not to exceed $5, and by performing any other covenants of the lease.
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Subd. 2. Lease greater than 20 years. (a) If the lease under which an action is brought under subdivision 1 is for a term of more than 20 years, the action may not begin until the landlord serves a written notice on the tenant and on all creditors with legal or equitable recorded liens on the property.
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(c) The tenant may be restored to possession of the property under the terms of the original lease if, before the expiration of six months after the landlord obtains possession due to the tenant’s abandonment or surrender of the property or the landlord prevails in the action, the tenant * * * : (1) pays to the landlord or brings into court the amount of rent then in arrears, with interest and the costs of the action; and (2) performs the other agreements or legal obligations that are in default.
By its very terms, section 504B.291 governs eviction actions for nonpayment of rent. The section is entitled “EVICTION FOR NONPAYMENT * * * .” Also, subdivision 1 clearly states, “[a] landlord may bring an eviction action for nonpayment of rent * * * .” Id. (emphasis added). If a statute, construed according to ordinary rules of grammar, is unambiguous, we may not engage in any further statutory construction and must apply the statute’s plain meaning. State by Beaulieu v. RSJ, Inc., 552 N.W.2d 695, 701 (Minn. 1996). The language here is clear and unambiguous. We conclude that section 504B.291 governs eviction actions for nonpayment of rent.
We note further that section 504B.291, subdivision 2(a), relied on by appellant, is prefaced by the statement, “[i]f the lease under which an action is brought under subdivision 1 is for a term of more than 20 years * * * .” (Emphasis added.) Here, the parties stipulated that the lease term was for 99 years. But subdivision 2(a) becomes operative only if the eviction action is brought under subdivision 1 for nonpayment of rent.
Appellant also argues that he should be restored to possession because he has complied with subdivision 2(c)(1) and (2)—i.e., he claims to have tendered all monies owed for the unauthorized electrical use and cured the breach by disconnecting the electrical cord. But appellant’s interpretation of the statute is strained. Again, section 504B.291 governs eviction actions for nonpayment of rent. Thus, section 504B.291, subdivision 2(c), must be interpreted in light of the overall purpose of the broader statute. Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2002) (providing all laws should be interpreted to enforce all provisions). Despite appellant’s misguided attempt to characterize the amounts owed for the stolen electricity as “rent,” this was not an action for rent—the unlawful detainer action was brought for a material violation of the lease. Moreover, nothing in the record supports appellant’s claim that he has tendered any monies owed. Furthermore, as respondent notes, clauses (1) and (2) are connected with the conjunction “and.” Minn. Stat. § 504B.291, subd. 2(c)(1), (2). Thus, in order to be restored to possession, the tenant must pay the rent owed and satisfy any other legal obligations. Id. If no rent is owed—as is the case here—satisfaction of other legal obligations under the lease becomes irrelevant and therefore subdivision 2(c) does not apply. Thus, subdivision 2(a) and (c) are inapplicable to this eviction action because respondent did not evict appellant for nonpayment of rent. A review of the record amply supports the conclusion that the eviction was not based on the nonpayment of rent. In the eviction complaint, respondent stated:
The tenant has broken the terms of the rental agreement with property owner by:
Knowingly and without authority using electrical power owned and paid for by Landlord. Tenant connected tenant’s boat to landlord’s electrical outlet instead of his own, apparently to heat his boat or otherwise to take and use electrical power without compensation to Landlord and contrary to well understood Operating Rules.
Nonpayment of rent is not alleged as the basis for the eviction action. Respondent has consistently maintained that he brought the eviction action against appellant for a material violation of the lease; namely appellant’s unauthorized use of electricity. To that end, at the June 18, 2002, hearing respondent argued:
That statute [Minn. Stat. § 504B.291] doesn’t apply.
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If you take a look at the complaint, take a look at your order, * * * there is nothing there about unpaid rent. That wasn’t an issue. Never was an issue. Wasn’t asked for. This was for breach of a lease, for intentional violation of the lease. And that’s a totally different statute to which 504B.291 is irrelevant.
We conclude respondent is correct. Eviction for a material violation of a provision in the lease is governed by section 504B.285 (2002), which provides, in relevant part:
504B.285 EVICTION ACTIONS; GROUNDS; RETALIATION DEFENSE; COMBINED ALLEGATIONS.
Subdivision 1. Grounds. The person entitled to the premises may recover possession by eviction when:
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Subd. 4. Nonlimitation of landlord’s rights. Nothing contained in subdivisions 2 and 3 limits the right of the landlord pursuant to the provisions of subdivision 1 to terminate a tenancy for a violation by the tenant of a lawful, material provision of a lease or contract, whether written or oral, or to hold the tenant liable for damage to the premises caused by the tenant or a person acting under the tenant’s direction or control.
Because appellant misappropriated electrical power paid for by respondent, a finding that appellant does not dispute, he violated a material provision of the lease, and section 504B.285, subdivision 4, properly governs respondent’s eviction action. Therefore, we conclude that appellant is not entitled to repossession of the boat slip under section 504B.291, subdivision 2(c), because on these facts, the statute is simply not applicable.
Nevertheless, appellant also argues that an eviction action for a material violation of a lease may alternatively be brought under section 504B.291, subdivision 1, because the phrase “material violation of the lease” is referenced in the statute. But appellant has taken the words out of context. The exact language, in context, is “[i]n such an action, unless the landlord has also sought to evict the tenant by alleging a material violation of the lease under section 504B.285, subdivision 5 * * * .” (Emphasis added.) Minnesota law provides, in relevant part:
Subd. 5. Combining allegations. (a) An action for recovery of the premises may combine the allegations of nonpayment of rent and the allegation of material violation of the lease * * * .
(b) In cases where rent is outstanding, a tenant is not required to pay into court the amount of rent in arrears, interest, and costs as required under section 504B.291 to defend against an allegation by the landlord that the tenant has committed a material violation of the lease.
Minn. Stat. § 504B.285, subd. 5 (2002).
When viewed in context and in tandem with section 504B.285, subdivision 5(b), the language in section 504B.291, subdivision 1, simply removes the requirement that the tenant bring into court the amount of rent in arrears (as required for repossession in an eviction action alleging only nonpayment of rent) when defending a combined eviction action alleging nonpayment of rent and material violation of the lease brought under section 504B.285, subdivision 5(a). “Every law should be construed, if possible, to give effect to all its provisions.” Minn. Stat. § 645.16. See also Minn. Stat. § 645.17(2) (2002) (establishing presumption that legislature intends entire statute to be “effective and certain”). Nothing in its language suggests that section 504B.291, subdivision 1, alternatively governs an eviction action for material violation of a lease. Nor has appellant provided any case law or legal analysis to support his claim that the statute should be interpreted in this manner.
We conclude that respondent’s eviction action was for appellant’s material violation of a provision of the lease, and that section 504B.285 is the proper governing statute. Accordingly, appellant is not entitled to repossession of the boat slip under section 504B.291, subdivision 2(a), (c), because the statute does not apply to this eviction action.