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S.L.E. Real Estate, LLC v. Scott

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

December 27, 2019

S.L.E. REAL ESTATE, LLC Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
WILLIAM M. SCOTT, et al. Defendant-Appellant

          Trial Court Case No. 2019-CVI-2322 (Civil Appeal from Municipal Court)

          ADAM JAMES STOUT, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee

          WILLIAM M. SCOTT and CHERYL MAGUIRE, Defendants-Appellants, Pro Se

          OPINION

          HALL, J.

         {¶ 1} William M. Scott and Cheryl Maguire appeal pro se from the trial court's entry of judgment against them following a bench trial on a small-claims complaint filed by appellee S.L.E. Real Estate, LLC.

         {¶ 2} The appellants advance three assignments of error. First, they contend the trial court erred in finding them liable to the appellee for one month's rent of $1, 200. Second, they claim the trial court erred in finding them liable for $581.21 for damage to the floor of a house they rented from the appellee. Third, they assert that the trial court erred in finding them liable for an additional six days of rent in the amount of $240.

         {¶ 3} The record reflects that Scott and Maguire entered into a written land contract in June 2014 to purchase a house from S.L.E. Real Estate, LLC, which is owned by Harley Emmons. The contract required a monthly payment of $1, 200. The parties later executed a document cancelling and terminating the land contract effective June 30, 2018. The document released the parties "from all further liabilities and obligations" under the land contract. The parties then orally agreed that Scott and Maguire would rent the residence on a month-to-month basis for $1, 200 per month. The appellants made $1, 200 payments in July and August 2018. The appellants failed to make a payment in September, and they vacated the residence on September 6, 2018.

         {¶ 4} On February 20, 2019, S.L.E. Real Estate filed a small-claims complaint against Scott and Maguire. (Doc. # 1.) The complaint alleged that the appellants still owed one full month's rent of $1, 200 and a prorated amount of $240 for the six days in September 2018. The appellee's theory was that the $1, 200 payment made in July 2018 was made in arrears and covered June 2018. Likewise, the appellee argued below that the August 2018 rent payment covered July 2018. On that basis, S.L.E. Real Estate alleged that no rent had been paid for August 2018 or for the six days in September. The complaint also sought $3, 062.57 for damage to wood floors in the house and $186 for an unpaid utility bill. Finally, the complaint sought interest and costs.

         {¶ 5} The matter proceeded to an April 2, 2019 bench trial before a magistrate. Emmons testified on behalf of his company, plaintiff-appellee S.L.E. Real Estate. Emmons identified and acknowledged the land contract and the cancellation. He also testified about the month's rent he claimed was owed, the extra six days, the damage to the wood floors that he had repaired, and the utility bill. For his part, Scott testified that he believed the "release" language in the land contract cancellation precluded recovery for any liability related to the land contract, including any additional money owed for anything. With regard to rent for the months of July and August 2018, which was after the termination of the land contract, Scott produced two $1, 200 checks dated July 5, 2018 and August 4, 2018. In the memo line, the July check stated "July Rent." In response, Emmons again insisted that the July payment was for June, that the August payment was for July, and that no payment had been made for August or the first part of September. Emmons also claimed that Scott had offered to leave behind the window coverings and a cord of wood in exchange for the last $1, 200 payment.

         {¶ 6} On June 4, 2019, the magistrate issued a written decision. With respect to the disputed issues, the magistrate found as follows:

The Defendants generally deny Plaintiffs claim for unpaid and prorated rent through September 6, 2018; however, Defendants have provided no credible testimony or evidence to support these general denials. Defendants further state that Plaintiffs allegation that they damaged the wood floors is false. Defendants state that the wood floors were not in good condition when they moved in and that any damages to the flooring during their tenancy (of over four (4) years) is the result of normal wear-and-tear.
The Court finds based upon all of the testimony and evidence presented that Defendants vacated the premises on or about September 6, 2018 at which time they owed Plaintiff one month's rent in the amount of $1, 200 and prorated rent for six (6) days in September of $240. The Court further finds that Plaintiffs claim for damages to the wood floor in the amount of $3, 062.57 is unsupported by the greater weight of the evidence. However, the Court does find that Defendants' tenancy caused damage to the wood flooring beyond normal wear-and-tear in the amount of $581.21. Finally, the Court finds that the Defendants incurred unpaid utilities at the time they vacated the premises in the amount of $183.36.
It is, therefore, the opinion of this Magistrate that judgment should be granted in favor of the Plaintiff and against the Defendants in the amount of $2, 204.57, ...

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