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Landlord wins 30,000 suit against wealthy tenant.
The story in the press:
The owners of an upscale home in Dallas’ exclusive Preston Hollow neighborhood have won a complete defense victory and significant attorneys’ fees in a lawsuit filed by Dr. Craig Schwimmer, founder of The Snoring Center, and his wife, Shanon, following a two-year dispute over a security deposit.
Dallas attorneys Darrell W. Cook, Catherine A. Keith and Melissa J. Parker of Darrell W. Cook & Associates won the case on behalf of Oklahoma residents Olayinka and Akinola Ogundipe, who own the 5,100 square-foot property on Meaders Lane.
Dr. Schwimmer and his wife asked for more than $48,000 in their lawsuit, but they were awarded nothing and instead were ordered to pay more than $30,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.
“Dr. Schwimmer signed a lease requiring him to maintain this lovely home, but instead he trashed much of the property and added insult to injury by filing this lawsuit,” says Mr. Cook. “Fortunately, the judge refused to let Dr. Schwimmer avoid his obligations and entered judgment for the full amount requested by my clients.”
The Schwimmers paid $16,000 in security deposits before moving into the house in 2013. Shortly after the doctor and his wife terminated the lease and moved out in June 2015, the Ogundipes discovered extensive damage to their yard and home. The owners then began collecting estimates for repairing damaged windows and woodwork, and restoring the poorly watered and maintained yard, which was filled with pet waste.
The Ogundipes refunded nearly $5,000 of the deposit and withheld the remaining amount for repairs. Shortly after, they were contacted by the Schwimmers’ attorney, Brian Hurst of Baker & McKenzie in Dallas, one of the country’s largest law firms.
Mr. Hurst sent an email cautioning the Ogundipes that he suspected they “would prefer not to incur the time and expense of defending a lawsuit in Texas. Nor would you want the existence of this lawsuit, which may be found in a title search, to interfere with your efforts to sell the house.”
The Schwimmers then sued for three times the deposit amount, claiming the damage amounted to normal wear and tear. They also accused the Ogundipes of violating the Texas Property Code by not refunding the deposit within 30 days. Mr. Cook countered by noting that the Schwimmers breached the lease by paying their rent late seven times in less than two years, and that their deposit was refunded only one day late, after the repair estimates were completed.
Following a bench trial, Judge King Fifer of Dallas County Court-at-Law #2 ruled in the Ogundipes’ favor and ordered that the Schwimmers take nothing. The judge also required the Schwimmers to pay more than $1,600 for additional repairs and $30,000 to cover the Ogundipes’ attorneys’ fees.
Lawyers representing brokers in Texas Association of Realtors arbitration.
We represent real estate agents and brokers in Texas Association of Realtors arbitration.
The Texas Association of Realtors arbitration process has many pitfalls that realtors are not told about. There are technical rules and references the state law that no one explains. As lawyers, we have been very successful in representing real estate agents and brokers in arbitration matters.
This is a story about a Texas Association of Realtors arbitration case we won for a Texas real estate broker that was simply impossible to believe, but it’s true.
We represent a Texas real estate broker who listed a property for a seller. The buyer initially viewed the property without an agent. But the buyer had a relative who was an agent. The buyer’s agent then proceeded to assist the buyer but agreed to zero commission to keep the price of the property lower.
The Sales Contract between the buyer and seller indicated in two separate places that no commission would be due to the buyer’s agent and this signed contract was emailed back and forth between our client and the buyers agent before execution and closing with no objections from the buyer’s agent.
The buyer’s agent further showed up at closing and made no objections to the fact that she was not receiving a commission at closing.
Nevertheless, the buyer’s agent filed an arbitration claim against our client (the listing broker) seeking 3% commission stating that the MLS listing offering 3% commission was the only relevant agreement between brokers and that the Sales Contract was irrelevant.
We took the matter to arbitration and after a full hearing involving multiple witnesses the Texas Association of Realtors Panel found unanimously in favor of the listing agent and no commission was awarded.
This was another example when the power at your disposal when you have a savvy and knowledgeable representative.
Writ of Garnishment + Foreign Judgment = Paid in Full
Writ of Garnishment + Foreign Judgment = Paid in Full
Some of our most interesting and successful work involves the enforcement and collection of foreign judgments issued by courts in other states. Relying on the Texas Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, we regularly help clients enforce and collect foreign judgments with speed and efficiency.
Typically, debtors are unaware that we have even started the process of domesticating a judgment from another state. Even though they know the judgment has been entered, they are almost always surprised to learn that we have been quietly working behind the scenes to make sure our client gets paid.
One of our favorite (and most reliable) tactics is to file the foreign judgment in a Texas court before waiting a few minutes to file a separate writ of garnishment with the debtor’s bank. When we do this, the debtor has no idea what is coming since the writ of garnishment will be served on their bank before they even know that the judgment has been domesticated in Texas.
That’s the same model we used in one foreign judgment case by domesticating a judgment and filing a writ of garnishment back-to-back. We received a fax the next day from the bank’s lawyer confirming the amount of the foreign judgment and letting us know that the debtor had plenty of funds to cover the full amount.
Within an hour, the debtor’s lawyer called and asked that we dismiss our garnishment in exchange for a payout over 60 days. Naturally, we declined since we already had access to the funds, and it was a good thing we did. We later learned that the debtor had just borrowed a large sum of money to pay off another obligation, which had yet to be funded. Our garnishment froze the account, and the rest is history.
A major factor in this case was the fact that our client had kept copies of the checks from the debtor’s bank account and their credit application. With that information in hand, we collected the entire judgment in 72 hours.
This story provides an important lesson and a question we ask all of our collections clients: “Are you accumulating bank account information for your customers?”