This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Lloyd Management, Inc.,
Mary Ranti Ajayi, et al.,
Filed June 4, 1996
Scott County District Court
File No. 9516961
Stephen P. Rolfsrud, Blethen, Gage & Krause, 127 South Second Street, P.O. Box 3049, Mankato, MN 56002-3040 (for Respondent)
Paul Onkka, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., 16174 Main Avenue, Prior Lake, MN 55372 (for Appellants)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Schultz, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellants Mary Ajayi and Wemi Alakija challenge an unlawful detainer eviction and judgment for restitution by arguing the district court: (1) clearly erred in finding appellants materially breached their lease; (2) erred in rejecting the argument that in order for a material lease violation to occur, tenants must first be notified that their actions are disturbing; and (3) abused its discretion in refusing to admit evidence. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
Findings of fact shall not be overturned unless clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. Due regard shall be given to the district court's opportunity to judge witness credibility. Id. A tenancy may be terminated due to a material lease violation. Minn. Stat. 566.03, subd. 4 (1994). Unlawful detainer is a summary proceeding to restore a landlord to possession. University Community Properties, Inc. v. Norton, 311 Minn. 18, 21-22, 246 N.W.2d 858, 860 (1976); see also Minneapolis Community Dev. Agency v. Smallwood, 379 N.W.2d 554, 555 (Minn. App. 1985) ("Unlawful detainer is a civil proceeding, and the only issue for determination is whether the facts alleged in the complaint are true"), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1986).
Appellants argue the evidence is insufficient to demonstrate a material breach of the lease. Lloyd Management, Inc. (Lloyd) had the burden of demonstrating under lease paragraphs 13 or 25 that appellants either (1) disturbed the rights or comfort of neighbors, or (2) seriously interfered with the rights and quiet enjoyment of other tenants. The neighbors on both sides of appellants testified to repeated disturbances continuing late into the night including yelling, banging, and running. Additionally, both neighbors with walls adjoining appellants stated that items were knocked off their walls due to banging from appellants' apartment. Appellants testified they never made noise but that other neighbors made noise that bothered appellants.
This case presents an issue of credibility. Issues of credibility are within the province of the district court. Roy Matson Truck Lines, Inc. v. Michelin Tire Corp., 277 N.W.2d 361, 362 (Minn. 1979). Here, the court acknowledged it was assessing credibility by stating
the court observed and listened to testimony of everyone who was presented as witnesses, and has made its determination as to who was telling the truth.
The record supports the findings and resulting conclusion that appellants materially breached their lease by disturbing neighbors. Thus, the district court did not clearly err.
Appellants argue that in order for a material lease violation to occur, tenants must first be made aware that their actions are disturbing so that the tenants can attempt to correct the problem. Neither the law nor the lease require such notification. As this court has stated "a landlord's right of action for unlawful detainer is complete upon a tenant's violation of a lease condition." Smallwood, 379 N.W.2d at 556. Further, even assuming the law or lease supported appellants' argument, the evidence here suggests appellants were put on notice that they were disturbing neighbors. Thus, the court did not err in rejecting this argument.
The decision to admit or exclude evidence rests within the broad discretion of the district court and will not be disturbed absent an erroneous view of the law or an abuse of discretion. Uselman v. Uselman, 464 N.W.2d 130, 138 (Minn. 1990). Even where evidence has probative value, its exclusion may well be within a court's discretion. Benson v. Northern Gopher Enters., Inc., 455 N.W.2d 444, 446 (Minn. 1990); see also Minn. R. Evid. 401 (defining "relevant" evidence), 403 (relevant evidence may be excluded if cumulative).
Appellants contend the court abused its discretion in denying the offered testimony of a prospective witness who once managed the apartment complex. Appellants offered the testimony at issue to demonstrate that sound travels easily through the walls. The court acknowledged that although sound may travel easily, the question here is whether noise levels were extraordinary. Another witness had already testified concerning how normal conversations can be heard from adjoining apartments. Thus, it was within the district court's discretion to determine the prospective witness's testimony was both irrelevant and unnecessary.
Appellants also contend the court erred in not allowing testimony that the apartment managers selectively enforced lease provisions on noise disturbances. We disagree. Because unlawful detainer is a summary proceeding regarding whether a tenant should be evicted, the issue is not whether other tenants also breached the lease, or whether the managers selectively enforced the lease. Accordingly, the court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to admit this testimony.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, sec. 10.