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LBC Limited Partnership v. Stegaman

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Van Wert

May 8, 2017

LBC LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, R. SCOTT LAING, PRINCIPAL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GARY STEGAMAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.

         Appeal from Van Wert Municipal Court Trial Court No. CVG 1300607

          Jason N. Flower for Appellant

          OPINION

          PRESTON, P.J.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-appellant LBC Limited Partnership ("LBC") appeals the May 11, 2016 judgment entry of the Van Wert Municipal Court finding that LBC breached the implied warranty of habitability and awarding each party $450.00. (Doc. No. 16). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         {¶2} According to the testimony of Scott Laing ("Laing"), this case stems from an oral rental agreement entered into in April of 2013 concerning 209 Westfield Drive in Middle Point, Ohio. (March 26, 2014 Tr. at 15-19). Laing testified that, under that agreement, tenant Gary Stegaman ("Stegaman"), was to pay LBC $650.00 monthly, plus a $100.00 late fee in the event he failed to tender the rent timely. (Id. at 15). Rent was to be paid monthly. (Id. at 17); (Id. at 19).

         {¶3} On October 13, 2013, LBC filed a complaint in which it alleged three claims. In Count One, LBC sought the eviction of Stegaman. (Doc. No. 1).[1] In Count Two, LBC sought rent unpaid for July, August, and September of 2013, all future unpaid rents, as well as any fees and damages to the property that may be discovered subsequently. (Id.). In Count Three, LBC seems to seek funds which were collected by Stegaman on LBC's behalf but which Stegaman never paid to LBC. (Id.). The complaint requested damages in excess of $1, 350.00 and any other relief the court deemed appropriate. (Id.).

         {¶4} Stegaman filed an answer on November 15, 2013 in which he claimed that the relief LBC requested was not appropriate because LBC still owed him money. (Doc. No. 3). That same day, Stegaman filed a counterclaim against Laing for $16, 035.22 for the cost of windows, doors, having a lease agreement drawn up, money owed for past services rendered, a water heater, landscaping rocks, and punitive damages. (Id.). On December 17, 2013, LBC filed an answer to the counterclaim in which it denied the allegations that formed the basis of Stegaman's counterclaim and asserted that Stegaman failed to state a cause of action on which relief could be granted. (Doc. No. 8).

         {¶5} Count One of LBC's complaint was resolved by agreement of the parties. (Nov. 13, 2013 Tr. at 26-28). The trial court heard Counts Two and Three of LBC's complaint, as well as Stegaman's counterclaim, at a hearing on March 26, 2014. (March 26, 2014 Tr. at 5). The trial court issued its judgment entry on May 11, 2016. (Doc. No. 16). The trial court found for LBC as to Count Two for cleanup costs in the amount of $450.00, and the trial court found for Stegaman as to the damages related to the installation of windows at his property in the amount of $450.00. (Doc. No. 16). LBC filed its notice of appeal on June 10, 2016. LBC brings three assignments of error for our review. For ease of discussion, we will address the second and third assignments of error together, followed by the first assignment of error.

         Assignment of Error No. II

         The trial court erred in determining that Plaintiff was only entitled to four hundred and fifty dollars ($450.00) for total damages to the rental property when his costs to restore the property exceeded the awarded damages and Defendant failed to maintain the property throughout the tenure of his lease agreement for said property.

         Assignment of Error No. III

         The trial court erred in determining that Plaintiff was not entitled to any amount of delinquent rent from Defendant, as Defendant had not paid rent for the months of September through December 2013, despite still having his personal belongings on the property and expressly stating that he needed three more weeks to vacate.

         {¶6} In its second assignment of error, LBC argues that the trial court erred in awarding it only $450.00 for damages to the rental property when the cost to restore the property exceeded that figure and Stegaman failed to maintain the property during his tenancy. (Appellant's Brief at 16). Specifically, LBC argues that the property where Stegaman lived required extensive rehabilitation after his departure, including trash removal and dumping at a cost of $195.00, $290.00 to purchase and install a new water heater and the attendant plumbing, $55.00 to repair a drain, $40.57 to replace a kitchen sink, and numerous other expenses far exceeding the damage award. (Appellant's Brief at 16-17). LBC argues that it should have been awarded its actual damages. (Id. at 17).

         {¶7} In its third assignment of error, LBC argues that the trial court erred in determining that LBC was not entitled to delinquent rent from Stegaman. Specifically, LBC argues that Stegaman paid no rent for the months of September through December of 2013 despite having his belongings on the property, thus preventing LBC from renting the property to other would-be tenants. (Id. at 18). Thus, LBC argues that it is entitled to rent for the period between September and December of 2013. (Id.).

         {¶8} We review damage calculations on an abuse-of-discretion standard. Roberts v. United States Fid. & Guar. Co., 75 Ohio St.3d 630, 634 (1996). The term "abuse of discretion" refers to a decision that is "arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable." Sandusky Properties v. Aveni, 15 Ohio St.3d 273, 275 (1984), citing Dayton ex rel. Scandrick v. McGee, 67 Ohio St.2d 356, 359 (1981) and State v. Adams, 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157 (1980). An abuse of discretion results "only when no reasonable man could take the view adopted by the trial court." Pembaur v. Leis, 1 Ohio St.3d 89, 92 (1982).[2]

         {¶9} The record reflects Stegaman's testimony that he had an agreement with Laing according to which Stegaman would receive credit toward his own rent if he did work on LBC's behalf and kept an accounting of the work he did. (March 26, 2014 Tr. at 25). Stegaman testified that, under that agreement, he was to find tenants for Laing's various properties and, if he did, he would receive a credit against his own rent equal to one month worth of rent for the tenants he had located. (Id. at 26). Stegaman testified that, for the months in which LBC claims he did not pay rent, he did work for ...


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