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Pedrini v. Kiltonic

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 24, 2017

LACEY PEDRINI
v.
ELEANOR KILTONIC

          Argued October 17, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Woods, J.

          J. Xavier Pryor, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Lavine, Beach and Bishop, Js.

          OPINION

          BISHOP, J.

         In this landlord-tenant case, the plaintiff, Lacey Pedrini, appeals from the judgment of the trial court returning to her $1094.81, a portion of her security deposit plus interest. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the trial court erred by: (1) failing to award her double the amount of her security deposit pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) § 47a-21 (d) (2); (2) failing to find that the actions of the defendant, Eleanor Kiltonic, constituted a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), General Statutes § 42-110a et seq., and, therefore, failing to assess punitive damages and to award the plaintiff attorney's fees pursuant to § 42-110g (a) and (d); and (3) finding that the plaintiff was entitled to only a portion of her security deposit plus interest. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         In its memorandum of decision, the court found the following facts: ‘‘On or about October 19, 2010, the plaintiff . . . and the defendant . . . entered into a written lease agreement for the residential property located at 43 Whitney Avenue, Southington, Connecticut (hereinafter ‘the premises'). Upon executing the lease, the plaintiff paid a security deposit in the amount of $1590 to the defendant. The lease term was for eighteen months, with a monthly rent of $795.

         ‘‘Upon the expiration of the original lease agreement, on or about April 20, 2012, the parties executed a second written lease. The second lease term was for three months at the same monthly rent as the first lease.

         ‘‘On or about July 20, 2012, the plaintiff vacated the premises. Thereafter, on or about July 27, 2010, the plaintiff sent a letter to the defendant requesting the return of her security deposit and notifying the defendant of her new address.

         ‘‘On or about August 17, 2012, the defendant sent a letter to the plaintiff in which the defendant stated she intended to retain [the] plaintiff's security deposit due to alleged damages to the property caused by the plaintiff. The letter contained a detailed list of expenses allegedly incurred by the defendant and deducted the security deposit from said expenses. The defendant concluded the letter by claiming the plaintiff owed her additional funds for repairs to the premises.''

         The plaintiff's claim against the defendant contained two counts: in count one, the plaintiff sought, pursuant to § 47a-21 (d) (2), the return of her security deposit, plus interest, and double damages; in count two, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated CUTPA, and sought, pursuant to §§ 42-110g (a) and (d), punitive damages, costs, and attorney's fees. The defendant filed her answer on October 3, 2012, in which she set forth special defenses, claiming that she sent the plaintiff a letter that listed the damages and informed her that she was retaining the entirety of the security deposit. She also alleged that the plaintiff yelled and swore at her when she refused to return the security deposit. The defendant further alleged that the plaintiff and her dogs ruined the carpeting in the unit, which was installed at the beginning of the plaintiff's tenancy and had cost $1985.29. On October 4, 2012, the plaintiff filed a request to revise the defendant's special defenses. In it, the plaintiff requested that the defendant amend her special defenses to comply with Practice Book §§ 10-51 and 10-1. The defendant neither filed an objection to this request, nor amended her special defenses. On December 3, 2012, the plaintiff filed a motion for default for failure to plead, which the court, Abrams, J., granted on January 11, 2013.

         The plaintiff then filed a certificate of closed pleadings. Thereafter, a four day evidentiary hearing took place between May 24, 2013, and March 7, 2014, during which the defendant was self-represented. On July 2, 2014, the court, Woods, J., rendered judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $1094.81. In its memorandum of decision, the court declined to award the plaintiff double damages, attorney's fees and costs, or punitive damages. Rather, the court awarded the plaintiff the return of her security deposit plus interest, totaling $1622.36, reduced by $527.55 for a total award of $1094.81. The court found that the defendant was entitled to withhold $527.55 from the plaintiff's security deposit ‘‘for the costs of the water and sewer bills while the plaintiff occupied the premises, as well as the exterior cleanup costs.'' The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for articulation, and motions for reargument, for reconsideration, and for additur. All of these motions were denied by the court. This appeal followed. Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth as necessary.

         It is important to note at the outset that ‘‘[i]t is the trier's exclusive province to weigh the conflicting evidence, determine the credibility of witnesses and determine whether to accept some, all or none of a witness' testimony.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Gallo-Mure v. Tomchik, 78 Conn.App. 699, 715, 829 A.2d 8 (2003). With this in mind, we turn to the plaintiff's specific claims on appeal.

         I

         We address first the plaintiff's claim regarding the court's failure to award her double damages pursuant to § 47a-21 (d) (2). The plaintiff argues that because the defendant wrongfully withheld her security deposit at the end of her tenancy, the court was required to award the plaintiff double damages under § 47a-21 (d) (2). We are not persuaded.

         The following additional facts are relevant to our resolution of this claim. The plaintiff's first lease with the defendant ended on April 19, 2012, and the second lease began on April 20, 2012. By agreement, the defendant retained the plaintiff's security deposit from the first lease and applied it to the second lease, which ended on July 20, 2012. On July 27, 2012, the plaintiff sent the key to the premises to the defendant and enclosed her forwarding address. On August 16, 2012, the defendant sent a letter to the plaintiff stating that she was not going to return the security deposit. She enclosed a list of damages that she alleged were caused by the plaintiff, and the cost of repair for each.[1] The damages as listed totaled $4526.99. The defendant stated in the letter that she was retaining the security deposit, which totaled $1591.64 including interest, as partial payment for the damages. She requested that the plaintiff pay the remaining $2935.35 immediately.

         In denying the plaintiff's request for double damages, the court stated: ‘‘In the instant case, the plaintiff-tenant notified the defendant-landlord of her forwarding address and requested the return of her security deposit on July 27, 2012. The defendant responded with a letter, mailed on August 17, 2012, accounting for damages to the premises allegedly caused by the plaintiff. Notwithstanding whether the plaintiff actually caused said damages, the defendant satisfied the requirements of the security deposit statute by sending an accounting to the plaintiff within the required thirty day time period. As a result, the court finds that the plaintiff is not entitled to double the amount of her security deposit, plus interest. The court determines that the plaintiff is entitled to the return of her security deposit, plus interest, in the amount of $1622.36.'' The ...


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