This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
Penny Jensen, et al.,
Chateau Communities, Inc.,
d/b/a Cimarron Manufactured Home Park,
Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Washington County District Court
File No. C4-02-2886
Kay Nord Hunt, Barry A. O’Neil, Valerie Sims, Lommen, Nelson, Cole & Stageberg, P.A., 1800 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellants)
John F. Bonner, III, Robyn K. Johnson, Bonner & Borhart, LLP, 1750 Pillsbury Center South, 220 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Minge; Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
GORDON W. SHUMAKER,Judge
Appellants contend that respondent violated a statute and breached their leases when it unilaterally substantially modified the leases. The district court denied appellants’ motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability and for permanent injunctive relief. Appellants appeal only from the denial of injunctive relief. Because there has been no determination on the merits, which is a prerequisite for a permanent injunction, we affirm.
Respondent Chateau Communities, Inc. owns and operates a manufactured home park in Lake Elmo. Appellants Penny Jensen et al. are park residents under written leases with respondent and they also are representatives of a plaintiff class of similarly situated residents.
Manufactured home parks are regulated by chapter 327C of the Minnesota Statutes. Minn. Stat. § 327C (2002). Leases and park rules and regulations are required to conform to the mandates of that chapter. Minn. Stat. §§ 327C.02, .05.
The form of the lease for each park resident is the same. It provides for a basic lot rental and it shows separately the cost of utilities. But the lease also states that respondent will furnish “sewer, water and normal garbage service at no extra charge.” This provision accords with respondent’s rules and regulations. Respondent provides water to park residents from its own well system and wastewater services from its own treatment facility.
After installing and using meters to monitor residents’ water consumption, respondent notified the residents that they would be billed for water and sewer services in addition to monthly lot rental charges. Respondent then began charging a minimum monthly fee of $15 for water and sewer services to each lot, irrespective of the level of usage. The minimum fee consisted of $5 for the cost of reading, purchasing, and installing the meters; $5 for water; and $5 for sewer services. Actual usage could increase the utilities charge beyond the minimum
Appellants contend that the addition of a charge for water and sewer services and administrative costs is a rule change that violates statutory law, the residents’ lease agreements, and respondent’s park rules and regulations.
Respondent argues that, upon proper notice, it can make reasonable changes in its leases and rules and that it gave the requisite notice and that the charge is proper and necessary. Respondent also contends that the utilities charge was in lieu of an annual rent increase.
Appellants sued respondent, alleging that respondent violated chapter 327C and breached appellants’ leases by improperly charging park residents for water and sewer services. Among the relief appellants sought in the action was a permanent injunction enjoining respondent from imposing the unauthorized charges on park residents.
Appellants later moved for a partial summary judgment and a permanent injunction. They argued that they were entitled to judgment on the issue of liability, contending that there were no fact issues as to whether respondent violated statutory law and breached the residents’ leases. They also contended that because there were no genuine issues of material fact for trial on the question of liability, they were entitled to a permanent injunction.
Respondent opposed the motions for partial summary judgment and injunctive relief, contending that genuine fact issues in dispute make summary judgment inappropriate. Respondent also contended that appellants are not likely to prevail on the merits, and, therefore, injunctive relief would also be inappropriate.
At the hearing on the motions, appellants argued that respondent made a unilateral decision to charge for sewer and water services and that the imposition of such charges was a substantial modification of the residents’ leases. The court questioned whether the issue of “substantial” modification presented a factual dispute. Relying on caselaw, appellants contended that the courts had previously decided that the addition of water and sewer charges was a substantial modification of the leases.
The district court perceived that there were factual disputes for trial, declined to rule on the dispositive issues as a matter of law, and denied appellants’ partial summary judgment motion and its motion for injunctive relief.
Appellants appeal only from the court’s denial of injunctive relief.
D E C I S I O N
This case reaches us in a unique procedural posture. Appellants are not entitled to appeal from an order denying a motion for summary judgment. McDonough v. City of Rosemount, 503 N.W.2d 493, 496 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. Sept. 10, 1993). So, instead they challenge the district court’s denial of injunctive relief. They allege that the court abused its discretion by denying their motion for permanent injunction and committed reversible error by making no analysis of the injunction motion and by making no findings on the issue of injunctive relief.
The appeal implicitly rests on two assumptions, both erroneous. The first is that the facts are undisputed. The district court found otherwise and its ruling cannot be challenged on appeal. Id.
The second assumption is that a permanent injunction is somehow the equivalent of a cause of action. It appears to be the appellants’ implicit notion that they are entitled to a permanent injunction without a prior resolution of the real causes of action, namely, breach of contract and violation of statutory mandate. But an injunction is a remedy. Bio-Line, Inc. v. Burman, 404 N.W.2d 318, 320 (Minn. App. 1987). “A permanent injunction will issue only after a right to such relief has been established at a trial.” Id. Before permanent injunctive relief may be awarded, the merits of the dispute must be determined. Id. As the court in Bio-Line said: “There is a continuum of injunctive relief, beginning with a [temporary restraining order] and encompassing separate steps until a permanent determination is reached after considering the merits of the case.” Id.
A merits determination could have been made through the award of summary judgment. Once the merits had been determined, the district court could have ruled on the request for a permanent injunction and, if appropriate, could have granted that relief. But we have no merits determination, and a “motion” for permanent injunction cannot be used as a device for bypassing a party’s right to have the merits of the cause of action resolved.