Submitted June 4, 2018
Decided August 9, 2018 [*]
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(LTB-30715-15) (Hon. Joan Zeldon, Trial Judge)
Michael Chambers, pro se.
P. Torres was on the brief for appellee.
Fisher, Thompson, and Easterly, Associate Judges.
Thompson, Associate Judge.
se appellant Michael Chambers appeals from a May 22,
2017, judgment of the Superior Court Landlord and Tenant
Branch enforcing a court-approved settlement agreement
between Chambers (and his wife) and appellee Jessica Cobb.
The court enforced the settlement agreement upon a finding
that Cobb, the former tenant of a property owned by the
Chamberses, substantially complied with the agreement. Mr.
Chambers's primary contention on appeal is that the
court's ruling effectively modified the terms of the
settlement agreement. We affirm.
settlement agreement, entered into by the parties on October
4, 2016, and approved by the court, arose out of a complaint
filed by the Chamberses in the Landlord and Tenant Branch to
recover possession of the Chamberses' property at 2406
Perry Street, N.E. ("the property"), pursuant to
the recovery for "personal use and occupancy"
clause of D.C. Code § 42-3505.01 (d). The parties agreed
to entry of a nonredeemable judgment of possession, which was
to be stayed until March 31, 2017, the agreed-upon date by
which Ms. Cobb was to move out of the property. The first
sentence of ¶ 1 of the agreement obligated Ms. Cobb to
"vacate the [p]roperty, leave broom-clean, and return
all keys to [the Chamberses] no later than 5 pm" on that
date. The next sentence of the agreement states that
"[t]ime is of the essence." Under ¶ 3 of the
agreement, Ms. Cobb was further required to pay rent "in
the amount of $800.00 per month" for October and
November of that year and was "responsible for the full
and timely payment of all utilities through the date she
vacates." The settlement agreement provided that
"[i]f and only if [Ms. Cobb] vacates as required in
¶ 1, and pays as required in ¶ 3," the
Chamberses would "[r]emit to [her] funds in the amount
of $4, 000.00 by March 31, 2017."
April 18, 2017, Ms. Cobb moved to reopen the case to enforce
the settlement agreement. At a hearing on that motion on May
22, 2017, the motion judge heard testimony from Mr. Chambers
and from Monique Cobb, appellee Cobb's daughter, who had
resided with her mother in the property (hereafter,
"Monique"). Monique told the court that when Mr.
Chambers and his wife "showed up" at the property
on March 31 at "about 4:50 p.m.," she told them
that she had asked Ms. Cobb's counsel to send Mr.
Chambers an email "to ask for an extension of
time." Monique further testified that she told the
Chamberses that the Cobb family had moved household items out
of the property "on multiple times" and had called
for bulk trash pickup in connection with the move, but on
March 31 had been slowed down in moving remaining household
items because "it was windy, it was raining, [and] it
was storming." Monique testified that she told the
Chamberses that the Cobb family "would be done [moving
out] at 9:00 p.m." Monique further testified that she
"waited after 9:00 p.m. about 20 minutes to see if [the
Chamberses] . . . would return." Since they did not
return, Monique left a note dated March 31, 2017, 9:17 p.m.,
which Mr. Chambers read to the court, that stated in
pertinent part, "Please see inside envelope for keys.
Regarding trash outside, we will be back to collect this
court received documentary evidence that Ms. Cobb's
counsel sent an email to Mr. Chambers on March 31 at 4:43
p.m. "asking for a slight extension until 9:00 pm [that]
night to move everything," explaining that Ms. Cobb
was "moving out the last bit of [her] belongings,"
but that "the rain ha[d] unfortunately slowed down that
process." Mr. Chambers responded at 5:07 p.m. stating
that appellee was "supposed to be out by 5:00
p.m.," that she had therefore "violated condition
#1" of the settlement agreement, and that he would
therefore "not be paying [her] the remainder [$4, 000]
of the money."
Chambers told the court that after receiving the email from
Ms. Cobb's counsel at 4:43 p.m. on March 31 requesting an
extension of time and responding with an email denying the
request, and after leaving the property at the conclusion of
his discussion with Monique, he "did not return [to the
property] until [he] got [a] notice from [Ms. Cobb's
counsel] . . . on April 3," stating that "[t]he
Cobbs vacated the apartment on March 31st and left
the keys to access the property in the mailbox at that
conclusion of the testimony, the motion judge ruled that Ms.
Cobb had "substantially complied with the [settlement]
agreement," that any breach was "de
minimis," and that "whatever [Mr. Chambers
was] supposed to do for [Ms. ...