DWIGHT D. DILLARD, Judge.
On March 20, 2017, the Court held a trial de novo for a Landlord/Tenant Summary Possession appeal filed by Althea Nixon ("Defendant"), against Capital Green Apartments LLC ("Plaintiff"). This Special Court, composed of the Honorable James A. Murray, the Honorable W. J. Sweet and the Honorable Dwight D. Dillard, convened pursuant to 25 Del. C. § 5717(a).
History of Petition
The original trial was held on January 30, 2017 where the Court found in favor of the Plaintiff. Judgment
Plaintiff motioned the Court to dismiss counterclaim. The Court held its ruling on the motion in abeyance until counterclaim was presented.
Plaintiff asserted due to failing to comply with necessary procedures for the treatment of bed bugs, Defendant violated the rules of her lease agreement. Plaintiff alleged they are entitled to recover double rent as Defendant is a holdover tenant, possession of rental unit, per diem rent until unit is vacated, court costs and post judgment interest at Delaware legal rate. Plaintiff introduced the following exhibits into evidence:
On direct examination, Defendant testified she received and read all notices sent by Plaintiff. Defendant testified she understood preparing her home for bed bug treatment was her responsibility and she failed repeatedly to fully prepare home for the chemical treatments. Defendant stated she understood she would be responsible for treatment expenses due to her lack of preparedness should the treatments fail to eradicate the beds bugs.
Witness Aaron Scott Davis, Pest Pro technician, testified to the unprepared condition of the rental unit during his multiple visits to treat for bed bugs.
Defendant motioned the Court to reduce the amount of their counterclaim to $500.00 for repayment of one bed bug treatment paid by Defendant. Defendant asserted they should not have to pay for bed bug treatment as she reported the problem per the lease agreement.
Plaintiff asserted Defendant failed to comply with bed bug addendum of lease agreement section 4
For the Plaintiff to prevail based on material noncompliance of rental agreement, they must demonstrate the actions of the Defendant encompassed the noncompliance.
Defendant's rental unit was treated initially for bed bugs on October 28, 2015, supplemental treatment on November 24, 2015, final inspection on December 22, 2015, second treatment on December 31, 2015, supplemental treatment on January 28, 2016, Heat treatment on July 22, 2016 and K-9 bed bug inspection on August 4, 2016. Plaintiff was notified on September 19, 2016 that bed bugs were again found in Defendant's rental unit.
Defendant was served multiple notices concerning preparation and follow up for treating bed bugs. Along with the lease's bed bug addendum, Defendant was well aware of the steps needed to rid the unit of infestation and the possible outcome of continuing to be a hazard to self and other tenants. Pursuant to the lease agreement, once a rental unit becomes infected by bed bugs, the tenants is required to obtain mattress covers. Defendant failed to purchase mattress covers.
Defendant was served a notification to vacate apartment in 30 days on September 20, 2016 due to material noncompliance
Plaintiff also claims irreparable harm as the basis for their petition as defined in 25 Del. C. § 5513(b)
The Court finds material noncompliance by Defendant as bed bug eradication was difficult to accomplish due to Defendants repeated lack of preparation. Also, after the bed bugs were considered eradicated, they returned to the Defendant's unit. As none of the Defendants neighbors had bed bugs before, during or after treating Defendant's unit, the Court must conclude the Defendant is the reason for the infestation. Defendant failed to comply with the requirement to obtain mattress covers to inhibit the spread of bed bugs per her lease. The Court finds the actions of the Defendant to be a material breach of the lease agreement.
The Court finds no basis for the Defendant not to have been billed for supplement bed bug treatment as she was the reason additional treatments were necessary. Based on the Court's fact finding inquiry, conclusions of law and by a preponderance of the evidence, the Court by unanimous vote finds in favor of the Plaintiff. The Court dismisses the counterclaim.
Judgment from written request proffered in court:
Judgment — $4576.56 (rent through April 20, 2017)
Court costs — $50.00
Per Diem beginning April 21, 2017 until possession — $32.23
Post Judgment Interest at 6.5%
Possession to Plaintiff.
NOTICE OF APPEAL RIGHTS
Any party has 15 days starting the day after the judgment is signed by the judge to appeal the judgment of the Justice of the Peace Court to the Court of Common Pleas of the above county. If the judgment involves an action for summary possession in a landlord/tenant case, then either party has 5 business days, starting the day after the judgment is signed by the judge, to appeal the judgment to a three judge panel at the Justice of the Peace Court where the judgment was ordered. You must complete all of the appeal requirements within those periods. To prevent dismissal, the appeal must name all of the parties as they were originally named in the Justice of the Peace Court action. (This applies even if the action was dismissed in the Justice of the Peace Court against one or more of the parties.) Additional information on appeal procedures is found in the attached sheet entitled "Justice of the Peace Courts Civil Post-Judgment Procedures". (J.P. Civ. Form No. 14A) If no appeal is filed, parties may remove all exhibits from the Court no sooner than 16 days and no later than 30 days, from the date of this judgment. If not removed, the Court may dispose of the exhibits without further notice to the parties.
Final Date of Appeal of a Civil Case to the Court of Common Pleas is 15 days from the judgment.
Final Date for Appeal of a Landlord/Tenant case to a 3 Judge Panel is 5 days from the judgment.