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Kocina v. Johannes

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

December 20, 2016

DORIS KOCINA, Respondent,
v.
TRACY JOHANNES, Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF MILLER COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE JON A. KALTENBRONN, JUDGE

          Before: Thomas H. Newton, Presiding Judge, Cynthia L. Martin, Judge and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judge

          EDWARD R. ARDINI, JR., JUDGE

         Tracy Johannes ("Johannes") appeals the judgment of the trial court in an unlawful detainer action finding her possession of an apartment owned by Doris Kocina ("Kocina") to be wrongful and ordering her to pay damages in the amount of "double the reasonable rental value of the property" from August 18, 2015, to September 10, 2015, as well as court costs.

         On appeal, Johannes alleges that she was a month-to-month at-will tenant and entitled to one month's notice of termination under sections 441.060.3 and 534.030.1.[1] Thus, Johannes argues that Kocina did not have standing to file her complaint for unlawful detainer until her tenancy terminated after the expiration of the statutorily required one-month notice period. We find that there was no landlord-tenant relationship between Johannes and Kocina and, therefore, that Kocina did have standing to file her complaint for unlawful detainer against Johannes.

         Johannes alleges in her second point on appeal that the trial court erred in assessing court costs against her because she was represented by Mid-Missouri Legal Service, Corp., which filed a Certificate of Inability to Pay Costs, Fees, and Expenses pursuant to section 514.040.3. We find that the trial court erred in assessing court costs against Johannes.[2] As to those costs, the trial court's judgment is reversed and remanded for entry of judgment consistent with this opinion.

         I. Facts and Procedural History[3]

         Johannes' son entered into an oral employment agreement with Kocina wherein he agreed to provide maintenance at an apartment complex owned by Kocina in exchange for a furnished apartment and utilities. Johannes moved in with her son. On or about June 30, 2015, Johannes' son informed Kocina that he would not continue providing maintenance at the apartments, thereby terminating his tenancy.

         Kocina offered Johannes' son the option to continue living in the apartment at $500 per month, but he rejected the proposed arrangement. After Johannes' son terminated the employment agreement, he did not provide any further services to Kocina, make any rental payments, or pay for utilities. Johannes' son vacated the apartment in early August, but his personal possessions remained and Johannes continued to live in the apartment. On August 18, 2015, Johannes was served with a written notice to deliver possession of the apartment to Kocina. Johannes remained in the apartment until September 10, 2015.

         Meanwhile, Kocina filed a Complaint for Unlawful Detainer on August 26, 2015. After a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment finding that, while the notice referenced a month-to-month tenancy, Johannes never had an agreement with Kocina to occupy the premises and her possession after August 18, 2015, was thus wrongful. The judgment ordered Johannes to pay double the "reasonable rental value of the property" from August 18, 2015 to September 10, 2015, and ordered court costs be paid by Johannes and her son. Johannes appeals the judgment against her.

         II. Standard of Review

         In a court-tried civil case, the court's judgment will be affirmed "unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, unless it is against the weight of the evidence, unless it erroneously declares the law, or unless it erroneously applies the law." Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976).

         III. Discussion

         Johannes alleges two points of error on appeal. First, Johannes alleges that the trial court's judgment was in error because the evidence established that she was a month-to-month at-will tenant and entitled to one month's notice of termination under sections 441.060.3 and 534.030.1. As a result, Johannes argues, Kocina did not have standing to file her complaint for unlawful detainer until after the expiration of the required notice period. Johannes alleges in her second point that the trial court erred in assessing court costs against her because she was represented by Mid-Missouri Legal Service, Corp., who filed ...


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