Beasley v. Clearfield Apartments, LP, C.A. No. JP16-20-003282

CourtCourt of Justice of Peace Court of Delaware
Writing for the CourtMurray, J.
PartiesMARY BEASLEY, Defendant Below, Appellant, v. CLEARFIELD APARTMENTS, LP, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.
Decision Date24 February 2021
Docket NumberC.A. No. JP16-20-003282

MARY BEASLEY, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
CLEARFIELD APARTMENTS, LP, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

C.A. No. JP16-20-003282

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT NO. 16 OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE IN AND FOR KENT COUNTY

Submitted: January 28, 2021
February 24, 2021


TRIAL DE NOVO

Mary Beasley, Defendant/Appellant, appeared represented by Anthony M. Siezega, Esquire, Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.

Clearfield Apartments, LP, Plaintiff/Appellee, appeared represented by David C. Zerbato, Esquire, Morton Valihura & Zerbato, LLC.

ORDER

Murray, J.
Sherlock, J.
Wilson, J.

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On January 28, 2021 this Court, consisting of the Honorable James A. Murray, the Honorable Michael P. Sherlock and the Honorable Kevin L. Wilson, acting as a special court pursuant to 25 Del. C. § 5717(a) convened a trial de novo via Zoom in reference to a Landlord/Tenant Summary Possession petition filed by Clearfield Apartments, LP, (hereinafter referred to as "Clearfield"), against Mary Beasley (hereinafter referred to as "Beasley"). For the reasons below, the Court enters JUDGMENT for CLEARFIELD.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURE BACKGROUND

Clearfield filed a Landlord/Tenant Summary Possession petition with Justice of the Peace Court No. 16 seeking possession, court costs, accrued rent and post-judgment interest at the current legal rate. This action is based on Beasley's failure to complete her recertification, repeated failure to timely pay rent and failure to relinquish possession after receiving a 60-day non-renewal notice. Trial was held on January 6, 2021 and judgment was entered in favor of Clearfield. Thereafter, Beasley filed a timely appeal of the Court's Order pursuant to 25 Del. C. § 5717(a). Consequently, trial de novo was scheduled and convened for trial.

PRE-TRIAL

Counsel for Clearfield advised while their petition indicated they were seeking monetary claims, breach of rules and failure to comply with a 60 day non-

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renewal notice, they are waiving any monetary claims plead against Beasley, they elect to proceed forward on their claim for possession only.

TESTIMONY AND EVIDENCE

Clearfield presented only one witness, Tomelya Watson (Watson) who is the Property Manager for Clearfield Apartments. She avers Clearfield Apartments is an affordable housing tax credit community. Tenants pay a lower rent amount as their rent is offset under a tax credit which is received by the landlord. The program has a minimum low-income level requirement as well as a maximum income level requirement. Perspective tenants must fall within those ranges to qualify to reside within the community. After receiving approval to reside in the community, tenants must participate in a recertification process annually. The first five (5) years of recertification is little more than contacting management and verbally going through a review process over the phone. Every sixth-year tenants are required to provide written documentation proving their income. Under the rules of the program if one tenant is in the violation of the recertification rules, then the entire building is considered in violation.

Watson further testified; Beasley has resided in the community since January 10, 2002. Beasley failed to complete the recertification process for 2019 & 2020. Watson states she made numerous attempts to get Beasley to participate in the

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recertification process. On September 1, 20191, October 1, 20192, and November 1, 20193 notices were posted on Beasley's door notifying her it was time to recertify her income. Watson states Beasley was non-responsive to all three notices. Based on Beasley's non-responsiveness, on November 12, 2019, Watson mailed Beasley a seven (7) day demand notice to cure a breach of the lease agreement.4

Watson states Beasley breached paragraph 33 of the lease agreement which is caption "Regularly Scheduled Recertification."5 The final sentence in paragraph 33 states, "If Tenant fails to provide the requested information, Tenant shall be deemed to have breached this Lease which is grounds for eviction." In addition to not completing the recertification process, Beasley paid her rent late eleven (11) of twelve (12) months in 2019, however, her rent is current at the present time. Watson provided an accounting ledger providing a history of Beasley's payments.6 Rent is due on the first day of the month and is deemed late when paid after the fifth day of the month.

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Finally, Watson testified Beasley was sent a "Notice Of Non Renewal Of Lease" on February 28, 2020.7 This notice advises Beasley she has sixty (60) days to vacate the rental unit. As of today, Beasley remains in possession of the rental unit.

Beasley was the only witness for the defense. She testified she has been a resident for twenty (20) years. Her only source of income is Social Security Income (SSI) and she receives her SSI check about the third week of the month. She asserts she did not receive Clearfield's notices to recertify.

Under cross-examination, Beasley admitted she never informed Clearfield she received SSI or that she was employed in 2019 and 2020, "working...

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