Monday, November 25, 2013

Slavin v. Rent Control Board of Brookline case brief

Slavin v. Rent Control Board of Brookline case brief summary
548 N.E.2d 1226 (Mass. 1990)

Defendant Rent Control Board appealed an order of the Appellate Division of the District Court Department (Massachusetts), which affirmed annulment of defendant's decision to refuse issuance of a certificate of eviction, ordered certificate's issuance, and awarded plaintiff landlord double costs and attorney fees, finding defendant exceeded its authority by making determinations of law.

Plaintiff landlord sought to evict a tenant for violating an obligation of his tenancy. Defendant Rent Control Board found that the tenant had allowed another person to occupy his apartment without first obtaining plaintiff's written consent. Nonetheless, defendant refused to issue the eviction certificate, observing that plaintiff had not acted reasonably in categorically refusing to allow the tenant to bring in someone new after his original co-tenant moved out. Plaintiff obtained judicial review, and the trial court annulled defendant's decision and ordered the certificate's issuance.


  • The appellate court affirmed, and finding defendant lacked authority to make determinations of law, imposed double costs and counsel fees. 
  • Defendant appealed. 
  • The court found that imposition of an obligation for a landlord to act reasonably was a public policy matter for the legislature. 
  • However, the appellate court lacked authority to impose costs and fees on parties, such as defendant, who litigated in good faith.

The order was reversed in part. Defendant Rent Control Board had to issue a certificate of eviction because plaintiff landlord was not statutorily obligated to act reasonably in considering a tenant's request to assign or sublease; however, defendant did not have to pay double costs and attorney fees because its litigation was not frivolous.

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