Plaintiff: Emma Pelton, pro se; Abigail Schmidt, pro se
Defendant Donald R. Lembo, Esq.
this Court is a non-jury trial arising from an appeal of a
District Court ruling in favor of tenants Emma Pelton and
Abigail Schmidt (Plaintiffs) brought by Pier Realty, LLC
(Defendant) regarding a lease of an apartment. Jurisdiction
is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 9-12-10.1.
filed their claim on July 26, 2018, seeking return of a
security deposit held by the Defendant. The District Court
conducted a non-jury trial, returning a verdict in favor of
the Plaintiffs after hearing testimony and reviewing
photographic and documentary evidence. Defendant invoked its
right to appeal and parties waived the right to a jury trial.
In addition, the Defendant filed a counterclaim on February
21, 2019, seeking compensatory damages for breach of the
lease agreement by the Plaintiffs when they allegedly failed
to leave the rental unit in rentable condition.
Court conducted a trial in the instant matter on February 22,
2019. The Court heard testimony from Plaintiffs, as well as
from Defendant's Property Manager, Sandra Kashouh. In
addition, multiple photographs of alleged damages, email
communications between the parties, and assorted bills were
entered into evidence during the trial. Furthermore, the
lease agreement entered into by the parties was entered as
evidence and reviewed by the Court.
well-settled that an appeal to the Superior Court in landlord
tenant actions proceeds on a de novo basis.
See § 9-12-10; see also Bernier v.
Lombardi, 793 A.2d 201, 202 (R.I. 2002). Moreover, in a
subsequent non-jury trial in Superior Court, '"[t]he
trial justice sits as a trier of fact as well as of
law."' Parella v. Montalbano, 899 A.2d
1226, 1239 (R.I. 2006) (quoting Hood v. Hawkins, 478
A.2d 181, 184 (R.I. 1984)). Furthermore, "[w]hen
rendering a decision in a non-jury trial, a trial justice
'need not engage in extensive analysis and discussion of
all the evidence. Even brief findings and conclusions are
sufficient if they address and resolve the controlling and
essential factual issues in the case."' Parella, 899
A.2d at 1239 (quoting Donnelly v. Cowsill, 716 A.2d
742, 747 (R.I. 1998)).
review of all submitted evidence and testimony, the Court
makes the following findings of fact:
1. The parties entered into a written agreement in which
Plaintiffs would rent and reside in an apartment unit located
at 174 A South Pier Road, Narragansett, Rhode Island, owned
by the Defendant, for the 2017-2018 academic year running
September 6, 2017 to May 23, 2018.
2. By written agreement, Plaintiffs paid Defendant $3600 upon
acceptance of the agreement, with $1200 of this initial
amount deemed a security deposit. See Pls.' Ex.
1, at 1.
3. Within the agreed upon rental contract, paragraph four
details the nature of the security deposit. Specifically,
section 7 of the aforementioned Paragraph indicates "[a]
reasonable cleaning expense provided [Plaintiffs] do not
leave the premises in a clean and rentable condition at the
time you vacate." Id. at 2.
4. Plaintiffs vacated the unit upon completion of the
2017-2018 school year.
5. Plaintiffs requested a walkthrough of the apartment in May
prior to the end of the rental term but the request was
denied by the Defendant.
6. Defendant was at the unit in early May prior to the
expiration of the lease term and did not inform the
Plaintiffs of any issues relating to the "rentable"
condition of the unit. Defendant later conducted a