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Starling v. Spencer Apartments

Superior Court of Delaware

January 8, 2019

MELODY STARLING, Appellant/ Defendant-Below
v.
SPENCER APARTMENTS, Appellee/ Plaintiffs-Below.

          Date Submitted: December 10, 2018

         CASE BELOW: CPU4-17-004961

          Upon Consideration of Appellant's Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas. AFFIRMED

          Melody Starling, Pro Se Appellant.

          David C. Zerbato, Esquire, Michael P. Morton, P.A., Attorney for Appellee.

          OPINION

          Calvin L. Scott, Jr., Judge

         This is an appeal from the decision of Court of Common Pleas. The issue before the Court is the dismissal of Appellant's Counterclaim for rent paid to her landlord while she occupied a rental unit. For the following reasons the Court of Common Pleas decision will be Affirmed.

         Nature and Stage of the Proceedings

         This is a landlord/tenant issue between Melody Starling (Appellant/Starling) and Spencer Apartments (Appellee/Spencer), instituted in the Justice of the Peace Court 13. Starling resided as a tenant in the apartment in question from June 2007 until September 2017. A trial was held before that Court on September 14, 2017, which Starling did not attend. As a result, a default judgment was entered against Starling. On Starling's Motion, the default judgment was vacated and the case was heard on the merits before the Court, including Starling's counterclaim for rent paid to Spencer from June 2016 through September 2017. Possession of the rental unit was not an issue, so the matter proceeded as a debt action. The Court ruled in favor of the Spencer.

         Starling then filed an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. The case was heard de novo at a bench trial on September 6, 2018. The Court found in favor of Spencer, and dismissed Starling's counterclaim. Immediately following that decision Starling filed this appeal.

         The Court of Common Pleas Decision

         At trial the Court did not dismiss Starling's Counterclaim before the hearing. The Court determined Spencer was on notice of the Counterclaim, and therefore the Court would decide the claim on the merits. At trial Starling attempted to introduce evidence to support her claim that Starling had notice of the deficiencies in the apartment. The Court excluded the evidence as it was not produced during discovery.[1]

         The Court ruled from the bench that Starling's claim failed as a matter of law. The Court determined Starling failed to notify the landlord in writing of a defective condition as required by the Landlord-Tenant Code under Title 25, therefore she could not maintain a claim to recover rent paid. The Court ruled for Spencer in the amount of $1,673.65

         Parties ...


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