249 P.3d 1059 (Alaska 2011), S-13659, Roberson v. Southwood Manor Associates, LLC

Docket Nº:S-13659.
Citation:249 P.3d 1059
Opinion Judge:WINFREE, Justice.
Party Name:Diane ROBERSON, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Petitioner, v. SOUTHWOOD MANOR ASSOCIATES, LLC, Respondent.
Attorney:James J. Davis, Jr., Goriune Dudukgian, and Ryan Fortson, Northern Justice Project, Anchorage, for Petitioner. David Karl Gross, Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot, Anchorage, for Respondent.
Judge Panel:Before: CARPENETI, Chief Justice, FABE, WINFREE, and STOWERS, Justices. CHRISTEN, Justice, not participating.
Case Date:April 08, 2011
Court:Supreme Court of Alaska
 
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Page 1059

249 P.3d 1059 (Alaska 2011)

Diane ROBERSON, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Petitioner,

v.

SOUTHWOOD MANOR ASSOCIATES, LLC, Respondent.

No. S-13659.

Supreme Court of Alaska.

April 8, 2011

          James J. Davis, Jr., Goriune Dudukgian, and Ryan Fortson, Northern Justice Project, Anchorage, for Petitioner.

          David Karl Gross, Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot, Anchorage, for Respondent.

          Before: CARPENETI, Chief Justice, FABE, WINFREE, and STOWERS, Justices.

         OPINION

          WINFREE, Justice.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         A mobile home park tenant accrued late charges for failing to pay her space rent on time. The park owner sued the tenant for back rent and late charges. The tenant filed class action counterclaims. One counterclaim asserted that the late charges violated Alaska's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA). The superior court granted a motion to dismiss the tenant's UTPA counterclaim, concluding that the UTPA does not apply to residential leases. We granted the tenant's petition for review to consider this question of law, and we now affirm the superior court's decision.

         II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

          Southwood Manor Associates, LLC (Southwood) owns and operates a mobile home park in Anchorage. Diane Roberson was a tenant at the park— renting space, not a mobile home— from September 1997 to August 2008.

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Roberson's rent was between $385 and $400 per month. Roberson's lease agreement also provided that she would pay " a late charge of Fifty Dollars ($50.00) for each month's rent that is paid more than FIVE (5) DAYS after it falls due" and " Three Dollars ($3.00) per day after the initial charge until the rental is paid in full." (Emphasis in original.)

         Roberson was late with rent payments and she accrued late charges during her tenancy. Southwood filed a complaint against Roberson seeking eviction, back rent, late charges, and other damages. Roberson filed an answer and class action counterclaims alleging in part that the late charges violated the UTPA. 1 Roberson sought a declaration that Southwood's late charges were illegal, an injunction, and damages.

         Southwood moved to dismiss Roberson's UTPA counterclaim for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted, and Roberson moved for partial summary judgment to establish the validity of her UTPA counterclaim. The superior court granted Southwood's motion to dismiss and denied Roberson's motion for partial summary judgment. The court held that based on both the plain language of AS 45.50.471 and this court's decision in State v. First National Bank of Anchorage,2 the UTPA does not apply to residential leases. The superior court concluded that " it is not this Court's role to adopt [Roberson's] arguments by interpreting a clearly written statute in a manner inconsistent with the Legislature's intent."

         We granted Roberson's petition for review to decide whether AS 45.50.471 applies to residential leases.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

          We review de novo a superior court's decision to grant a motion to dismiss.3 " Because motions to dismiss are disfavored, ‘ [a] complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle him or her to relief.’ " 4 Issues of statutory interpretation present questions of law warranting independent review.5 We " adopt [ ] the rule of law that is most persuasive in light of precedent, reason, and policy." 6

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Alaska Statute 45.50.471(a) states that " [u]nfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of trade or commerce are declared to be unlawful." Alaska Statute 45.50.471(b) provides a non-exclusive list of acts or practices that are unfair or deceptive.7 The list does not mention disputes between landlords and tenants.8 We therefore start with a review of our cases touching on the UTPA's application to real estate transactions.

          In First National Bank we held that " the sale of real property is not within the regulatory scope of the [UTPA]." 9 In reaching our decision we observed that " the entire thrust of the [UTPA] is directed at regulating practices relating to transactions involving consumer goods and services." 10 We further explained that " [w]hile subsection (b) makes clear that this list is not exclusive, none of the enumerated prohibited acts mentions real property. Nor do any other provisions of the

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[UTPA] suggest that the legislature intended the sale of real property to come within the [UTPA's] purview." 11 We discussed relevant parts of our First National Bank holding on three later occasions.

         In Barber v. National Bank of Alaska we held that the UTPA did not apply to mortgages.12 There the bank initiated non-judicial foreclosure proceedings on Barber's residential property after he failed to make mortgage payments.13 Barber sued the bank and one of its employees, alleging a UTPA violation for failure to postpone the foreclosure sale and for certain misstatements the employee made concerning the foreclosure proceedings. 14 We explained that in First National Bank we " held that the sale of real property is not governed by the [UTPA]." 15 Because we determined a mortgage is more akin to a real property sale than a good or service, we held that the UTPA did not apply to Barber's mortgage as a matter of law.16

         In Aloha Lumber Corp. v. University of Alaska we held that the UTPA did not apply to the sale of standing timber because timber is real property, not a consumer good.17 In that case Aloha Lumber challenged the University's sale of timber to a third party as unfair and anti-competitive in violation of the UTPA.18 We noted First National Bank 's holding that the UTPA's thrust " is directed at regulating practices relating to transactions involving consumer goods and services." 19 We determined that standing timber is not a consumer good because " [c]onsumer goods are generally understood to mean goods ‘ used or bought for use primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.’ " 20

         In Western Star...

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