October 13, 2015
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
CAB-5314-12, Hon. Thomas J. Motley, Trial Judge
Hornal for appellant.
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.
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
and ADJUDGED that the trial court's decision is affirmed
in part and reversed and remanded in part.
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.
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
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]
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.
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.
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.