Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 17SL-CC04137
Honorable Stanley J. Wallach.
M. Dowd, Judge.
landlord-tenant dispute between Appellant Amalaco, LLC
(Landlord) and Respondents Christy Butero and Brian Housely
(Tenants) arose when Tenants, in violation of their leases
and of a local ordinance, sublet the two rental properties at
issue through the online short-term rental service
Airbnb. After Tenants' subletting activity
triggered a municipal citation for the ordinance violation,
Landlord terminated the leases, Tenants vacated both
premises, and Landlord filed the present suit sounding in
breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and civil conspiracy
in which Landlord sought as damages the money Tenants
received through the illegal subletting as well as nominal
granting Tenants' joint motion to dismiss, the trial
court held that since the money had been acquired through
illegal conduct, Landlord could not recover those funds under
Missouri law and therefore failed to state any claim for
relief. While we affirm the dismissals of the breach of
contract, unjust enrichment, and civil conspiracy claims, we
do so for reasons different from the trial court. But we
reverse and remand with respect to Landlord's claim for
April 2014, Tenants entered into separate leases with
Landlord for two apartments in a building located in
University City, Missouri. Butero leased a first-floor
apartment and Housely a second-floor apartment. Both leases
specified that Tenants "[s]hall not assign this lease or
sublease or rent any portion of the property to anyone
else[.]" The leases also stated that "Tenant[s]
shall comply with all applicable laws regulating the use of
the property" and that "Landlord may terminate
[these leases] if Tenant[s]. . .engage in any illegal
activity on or in the properties]."
the leases provided:
In the event of default by Tenant[s] of any rent payment or
in the performance of or compliance with any agreements
contained herein, Landlord shall, without demand, be entitled
to possession of the property. The remedies provided for in
this paragraph shall be in addition to the other remedies
provided for herein or as provided by law.
after they entered into the leases and without Landlord's
knowledge, Tenants subleased the apartments for short-term
occupancies through Airbnb in violation of the above-quoted
terms of the lease. Landlord discovered this activity when
University City cited Landlord because Tenants' Airbnb
activity violated a municipal ordinance. Upon receipt of this
citation, Landlord terminated both leases without incident
and Tenants vacated the apartments.
then brought this action seeking the money Tenants generated
through their Airbnb activity as well as nominal damages.
After the trial court granted Tenants' motion to dismiss
all claims, this appeal follows.
Court reviews the grant of a motion to dismiss de novo.
Mosley v. English, 501 S.W.3d 497, 503 (Mo.App.E.D.
2016). Appellate review of the trial court's dismissal
for failing to state a cause of action is solely a test of
the adequacy of plaintiff s petition. State ex rel.
Henley v. Bickel, 285 S.W.3d 327, 329 (Mo.banc
2009) (quoting Bosch v. St. Louis Healthcare
Network, 41 S.W.3d 462, 464 (Mo.banc 2001)). It assumes
all of plaintiff's averments are true, and liberally
grants to plaintiff all reasonable inferences therefrom.
Id. The petition is reviewed in an almost academic
manner, to determine if the facts alleged meet the elements
of a recognized cause of action, or of a cause that might be
adopted in that case. Id.
Tenants 'failure to plead contractual illegality as
required by Rule 55.08 is inappositebecause the