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RDP Development Corp. v. Schwartz

April 20, 1995

RDP DEVELOPMENT CORP., APPELLANT,
v.
PETER N.G. SCHWARTZ, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (Hon. Rufus King, III, Trial Judge).

Before Schwelb and King, Associate Judges, and Kennedy, Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.*

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kennedy

KENNEDY, Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia: This appeal arises from an action for fraud and breach of contract between appellant, RDP Development Corporation ("RDP") and appellee, Peter N. G. Schwartz ("Schwartz"), the general partner of Judiciary Square Limited Partnership ("Partnership"). In its complaint, RDP alleged that it was due compensation for the services its president, R. Donahue Peebles ("Peebles"), provided to Schwartz in connection with Schwartz's efforts to lease one of the Partnership's properties to the District of Columbia. In the trial court, Schwartz moved for summary judgment, arguing that RDP's suit was barred by the District of Columbia Real Estate Licensure Act of 1982, D.C. Code §§ 45-1921 et seq. (1990), because Peebles performed services as a real estate broker although he was not licensed to do so. The trial court agreed and, accordingly, granted Schwartz's motion for summary judgment. *fn1 Finding no error, we affirm.

I.

At all times relevant to this suit, the Partnership owned an office building known as One Judiciary Square. Beginning in the fall of 1989, the Partnership, through Schwartz, attempted to lease One Judiciary Square to the District of Columbia government. These negotiations ended abruptly on May 29, 1990, when the Mayor, Marion Barry, announced that the District had decided to lease space in another office building.

Shortly after this announcement, Peebles and Schwartz met to discuss the possibility of hiring Peebles to assist in the procurement of a lease of One Judiciary Square by the District. Thereafter, on June 8, 1990, Schwartz sent Peebles a letter of agreement offering to hire him in the following terms:

In consideration of your personal full effort provided in good faith to our objective in the obtaining of a lease of One Judiciary Square . . . agrees to pay Don Peebles an amount equal to of one and three quarters percent (1.75%) of the face lease value for the lease term not to exceed ten (10) years.

Payment shall only be due if your effort directly produces a lease ....

After consulting with his attorney, Peebles modified the wording of the proposed letter of agreement because his attorney advised him that it appeared to be a brokerage contract which, because he was not licensed as a real estate broker, he could not enforce. *fn2 Peebles then offered his services in the following terms:

Re: Consulting Agreement For One Judiciary Square (401 4th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.)

Dear Don:

This letter shall confirm our agreement pursuant to which RDP Development Corporation shall consult with [property owner] in regard to the identification of possible leasing requirements of the District of Columbia and the suitability of our One Judiciary Square Building to meet such requirements. In the event you advise us of a leasing requirement, and we subsequently enter into a lease or leases with the government of the District of Columbia or any agency or instrumentality thereof, we agree to pay you for your services an amount [commission stated]....

In response to this proposal, Schwartz again reworded the writing which came to memorialize the parties' agreement. This letter, again referring in its caption to a "consulting agreement," in pertinent part provides:

This letter shall confirm our agreement pursuant to which RDP Development Corporation shall consult with (property owner) and contribute your good faith effort in regard to presenting our leasing proposal to the District of Columbia and you marketing the ...


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