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IRET Properties v. Lee

Supreme Court of North Dakota

May 8, 2018

IRET Properties, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Cassidy Lee and All Other Occupants, Defendants and Stephanie Lee, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Joshua B. Rustad, Judge.

          Jeff L. Nehring and Hernando I. Perez, Williston, ND, for plaintiff and appellee, appeared on brief. No appearance at oral argument.

          Stephanie Lee, self-represented, Williston, ND, defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          VANDEWALLE, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] Stephanie Lee appealed from a judgment evicting her, and any other person or persons claiming under her, from her Williston premises and awarding IRET Properties ("IRET") $880.00 for attorney's fees and costs. Lee argues IRET failed to perform all the prerequisites under N.D.C.C. ch. 4732 in order to bring an eviction action against Lee, and therefore, they were unlawfully evicted. Lee further argues the district court failed to make sufficient findings on the issue of default and the district court improperly awarded IRET attorney's fees and costs. We conclude IRET properly brought an eviction action against Lee for failure to pay rent and the district court's findings are sufficient to sustain its conclusions. We affirm the judgment.

         I

         [¶ 2] IRET owns the premises at 4915 11th Ave. West, Apartment 511, Williston, North Dakota, and leased the property to Lee in July 2017. Lee's monthly rent included $1, 050.00 plus $5.00 per month for a trash fee and $24.50 for utilities.

         [¶ 3] Between July and September 2017, IRET cited Lee for several lease infractions including excessive noise during quiet hours, keeping unauthorized pets in the apartment, and riding bikes in the apartment building. On September 18, 2017, IRET gave Lee a notice of intention to evict due to multiple lease infractions. Lee refused to vacate the premises. On October 6, 2017, IRET cited Lee for two lease infractions, failing to leash their dogs and leaving garbage in a public area.

         [¶ 4] Lee failed to pay October's rent on time. On October 9, 2017, IRET served Lee with a "3 day notice to pay rent or vacate" for failure to pay October's rent, in addition to $125.00 in late fees. On that same day, IRET served Lee with a summons and complaint for violation of the lease by failing to pay rent, and failure to get proper registration or paperwork for their alleged service animal[s]. On October 12, 2017, Lee paid $1, 337.63 for October's rent, late charges, and utilities.

         [¶ 5] A hearing was held on October 18, 2017. On October 23, 2017, the district court entered an eviction judgment against Lee.

         II

         [¶ 6] Actions for eviction are governed under N.D.C.C. ch. 4732. Schmitt v. Schmitt, 2014 ND 225, ¶ 5, 857 N.W.2d 362. This Court has explained:

Section 473202, N.D.C.C., provides for an expedited procedure, with the defendant allowed between three and fifteen days to appear and defend in the action. If the court finds for the plaintiff, the court must enter judgment granting immediate restitution of the premises to the plaintiff, but the court may delay execution in case of hardship for a reasonable period not exceeding five days. N.D.C.C. § 473204. The statute strictly limits the parties' ability to combine the eviction with other claims and precludes the defendant from interposing a counterclaim, except as a setoff to the plaintiff's claim for damages, rent, or profits. N.D.C.C. § 473204. The proceeding is limited to a speedy determination of the right ...

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