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Naylor v. Tumey

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

July 30, 2013

GARY L. NAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
KEVIN T. TUMEY, Defendant.

Submitted: July 8, 2013

Donald L. Gouge, Jr., Esquire Donald L. Gouge, Jr., LLC Attorney for Plaintiff

Robert C. McDonald, Esquire Silverman McDonald & Friedman Attorney for Defendant

DECISION AFTER TRIAL

The Honorable Alex J. Smalls, Chief Judge.

Gary L. Naylor (hereinafter "Naylor") brings this action to recover for breach of an oral lease agreement The parties stipulated that the limited issue before the Court was whether Plaintiff/Landlord, Gary Naylor, verbally agreed to reduce the rent for Defendant/Tenant, Kevin Tumey (hereinafter "Tumey"), from $1, 800.00 to $900.00 per month. Trial was held on June 4, 2013 and thereafter the parties submitted post-trial memoranda. Having considered the record evidence, arguments of the respective parties, and the applicable law, I find, based on the preponderance of evidence, that Naylor did not agree to the alleged rent reduction.

Factual and Procedural Posture

On or about September 1, 2008, Naylor verbally agreed to rent his single family residence in Bear, Delaware to Tumey for $1, 800.00 per month. The parties did not agree to any set rental period at the outset of the lease. The home had four bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms in a residential neighborhood on a half acre lot Naylor testified that the rental price was set at $1, 800.00 because his mortgage payment on the home was $1, 890.00. He further testified the tenant prior to Tumey and the tenant after Tumey both paid $1, 800.00 per month for rent.

Naylor was adamant that the rental price was $1, 800.00 throughout the 37 month lease, which was for a period commencing September 2008 to October 2011. Tumey agreed that the original rental price was $1, 800.00. However, Tumey had a different position as to the continuity of the original rental amount.

Tumey testified that in April 2010, his relationship ended with his live-in girlfriend. Tumey stated that Naylor agreed to reduce the rent to $900.00. Naylor testified that there was no modification. Naylor stated that the live-in girlfriend was not a party to the lease and never made any rent payments. Tumey alleged that he paid $900.00 per month beginning in April 2010 through the end of the lease in September 2011. As of April 2010, when the alleged modification occurred, Tumey was significantly behind in rent payments. In August 2010, Tumey submitted two separate rent checks in the amount of $900.00, totaling $1, 800.00.[1] Tumey again submitted two separate payments of $900.00 in July 2011.[2]

Naylor testified in regards to Tumey's habitual failure to pay rent. There were many occasions where Tumey failed to pay the monthly rent and on occasion the issued checks were returned for insufficient funds and/or the account was closed. The parties met on occasion to review the amount Tumey owed. Naylor stated that he repeatedly demanded payment before and after the lease ended.

Lana West also testified during Plaintiffs case-in-chief. She lived with Naylor during the past four years and witnessed the landlord-tenant relationship between the parties. Ms. West testified that Naylor was consistently behind on rent, and, at the end of the lease, owed a large sum of money in back-rent. Ms. West further testified that she was unaware of any modification of rent and that rent was always $1, 800.00 per month.

The parties stipulated that Tumey owes back-rent, but disagree as to the amount. At trial, the parties stipulated that they agreed to the amount of damages depending on the Court's decision. If the Court finds that there was no agreement to reduce the rent, then Tumey owes $19, 720.00. If the Court finds there was an agreement to reduce the rent, the parties agree that Tumey owes $3, 760.00.

Discussion

A. Statute of ...


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