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Memphremagog Rentals v. Kelley

Supreme Court of Vermont

May 9, 2014

Memphremagog Rentals
v.
Daniel Kelley

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Supreme Court of Vermont Appeals Disposed of Without Published Opinion or Memorandum Decision." table in the Atlantic Reporter

Appeal from: Superior Court, Orleans Civ. Division. DOCKET NO. 430-12-12 Oscv. Trial Judge: Howard E. VanBenthuysen.

Reiber, C.J., Skoglund, and Robinson, JJ.

OPINION

ENTRY ORDER

In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:

Tenant in this eviction action appeals pro se from a judgment in favor of landlord Memphramagog Rentals. We affirm.

The trial court's findings may be summarized as follows. The parties entered into a written lease agreement in March 2010 for an apartment rental in Newport " for at least twelve consecutive months for $350 per month." On October 5, 2012, landlord delivered a written notice to tenant that the tenancy would terminate, without cause, on December 5, 2012. On November 2, 2012, landlord delivered a second notice to tenant stating that the tenancy would terminate on December 6, 2012, for causing damage to the apartment and violating the lease restriction on pets. The second notice stated that it did not " cancel out any previous notices," but rather was for " independent breaches of the lease."

Tenant remained in the apartment, and landlord filed a complaint for ejectment on December 17, 2012. Although the initial complaint sought termination for breach of the lease agreement, the court later granted landlord's motion to amend the complaint to add a count of no-cause eviction. Tenant filed a counterclaim alleging breach of the warranty of habitability and seeking $200,000 in damages.

Landlord moved for summary judgment on the no-cause eviction count. Tenant opposed the motion, and the court held a hearing on the motion in September 2013. The court issued a written decision the following month in favor of landlord. The court found that tenant admitted receiving the no-cause notice of termination. Assuming, as tenant argued, that his written lease was still in effect, the court concluded that the termination notice in October 2012 amply complied with the provision of the Residential Rental Agreements Act requiring at least a 60-day notice of termination before the end of the next tenancy period in March 2013 such that eviction in October 2013 was proper. See 9 V.S.A. § 4467(e) (" The notice to terminate for no cause shall be at least 60 days before the end or expiration of the term of the rental agreement if the tenancy has continued for more than two years." ).

The court further found that: tenant had adduced no evidence to support his claim that the lease entitled him to stay in the apartment forever so long as he paid his rent; the notice of termination was adequate; service of the complaint was admitted; and tenant's claims that he had been assaulted by landlord and was the victim of a conspiracy between landlord and others were unsupported and immaterial. Accordingly, the trial court concluded that landlord was entitled to judgment on the eviction claim. The court deferred to trial tenant's counterclaim for breach of the warranty of habitability.

The court (Judge VanBenthuysen) subsequently referred a motion to disqualify him to the Administrative Judge, who issued a written decision denying the motion. The Administrative Judge found that the reasons advanced by tenant principally involved disagreements with the court's rulings, which did not constitute a valid basis for disqualification and demonstrated no bias against tenant. See Luce v. Cushing, 2004 VT 117, ¶ 23, 177 Vt. 600, 868 A.2d 672 (mem.) (noting that prejudice is not established merely by showing the existence of " adverse rulings, no matter how erroneous or numerous" (quotation omitted)).

The trial court commenced an evidentiary hearing on the tenant's counterclaim on November 18, 2013, but subsequently dismissed the claim for lack of prosecution when tenant failed to return after a recess. A writ of possession and final judgment in favor of landlord issued on November 26, 2013.

Although tenant's pro se appellant's brief sets forth at least twenty separately captioned and argued claims, many are repetitive, and do not meet minimal standards for the application of meaningful appellate review through clear and concise citations to relevant portions of the record showing that the claim was preserved, or supporting facts and legal authorities, as required by V.R.A.P. 28(a); see Pcolar v. Casella Waste Sys., Inc., 2012 VT 58, ¶ 19, 192 Vt. 343, 59 A.3d 702 (declining to address argument where, " [e]ven with the wider leeway accorded to pro se litigants," appellant's argument did not meet " minimum standards" under V.R.A.P. 28(a) (quotation omitted)). To the extent that tenant's claims may be parsed, and concern issues raised by tenant and addressed by the courts below, they demonstrate no error in the trial court's findings and conclusions in support of the judgment of eviction, the Administrative Judge's denial of the disqualification motion, or the ...


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