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Otey v. Wiley

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

May 23, 2017

ELMER M. OTEY, Respondent,
v.
DEBRA WILEY, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Barbara T. Peebles

          SHERRI B. SULLIVAN, P.J.

         Introduction

         Debra Wiley (Wiley) appeals from the trial court's judgment entered in favor of Elmer M. Otey (Otey) on his claim for rent and possession. We affirm as modified.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On November 17, 2015, Otey filed a Petition and Affidavit for rent and possession seeking $6, 700 in damages for unpaid rent from Wiley from January 2015 through November 2015 in the circuit court of the City of St. Louis. On January 12, 2016, the court entered a default judgment against Wiley in the amount of $14, 400 and granted possession of the premises to Otey.

         On January 19, 2016, the court heard and granted Wiley's motion to set aside the default judgment. That day the parties entered into a consent judgment as to possession and the court conducted a bench trial on the issue of unpaid rent and damages. The following evidence was adduced at trial.

         In December 2014, Wiley entered into a written lease agreement for the premises with Carletta Lloyd (Lloyd), Otey's ex-wife. The terms of the lease, signed by Lloyd and Wiley, provided the monthly rent of $1, 500 be paid to Lloyd on the 1st of each month from December 2014 through December 2015. The lease states that a $30 late charge will be applied to late payments. At the time of the lease agreement, Lloyd and Otey jointly owned the property. [1] On January 5, 2015, the St. Louis County Circuit Court entered a judgment, pursuant to a settlement agreement, quieting title to the property in favor of Otey.[2] Wiley testified she had been renting the property from Lloyd for over three years when Otey became the sole owner of the property in January 2015.

         On January 6, 2015, Otey hand-delivered to Wiley a letter informing her that he was the new owner of the property. The letter advised Wiley she must sign a new rental agreement with him at the rate of $1, 800 per month and if she did not sign the new lease, the rent would increase to the default rate of $2, 200 per month. On January 9, 2015, Otey presented Wiley with said lease, which included a provision allowing him to charge a fee for late payments.

         Wiley refused to sign the new lease, advising Otey she had an existing lease to pay $1, 500 per month. Wiley stated Otey insisted he needed $1, 800 a month and that she ultimately agreed to pay him $1, 800 per month for 10 of the 12 months under the lease, for a total of $18, 000, because the total amount of money paid would be equal to paying $1, 500 per month for the 12 months under the terms of the existing lease.

         Wiley testified she paid Otey $1, 800 per month from January through October and nothing in November and December, thus satisfying the terms of the lease. Otey acknowledged Wiley paid him $1, 800 per month from January through September but asserted Wiley's October payment was returned for insufficient funds and was never satisfied. Otey further testified Wiley was late in her payments on seven occasions. Wiley acknowledged she had to stop payment on her initial October payment to Otey but insisted she later satisfied the payment.

         On January 19, 2016, the court entered judgment against Wiley and in favor of Otey in the amount of $10, 600. This appeal follows.

         Points on Appeal[3]

         In her first point, Wiley argues the trial court misapplied the law in finding in favor of Otey because she had a valid, enforceable existing lease agreement and a new owner of ...


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