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Holmes v. Grove

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

January 9, 2017

ROSALIND HOLMES, Appellant,
v.
COBBLESTONE GROVE, et al. Appellees.

         CIVIL APPEAL FROM FAIRFIELD MUNICIPAL COURT Case No. 2015SCI00087

          Rosalind Holmes, appellant, pro se

          David D. Donnett, for appellee

          OPINION

          M. POWELL, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Rosalind Holmes, appeals a decision of the Fairfield Municipal Court granting a $659 judgment in favor of her former landlord, defendant-appellee, Cobblestone Grove Apartments, LLC ("Cobblestone").

         {¶ 2} In July 2015, Holmes entered into a written, one-year lease agreement with Cobblestone to rent an apartment. The rent was $800 per month. Prior to this lease, she had lived in the apartment for five years. In the late evening hours of August 4, 2015, or the early morning hours of August 5, 2015, Holmes discovered a "massive" water leak and flooding in her kitchen and living areas. Holmes notified Cobblestone's maintenance person of the problem around 1:00 a.m. The maintenance person arrived at the apartment at approximately 3:00 a.m. and directed Holmes to vacate the apartment due to the flooding. Holmes stayed with a friend. Holmes returned to her apartment on August 5, 2015, and discovered that her furnishings had been pushed to one side of the apartment. The leak had been repaired.

         {¶ 3} Subsequently, Cobblestone arranged for extraction of the water from the apartment, testing for mold and mildew, and completion of the plumbing repairs. With the exception of dry wall repair and additional testing for mold and mildew, the repair work was completed by August 12, 2015. Cobblestone contracted with a second contractor because of mold concerns. By letter dated August 14, 2015, Cobblestone notified Holmes that fans would be set up in the apartment for the weekend for the purpose of fully drying the apartment and that they would be removed on August 17, 2015. The letter further stated that Cobblestone would be responsible for any extra electric charges Holmes may incur due to the usage of the fans. The second contractor made two small holes into the walls to put air down into them and used a dehumidifier and two carpet fans.

         {¶ 4} On August 9, 2015, Holmes sent an email to the property manager, stating the apartment was not suitable to live in as she could not cook, watch television, or relax, and requesting a suitable place to live until all repairs were done.

         {¶ 5} By letter dated August 21, 2015, Holmes through her attorney notified Cobblestone she was terminating her lease due to unsuitable living conditions, and gave her 30-day notice of intent to vacate. The letter explained that there were holes in the bedroom and kitchen walls, the carpets had not been cleaned, several fans and humidifiers had been running constantly causing an increase in her electric bill, and her dining room furniture was still "shoved into her living room." Holmes turned in her apartment keys to Cobblestone's office on September 30, 2015. Cobblestone re-leased the apartment effective October 31, 2015. Holmes submitted a claim for her personal property damage upon her renter's insurance and was reimbursed except for depreciation and a $250 deductible.

         {¶ 6} On September 11, 2015, Holmes filed a small claims complaint in the municipal court against Cobblestone, seeking $2, 500 in damages. The matter proceeded to a hearing before a magistrate on November 4, 2015. On the day of the hearing, Cobblestone filed its answer and amended counterclaim, seeking $1, 700 in damages. Holmes objected to the amended counterclaim, arguing it was untimely filed. The magistrate offered to continue the hearing, which Holmes refused, and the magistrate proceeded with the hearing. Holmes and two of her friends testified on Holmes' behalf. Todd Hignite, a regional manager for Cobblestone, testified on behalf of the company. Holmes stated she was seeking $2, 932.32 in damages; Hignite stated Cobblestone was seeking $1, 764.66 in damages.

         {¶ 7} At the hearing, Hignite testified that while some dry wall repairs remained, the apartment was fully habitable by August 14, 2015. Certainly, the apartment was fully habitable on September 30, 2015, when Holmes turned in her apartment keys. Hignite admitted he did not walk through the apartment after the repairs were done. Hignite personally offered to move Holmes to another apartment on August 14, 2015. Holmes declined the offer because Cobblestone could not guarantee the alternate apartment would be free of plumbing issues.

         {¶ 8} Holmes denied the apartment was fully habitable by August 14, 2015, or September 30, 2015. While the leak had been fixed, there was mold and mildew, there was "drywall everywhere, sanded down all over the kitchen area, " she could not cook in the kitchen, and the carpets had not been cleaned. One of Holmes' witnesses testified that on the day he helped her move out, "the living conditions were pretty bad, " there was a bad smell "like really bad mold, " and the drywall repairs were poorly done. Holmes also denied she was offered an alternate apartment to live in. Rather, Cobblestone gave her "the runaround about another suitable place" and told her she did not need an alternative apartment as the leak had been fixed.

         {¶ 9} On January 6, 2016, the magistrate found that Cobblestone had fulfilled its obligations as a landlord under R.C. 5321.04 and 5321.07, and that it was entitled to the October rent in the amount of $800. The magistrate further found that Holmes failed to meet her burden of proof and that she was only entitled to be reimbursed for the additional electric charges related to the repairs in the amount of $141.36. Consequently, the magistrate recommended that a rounded $659 judgment be granted in favor of Cobblestone. Holmes filed objections to the magistrate's decision, which were overruled by the municipal court.

         {¶ 10} Holmes now appeals, raising two ...


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