Providence County Superior Court (PD 18-8373) Associate
Justice Melissa A. Long
Plaintiff: Tara Naughton, Pro Se
Defendant: Peter J. Hopkins, Esq.
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia,
tenant, Tara Mae Naughton (tenant), appeals pro se
from a Providence County Superior Court judgment in favor of
the landlords, Billy and Rodolphe Guilloteau (landlords), for
rent owed in the amount of $2, 033 and for possession. This
case came before the Supreme Court for oral argument on
November 6, 2019, pursuant to an order directing the parties
to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal
should not be summarily decided. Tenant did not appear, the
notice of oral argument mailed to her was returned as
undeliverable, and she did not provide the Court with a
forwarding address. Accordingly, with assent from counsel for
landlords, we shall decide this case on the basis of the
memoranda submitted by the parties.
begin by briefly summarizing the facts, over which there is
relatively little dispute. At some point in 2018, tenant
viewed an apartment owned by landlords and agreed to rent the
apartment for $1, 000 per month. Tenant thereafter paid
landlords $2, 000 for a deposit and one month's payment
of rent on July 23, 2018, and moved into the apartment on the
next day. Thereafter, tenant stopped making payments because,
she said, she was dissatisfied with the condition of the
apartment. On October 25, 2018, landlords served tenant with
a five-day demand notice for nonpayment of rent. After
receiving no payments from tenant in response to the five-day
demand notice, landlords filed a complaint on November 1,
2018, in the Sixth Division District Court for eviction for
nonpayment of rent, alleging that tenant owed $2, 000 in back
rent for the apartment. After an eviction hearing on November
13, 2018, the hearing judge entered judgment for landlords
for possession and directed tenant to pay $1, 250 in damages
and $145.75 in costs.
filed a timely notice of appeal to the Superior Court on
November 19, 2018. A hearing on that appeal was held in
Superior Court on November 30, 2018, with both parties
appearing pro se. The trial justice dismissed the
appeal on the merits and entered judgment for landlords in
the amount of $2, 033 and for possession. Tenant filed a
timely notice of appeal to this Court on December 3, 2018.
appeal, tenant asserts that the Superior Court justice erred
in dismissing her appeal. She lists maintenance and repair
defects that she alleges existed in the apartment, and she
asks this Court to vacate the Superior Court judgment.
to G.L. 1956 § 9-12-10.1, an appeal to the Superior
Court in landlord-tenant actions proceeds on a de
novo basis." Bernier v. Lombardi, 793 A.2d
201, 202 (R.I. 2002). Because a "mere filing of the
appeal vacates the District Court's judgment * * * all
questions of law and fact are reviewable by the Superior
Court[.]" Id. This Court's "review of
the trial justice's work product is deferential: 'the
findings of fact of a trial justice, sitting without a jury,
will be given great weight and will not be disturbed absent a
showing that the trial justice overlooked or misconceived
material evidence or was otherwise clearly wrong.'"
Id. at 203 (quoting Technology Investors v. Town
of Westerly, 689 A.2d 1060, 1062 (R.I. 1997)).
reviewing the record and the transcript, we decline to
consider the merits of tenant's claim because she has
failed to make her rent payments while the appeal is pending,
in accordance with G.L. 1956 §§ 34-18-52 and
34-18-53. Section 34-18-52 directs that:
"Whenever an action for the recovery of real property is
pending on appeal in the superior or supreme court, the
tenant in the action shall pay to the landlord sums of money
equal to the rent for the premises, which * * * sums shall be
paid at such times and in such amounts as rent would be due
and payable were the action not then pending."
event that the tenant fails to pay such sums pursuant to
§ 34-18-52, § 34-18-53 "provides for the
dismissal of an appeal upon a showing by the landlord of
nonpayment of rent." Brooks v. Hill,
667 A.2d 1262, 1263 (R.I. 1995) (mem.). Here, it is
undisputed that tenant has failed to pay rent to landlords as
ordered by the Superior Court and continues to fail to pay
rent. Additionally, tenant has not argued that landlords
failed to follow the proper eviction procedures required by
§ 34-18-35. We have said that "[l]andlords who obey
the law and perform the obligations imposed upon them by this
statute are entitled to the benefits that it provides."
Russo v. Fleetwood, 713 A.2d 775, 777 (R.I.
1998) (mem.). As such, because tenant failed to pay her rent
during the pendency of this appeal, in accordance with §
34-18-52, we conclude that the trial justice's dismissal
of tenant's appeal was proper.
reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the
Superior Court. The ...