Submitted: September 1, 2017
C. Collins, Esquire, Peter K. Schaeffer, Jr., Esquire.
EASON PRIMOS JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Gilbert Myers's (hereinafter
"Mr. Myers") motion to dismiss in lieu of answer.
The motion requests dismissal of the complaint of Clifton
Winder (hereinafter "Mr. Winder"), who seeks
damages for Mr. Myers's alleged violations of 25 Del.
C. § 7006: the inclusion of prohibited terms and
exclusion of mandatory terms in a lease agreement for a
manufactured home lot.
to the instant action, Mr. Myers had sued Mr. Winder in the
Justice of the Peace Court in Gilbert Myers v. Clifton
Winder, et al. In that action, Mr. Myers claimed that Mr.
Winder was occupying one of his rental units but had ceased
to pay rent. After trial, the Justice of the Peace awarded
possession of the rental unit and past due rent to Mr. Myers
on June 26, 2017. Two days later, on June 28, 2017, Mr.
Winder filed the instant action.
Myers argues dismissal is warranted because (1) Mr. Winder is
ineligible for the relief offered by 25 Del. C.
§ 7006, as he was no longer a tenant of Mr. Myers at the
time of filing; and (2) the claim is barred by res
judicata as a result of the Justice of the Peace
Winder responds that the landlord-tenant relationship between
the parties continued to the date when the action was filed.
He also argues that res judicata is not applicable
because the Justice of the Peace Court's decision
concerned a summary possession claim, whereas the action here
is based on Mr. Myers's alleged violation of statutory
law, and because the Justice of the Peace Court could not
have jurisdiction over the instant claim due to the amount of
this Court's review of a motion to dismiss, "(I) all
well-pleaded factual allegations are accepted as true; (ii)
even vague allegations are well-pleaded if they give the
opposing party notice of the claim; (iii) the Court must draw
all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party;
and (iv) dismissal is inappropriate unless the plaintiff
would not be entitled to recover under any reasonably
conceivable set of circumstances susceptible of
Del. C. § 7006 establishes mandatory and
prohibited terms for inclusion in leases for manufactured
homes and provides remedies directly to tenants against their
landlords for violations of the statute. Before a plaintiff
obtains relief, "a court of competent jurisdiction
[must] find that a tenant's rental agreement
contains" a prohibited term or omits a required
term. In order to recover, a plaintiff must be a
tenant. A tenant is defined as "an owner of a
manufactured home who has a tenancy of a lot in a
manufactured home community; a lessee."
the material facts are not at issue. The Justice of the Peace
Court awarded summary possession to Mr. Myers on June 26,
2017. Pursuant to 25 Del. C. § 5711 (a), this
"final judgment determine[d] the rights of the parties,
" and specifically that Mr. Myers had the right of
possession, and that Mr. Winder did not. The parties agree
that despite this order, Mr. Winder remained in possession
past June 28, 2017, when he filed this action.
Winder argues that at the time this action was filed, he was
still a tenant because "Defendant had no legal right to
exclude Plaintiff from the premises until the period for
appeal ran." The Court understands Mr. Winder to be
referring to 25 Del. C. § 5715, which prohibits
the Court from issuing a writ of possession prior to
"the expiration of the time for the filing of an
Court is unconvinced by this argument. Simply because Mr.
Myers would be unable to remove Mr. Winder from the premises
does not mean that Mr. Winder was "entitled under a
rental agreement to occupy [the] rental unit." The
effect of the order granting summary possession was to
terminate the landlord-tenant relationship.
order of the Justice of the Peace controls during the period
of holdover, not the terms of the lease. This is illustrated
by the Justice of the Peace's order for a per
diem of $20 to be paid starting June 1, 2017, until such
time as Mr. Winder vacated the premises. Therefore, to the
extent any of the lease terms may have been improper, Mr.
Winder was no longer bound by or harmed by them at the time
he brought suit.
the landlord-tenant relationship between Mr. Winder and Mr.
Myers was terminated on June 26, 2017-prior to the filing of
the complaint-Mr. Winder is unable to show his entitlement to
the relief offered by 25 Del. C. § 7006©.
Having determined that Mr. Winder's claim must be
dismissed, the Court ...