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Matt Banks v. Eastern Savings Bank

December 2, 2010

MATT BANKS, APPELLANT,
v.
EASTERN SAVINGS BANK, APPELLEE.



Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (LTB6111-06 & LTB6112-06) (Hon. Ronna Lee Beck, Trial Judge) (Hon. Judith Bartnoff, Trial Judge)

Argued November 19, 2010

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, GLICKMAN, Associate Judge, and NEWMAN, Senior Judge.

NEWMAN, Senior Judge: Tenant-appellant Matt Banks appeals three rulings of the trial court, all involving the same single-family dwelling owned by landlord-appellee Eastern Savings Bank (ESB). ESB became owner of the property pursuant to a trustee's deed after foreclosing on the mortgage of the prior landlord, Vasiliki Pappas. Banks claims ESB improperly served him with a notice to vacate because ESB did not provide a copy of that notice to the Rent Administrator within five days of delivery. Because our case law demands strict compliance with statutory and regulatory provisions in eviction proceedings, we agree and reverse the nonredeemable judgment of possession with respect to the basement unit of the property. We also agree that the trial court erred by enforcing a pre-foreclosure lease against Banks. A foreclosure action extinguishes all subservient leasehold estates. Therefore, pursuant to D.C. Code § 42-522 (2001), Banks' pre-foreclosure lease was vitiated by the foreclosure proceedings involving Pappas, converting Banks into a tenant at will. Because a tenancy at will "affect[s] the title to . . . interest in real property[,]" the trial court also erred when it ordered the removal of Banks' lis pendens notice pursuant to D.C. Code § 42-1207 (a) (2001). However, we affirm the trial court's denial of Banks' motion to intervene in an action involving the second-story unit of the property. Tenancies at will are not assignable possessory interests, and therefore the former tenant of the second story unit, Wedenha Kebede, never conferred any rights to the upstairs unit onto Banks. Without such an interest, Banks acquired no basis on which to intervene pursuant to Super. Ct. Civ. R. 24.

I.

Banks became a tenant of the basement unit of 2507 33rd St., S.E., Washington, D.C., on January 1, 1999, pursuant to a two-year renewable lease agreement with mortgagor Vasiliki Pappas. On February 1, 1999, Pappas entered into another lease with tenant Wedenha Kebede for the second-story bedroom of the property. Both leases forbade assignments without advance approval, limited occupancy to one person, and mandated compliance with municipal regulations. Neither lease was recorded with the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds.

Pappas subsequently defaulted on a November 1998 loan with appellee ESB, which was secured by a deed of trust for the property. ESB instituted foreclosure proceedings against Pappas, and on April 3, 2001, it purchased the property at a foreclosure sale, acquiring title on June 27, 2001. See Pappas v. Eastern Sav. Bank, FSB, 911 A.2d 1230 (D.C. 2006) (affirming foreclosure).

ESB later sought and obtained a judgment for possession of the property against Pappas, pursuant to a court order entered March 6, 2002. Carved out of that judgment for possession, however, were the two units held by Banks and Kebede, who intervened as defendants in the action to assert their possessory interests. Subsequently, ESB filed a Claim of Exemption form with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, classifying the property as a single-family dwelling.

In December 2006, ESB prepared Notices to Vacate or Quit on both Banks and Kebede; Banks was served on January 10, 2006. Banks' notice was premised upon various violations of the January 1 lease with Pappas, including, inter alia, subletting the basement unit to a third party. ESB delivered a copy of the notice to the Rent Administrator on January 19, 2006.

Based upon a purported assignment of the second-story bedroom unit dated October 31, 2004, Banks moved to intervene in the action against tenant Kebede on May 29, 2007, claiming a valid interest in the upstairs unit. On December 13, 2007, the trial court denied Banks' motion to intervene, finding that Kebede's purported assignment to Banks was invalid under Kebede's pre-foreclosure lease with Pappas. Therefore, the court concluded that Banks had no interest in preventing ESB from gaining possession of the second-story unit. On January 11, 2008, the trial court (Judge Beck) entered a judgment for possession as to the upstairs bedroom unit against Kebede, from which Banks now appeals.

ESB commenced an action for possession of Banks' basement unit on September 22, 2008. After a bench trial, the trial court (Judge Beck) determined that the notice to correct or vacate was not deficient in any technical respect, that it properly notified Banks of the violations of his lease, and that Banks violated the notice to correct or vacate by failing to cure the violations of the pre-foreclosure lease. Based on these findings, the trial court entered a non-redeemable judgment for possession in ESB's favor. After unsuccessfully seeking a stay of the enforcement of the judgment pending appeal, Banks noted an appeal challenging the entry of judgment for possession.

On November 5, 2008, Banks filed a notice of lis pendens with the land records in the District of Columbia.*fn1 In the notice of lis pendens, Banks did not purport to claim any present right to the title of the property, but rather sought to maintain his "right to possession" and "purchase rights," with respect to the property. ESB filed a motion to clear the title, release the lis pendens, and obtain sanctions against Banks. After conducting a hearing, the trial court (Judge Bartnoff) determined that Banks's asserted interests in the property were not a proper subject for a lis pendens, and accordingly it ordered the notice of lis pendens released. The motion for sanctions was denied, which ESB does not contest on appeal. Banks now challenges the release of the lis pendens.

II.

Banks first contests the sufficiency of ESB's Notice to Quit or Vacate. His argument centers on the applicability of 14 DCMR § 4300.1 (2004) of the Housing Chapter of Municipal Regulations, which provides:

No tenant may be evicted from a rental unit for any reason other than for non-payment of rent unless the housing provider has properly served the tenant with a valid written notice to vacate and has served a copy of that notice on the Rent ...


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