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Keyes v. Brown

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

January 28, 2015


APPEAL FROM ST. BERNARD 34TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT. NO. 2014-00367, DIVISION " E" . Honorable Jacques A. Sanborn, Judge.



Hardell H. Ward, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Paul A. Bonin, Judge Daniel L. Dysart


Page 928

Daniel L. Dysart, Judge

[2014-0821 La.App. 4 Cir. 1] Appellants, Adrienne E. Brown and Roger L. Brown, Jr. (hereafter, collectively referred to as " the Browns" ) appeal the trial court's judgment of eviction which was based on their failure to timely make payments pursuant to the terms of a " Rent-to-Own Purchase Agreement" (hereafter, sometimes referred to as the " Agreement" ) entered into with appellee, Ellis Keyes. Appellants maintain that the Agreement was a bond for deed contract, requiring a forty-five day curative period prior to their eviction, rather than the time period afforded them.

After a review of the record, we do not find the Agreement to be a bond for deed contract. Rather, we find the Agreement to be ambiguous at best and deficient in most respects; it does not contain the elements of any particular nominate contract recognized by La. C.C. Art. 1914.[1]

Accordingly, and as will be set forth more fully below, we affirm the trial court's judgment of eviction.

Page 929


On September 26, 2013, Ellis Keyes, as " Executor," entered into a " Rent-to-Own Purchase Agreement" with the Browns. The Agreement is composed of 14 short paragraphs, which, with the exception of one, all contain one sentence. The Agreement states that Mr. Keyes " agrees to sell Estate at 3305 Corinne Dr., Chalmette, Louisiana..." to the Browns.[2] The Agreement then provides, in paragraph 2:

Rent payment of Seven-Hundred and Fifty Dollars are due by the 1st OF EACH MONTH toward the OWNERSHIP AND TITLE TRANSFER OF THE ESTATE which cost [sic] a grand total of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($100,000.00 USD) in 2013 dollars and balance will be adjusted for INFLATION beginning in 2015, then annually. No other additional fees or increases will be added during purchase.

The Agreement does not contain any specific provisions on default, other than that found in paragraph 8, which states:

Rent is payable in advance but if received after the 17th there will be a Twenty-Five dollar penalty Applied and if not received by the following month eviction proceeding[s] will ensue.

The Agreement also required the Browns to " purchase homeowners['] insurance in name [sic] of the Estate of Christine C. Keyes on the policy until paid in full." [3] The Browns were further tasked with " keep[ing] the grass cut, preserv[ing] the condition of the home and improv[ing] it" and forwarding any mail received with the rent payments to Mr. Keyes.[4]

[2014-0821 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] On April 7, 2014, Mr. Keyes filed a " Rule to show cause why possession of the property should not be delivered to the owner," seeking to have the Browns " return to [him] the title to the vehicle not paid for as promised" and to have " the Brown family...ordered to vacate the property." [5] Mr. Keyes alleged that the " rent" was " several months overdue," the Browns failed to pay contractual late fees and the Browns failed to meet the property insurance requirements. Mr. Keyes also maintains that the Browns failed to forward his mail as they were contractually required to do, and as a result, he sustained " damage and property loss."

The rule to show case alleged that notice was served on the Browns to vacate the property " not less than five days from the date of its delivery." Attached to the rule was an affidavit executed by Mr. Keyes attesting to the posting of a " Five day [eviction] notice" on the property on April 1, 2014.[6]

Page 930

The trial court set the rule to show cause for a hearing on April 25, 2014. On the day before the hearing, Adrienne Brown filed a verified answer, in which she contended, inter alia, that the rule for possession and notice to vacate state inconsistent and conflicting reasons for eviction, that she paid rent or offered to pay the rent on time (or within the grace period for payment), that she did not breach the lease and that she has a bond for deed contract on the premises, for which she did not receive a 45 day notice to cure pursuant to La. R.S. 9:2945.

[2014-0821 La.App. 4 Cir. 4] The matter was heard on May 29, 2014. Mr. Keyes represented himself at trial and testified, either in his case in chief or on cross-examination, to the following facts: (1) the Browns put down a deposit, but first paid rent a month late, which " took care of all the deposits" ; (2) the Browns were always late in their rent payments and never paid late fees, although he objected to the late and partial payments the Browns made, until he " finally drew the line firmly" ; (3) he received the rent in two ...

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