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Falconi-Sachs v. Lpf Senate Square LLC

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

July 7, 2016

Maia Falconi-Sachs, Appellant,
v.
LPF Senate Square, LLC, et al, Appellees.

          Argued October 13, 2015

         Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia CAB-5314-12, Hon. Thomas J. Motley, Trial Judge

          Daniel Hornal for appellant.

          Ward B. Coe III, with whom David W. Kinkopf, and Hillary H. Arnaoutakis, were on the brief, for appellees.

          BEFORE: Blackburne-Rigsby and Easterly, Associate Judges; and Pryor, Senior Judge.

         JUDGMENT

         This case came to be heard on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the trial court's decision is affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         Appellant Maia Falconi-Sachs appeals from an order dismissing her complaint pursuant to Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Having paid a late rent fee of $249.85, she alleges that this fee-assessed and collected by appellees, apartment building LPF Senate Square LLC ("Senate Square"), and Bozzuto Management Company, LLC ("Bozzuto")-was illegal under various theories. We affirm the Superior Court's 12 (b)(6) ruling as to all claims but one: Ms. Falconi-Sachs's claim of unjust enrichment. As to that claim, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Facts

         On August 24, 2011, appellant and another person (both recent law school graduates) signed a one-year lease agreement-with a term beginning on that date-for a Senate Square apartment at 201 I Street Northeast, Washington, D.C. 20002. The lease named appellant and the other person as the "Lessee, " Senate Square as the "Lessor, " Bozzuto as the lessor's "Agent, " and set the monthly rent amount at $2, 499.00. The lease section entitled "Rent Payments" included a clause (in capital letters) as follows:

RENT PAYMENTS NOT RECEIVED BY THE FIFTH (5TH) DAY OF THE MONTH FOR WHICH SAID PAYMENT IS DUE SHALL BE SUBJECT TO A LATE PAYMENT CHARGE OF TEN PERCENT (10%) OF THE MONTHLY RENT AND SUCH LATE CHARGE WILL BE IMMEDIATELY DUE AND PAYABLE AS ADDITIONAL RENT PURSUANT TO THE TERMS OF THE LEASE. PROVIDED, HOWEVER, IN THE EVENT LESSEE FAILS TO PAY THE RENT WITHIN FIVE (5) DAYS AFTER THE DUE DATE, SUCH FAILURE SHALL BE CONSIDERED A WILLFUL NON-COMPLIANCE AND THE LESSOR OR ITS AGENTS MAY PROCEED WITH LEGAL ACTION PURSUANT TO STATE LAW. THE LESSEE SHALL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL COSTS, INCLUDING ATTORNEY'S FEES, EXPENDED BY THE LESSOR OR HIS AGENT, IN ENFORCING THE COLLECTION OF ANY DELINQUENT RENT AND/OR LATE CHARGES AS PERMITTED BY STATE LAW. [Emphasis in original]

         On April 6, 2012, appellees placed a "Final Notice Letter" under appellant's door, informing her that her April rent had not been received, and that a late fee in the amount of $249.85 was due immediately. Appellant gave appellees a check for $249.85 on April 21, 2012.

         II. Procedural History

         On June 27, 2012, appellant filed a class action complaint in the District of Columbia Superior Court, alleging violations of the Consumer Protection Procedure Act ("CPPA"), fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unconscionability, and restitution/unjust enrichment. She amended the complaint on July 12, 2012, in order to add appellees' addresses for service of process. On August 16, 2012, the case was removed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, but later was remanded and appellees were ordered to pay appellant's attorneys' fees. Falconi-Sachs v. LPF Senate Square, LLC, 963 F.Supp.2d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2013). On February 14, 2013, the case was re-opened in Superior Court, and appellant filed a motion for class certification. Appellant later orally requested without opposition that the motion for class certification be stayed, and the trial court granted her request. On June 21, 2013, appellant filed a subsequent amended complaint. Appellees then filed a motion to dismiss on July 12, 2013, and the motion was granted on February 7, 2014.

         The trial court dismissed appellant's CPPA cause of action, holding that it "falls within the realm of landlord-tenant relations and thus outside the scope of the CPPA." The court further held that appellant's fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims failed to meet the respective elements of those torts, that her unconscionability claim failed to plead sufficient facts to show either procedural or substantive unconscionability, and that her unjust enrichment claim was barred by the voluntary payment doctrine. This appeal followed.

         III. ...


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