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Ossen v. Wanat

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 13, 1990

Jeffrey P. OSSEN
Gail WANAT et al.

Argued Jan. 3, 1990.

Certification Granted April 20, 1990.

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[21 Conn.App. 41] F. Woodward Lewis, Jr., Yalesville, with whom was Robert J. Mead, for appellants (defendants).

Barry T. Pontolillo, with whom, on the brief, was M. Frances Reese, Meriden, for appellee (plaintiff).



This appeal involves a summary process action in which the trial court rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff, Jeffrey P. Ossen. The defendants [1] appeal from that judgment claiming that the trial court erred (1) in finding that an oral month-to-month tenancy existed between the plaintiff and the defendant Gail Wanat, (2) in refusing to allow the defendants to sell their mobile home on the leased park site during the pendency of the summary process action, (3) in refusing to consider constitutional challenges to the summary process action, [2] (4) in denying the defendants' [21 Conn.App. 42] motion to dismiss and Laura Ellis' claim for exemption from judgment because of a lack of service on her of a notice to quit, and (5) in taxing expenses, including attorney's fees, on the defendants. We find no error.

The following procedural history is germane to this appeal. In 1985, the plaintiff and the defendant Gail Wanat entered into

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a written lease for lot twenty-four of the Three Oaks Mobile Home Park in Wallingford, owned by the plaintiff. On March 16, 1985, the plaintiff served the defendants with a notice to quit for failure to pay rent; he also informed the defendants, in a letter dated April 8, 1985, that future rental payments would be refused. No further action was taken on this notice to quit, even though the defendants continued to live in the mobile home, without paying rent, until 1988.

On May 14, 1988, the plaintiff served the defendants with another notice to quit, this one purporting to terminate an oral month-to-month agreement that existed between the parties since 1985. On July 7, 1988, the plaintiff filed the present action alleging the termination of an oral lease and demanding immediate possession.

On August 15, 1988, after Wanat informed the plaintiff of her desire to sell the mobile home, the defendants moved for a stay of the proceedings, and the next day the defendants filed a motion for permission to sell the mobile home. The trial court, Gaffney, J., denied [21 Conn.App. 43] both motions. On October 21, 1988, the trial court granted the plaintiff's motion to strike the defendants' twelve special defenses and a counterclaim asserting that the defendants were unjustly denied the right to sell their mobile home pursuant to the procedures set forth in General Statutes § 21-79. [3] The defendants moved to dismiss the proceeding because the notice to quit was not served on Laura Ellis, daughter of the defendant Gail Wanat and an alleged subtenant, and therefore did not meet the requirements of General Statutes § 47a-26h. After a hearing, this motion too was denied by the court. Thereafter, on November 18, 1988, the court, Gaffney, J., rendered judgment awarding possession to the plaintiff. The court reserved judgment, pending another hearing, on the plaintiff's motion for taxation of costs.

On January 31, 1989, Judge Gaffney issued a memorandum of decision in which he taxed expenses in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $25 and allowed him to recover attorney's fees in the amount of $250 because of the weakness of the defendants' case and because of the defendants' "abusive pleadings." The defendants' appeal followed.

After this appeal had been filed, Laura Ellis filed a claim for exemption on March 29, 1989. She based her claim upon the same argument asserted in the defendants' motion to dismiss, that she was entitled to notice because she was a subtenant in the mobile home. The [21 Conn.App. 44] court, Ripley, J., denied her claim, and the defendants filed an amended appeal raising this denial as part of their issue that the trial court erred in finding that Laura Ellis was not entitled to notice.

With respect to the defendants' first claim of error, we note that the single issue in the underlying summary process action was whether the defendants had failed to pay the rent due and owing to the plaintiff for the period noticed in the complaint. The record clearly supports the court's conclusion that they had not paid the rent. The record also contains ample evidence from which the court could reasonably have concluded that the parties began an oral month-to-month tenancy at the termination of their written lease. On review, we will not invade the factfinding province of the trial court or disturb its legal conclusions when they are sufficiently supported by the evidence Before it. Bowman v. 1477 Central Avenue Apartments, Inc., 203 Conn. 246, 256-57, 524 A.2d 610 (1987).

The defendants next argue that the trial court erred in denying their motion to sell their mobile home during the pendency of a summary process action in order to

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satisfy arrearages owed the plaintiff. As authority for their right to sell, the defendants cite General Statutes § 21-79. "Section 21-79 protects tenants at mobile home parks from being forced to sell to park owners at a substantial loss and as a consequence benefits many low income people who cannot otherwise afford to purchase more expensive housing." Eamiello v. Liberty Mobile Home Sales, Inc., 208 Conn. 620, 648, 546 A.2d 805 (1988), appeal dismissed, 489 U.S. 1002, 109 S.Ct. 1104, 103 L.Ed.2d 169 (1989). General Statutes § 21-80(b)(1)(A), on the other hand, specifically provides in pertinent part that "an owner [of a mobile manufactured home park] may terminate a rental agreement or maintain a summary process action against a resident who owns his mobile manufactured [21 Conn.App. 45] home only for one or more of the following reasons: (A) Nonpayment of rent, utility charges or reasonable incidental services charged...." Furthermore, "[s]ection 21-80(b)(4) provides that unless otherwise specified, 'proceedings under this chapter shall be prescribed under Chapter 832,' the general summary process chapter." Ossen v. ...

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