Fairchild Heights, Inc. v. Dickal
Under Connecticut General Statutes §21-80a, if a resident proves that he or she engaged in one or more of the protected activities enumerated in C.G.S. §21-80a(a) within the six months preceding the park owners eviction preceding, the owner may not maintain a summary process action against that resident unless the owner can show that one of the exceptions specified in C.G.S. §21-80a(b) applies. Fairchild Heights, Inc., the owner of a mobile manufactured home park, brought a summary process action against Nancy, Alan and Lisa Dickal for violating their lease agreement by parking more than two motor vehicles at their site without paying a monthly excess vehicle charge. The defendants asserted special defenses including that the remedy of summary process was unavailable to the plaintiff because the defendants had engaged in activities protected under C.G.S. §21-80a. Nancy Dickal was president of a residents association at the park which had brought an action against the plaintiff alleging housing and maintenance violations. The trial court concluded that the special defenses lacked merit and rendered judgment of possession for the plaintiff. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The defendants appealed claiming that the Appellate Court improperly interpreted C.G.S. §21-80a(b)(1) to allow the plaintiff to maintain the summary process action against them, notwithstanding their protected conduct, upon a showing that they violated a material provision of their rental agreement. Although disagreeing with the Appellate Courts interpretation of C.G.S. §21-80a(b)(1), the majority of the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. When a resident contends that C.G.S. §21-80(a) bars a summary process action brought pursuant to C.G.S. §21-80(b)(1)(C), the park owner nevertheless may maintain such action by establishing that the resident is in material noncompliance with the lease and using the premises for a purpose that violates the rental agreement. In rendering judgment for the plaintiff, the trial court necessarily found that the defendants conduct constituted material noncompliance with the rental agreement. The trial court did not expressly determine whether parking excess vehicles on ones lot constituted, pursuant to C.G.S. §21-80a(b)(1), a use of the dwelling unit or the premises…for a purpose which is in violation of the rental agreement. The majority determined that the trial courts findings compelled that conclusion. Justice Harper, with whom Justice Palmer joined, dissented.