Court Sides with Landlord in He Said/She Said Eviction Case
What Happened: In January 2021, a tenant signed an offer to purchase the building with closing to occur within 45 days. But after six months of unsuccessful negotiation, the deal fell through. The landlord then sued to evict the tenant for failing to pay rent for the period after the first three months of negotiations. The tenant claimed that the sides had orally modified the lease to relieve it of its duty to pay rent through closing (except for during the first 90 days). The tenant also accused the landlord of threatening eviction if she didn’t have sex with him. After hearing both sides of the story, the trial court found the landlord more credible and granted the eviction order.
Ruling: The Wisconsin appeals court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
Reasoning: Courts are “the ultimate arbiter” of witness’ credibility and their judgments in this regard should not be taken lightly. True, the lease did include some handwritten notes, including one stating “accept as Paid for 90 days,” the court acknowledged; the tenant also pointed out a few instances where the landlord’s account went against the written record. However, “these snippets fall far short of the showing necessary to reverse the trial court’s credibility finding,” the court concluded. Moreover, even if the tenant’s account of being threatened with eviction for withholding sex was true, Wisconsin law recognizes retaliatory eviction only for residential and not commercial leases.
- M.R. Commerce Bldg., LLC v. TLM Dev. LLC, 2023 Wisc. App. LEXIS 103, 2023 WL 1426520