Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 4 Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-15-04681-D.
Justices Francis, Lang-Miers, and Whitehill
ELIZABETH LANG-MIERS JUSTICE
Busby Baker appeals a take-nothing judgment in favor of her
landlord, Forrest Reggie Carr, in this landlord-tenant
dispute. Baker sued Landlord in justice court for breach of
contract, violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices
Act, and retaliation. The justice court rendered a
take-nothing judgment in favor of Landlord, and Baker
appealed to the county court at law. After a bench trial, the
county court also rendered a take-nothing judgment in favor
of Landlord, and Baker appealed. We affirm the trial
2012, Baker leased a rural single-family residence on one
acre of land for herself and her children from Landlord under
a rental assistance program through the Department of Housing
and Urban Development and the Dallas County Department of
Health and Human Services Housing Division (the Housing
Authority). Because of the size of the property, Baker and
Landlord agreed in writing that Landlord would provide lawn
care. Landlord provided lawn care through a lawn care service
owned by Emanuel Palmer for the first two years without
incident. In 2014, however, a dispute
arose about the scheduling of lawn care. Baker complained
that Palmer showed up at inconvenient times without notice.
She testified that she needed a more rigid schedule so that
she could prepare her disabled daughter for the noise and
presence of the workers, and ensure that someone was home to
watch their dog. Baker said Palmer showed up one time
unannounced and took the gate off its hinges in order to
enter the property. Her son testified that it made his mother
anxious that someone entered the property without permission.
attempted to resolve Baker's complaints about lawn care
while still providing lawn care to her. According to
Landlord, Baker wanted Palmer to come on Saturdays at noon.
But Landlord testified that Palmer worked in the area where
Baker lived on Mondays and Tuesdays and could not accommodate
Baker's request to come on Saturdays because of his other
obligations. Landlord testified that Palmer "would come
on every other Monday, Tuesday. And then he called me, and he
was - he was very upset. He said that she had berated him and
cursed him out right there in the street, and just went on
and on and on. And he says, you know, I just - you know,
he's a real passive dude, and he said, I can't do
this. And so, he just left."
told Palmer he would talk to Baker, and he thought he had
everything worked out. But when Palmer came to mow
Baker's yard the next time, "they got into the
altercation. You know, she started yelling at him."
Landlord said Baker texted him every time this happened.
Finally, Palmer said "I'm not going to do this. . .
. And he said, First of all, it's embarrassing . . . .
of all, I don't have to put up with that." Landlord
thought he "got all that straight, " but it
happened again the next time Palmer came to mow. Landlord
said Baker got mad because Palmer blew dried grass or leaves
on some of her things she had just cleaned. Palmer offered to
go back and clean it up, but Baker did not want that. So
Landlord stopped providing lawn care to Baker. Baker told
Landlord that she found someone to mow the yard for $50 each
time, but Landlord said he already had a lawn care service.
In 2014 and 2015, Baker and her sons tried to maintain the
lawn using a push mower.
April 2015, Baker complained to the Housing Authority about
Landlord's failure to provide lawn care, other
maintenance issues, and a rent dispute. About a week later, Landlord sent a
certified letter to Baker advising her that he would not
renew her lease at the expiration of its term on October 31,
2015. The letter was returned unclaimed. Landlord called
Baker in June and read the letter to her over the phone.
approximately July 2015,  Baker sued Landlord in justice court and
sought damages of $3, 300 for breach of contract, violation
of the DTPA, and retaliation alleging Landlord's
"failure to honor lease agreements with cessation of
lawn care repairs and termination (refusal to renew lease
agreement), retaliation." In her complaint, she alleged
that Landlord refused to renew the lease in retaliation for
her "complaint of his harassment for monetary demands
back in April, in addition to a declining mutually respected
Landlord/Tenant relationship that has grown increasingly
difficult due to his lack of prompt fulfillment, if at all,
of his Landlord obligations." She alleged that
Landlord's neglect of his obligations resulted in
"much debris that pose health and safety hazards to
myself and my family and/or future guests." She sought damages under the DTPA and
property code, asked that Landlord be ordered to provide
repairs and lawn care for the remainder of her tenancy, pay
moving expenses estimated to be $2, 000, refund her deposit
of $650, and pay $650 "in punitive damages for willful
retaliation of refusal to renew."
September 11, 2015, the justice court denied Baker all relief
and rendered a take-nothing judgment in favor of Landlord.
Baker appealed to the county court at law, and the case was
set for a bench trial in February 2016. Meanwhile, two days
before her lease expired on October 31, 2015, Baker sent a
letter to Landlord advising him that due to circumstances she
would not be able to vacate the premises until sometime in
November. In November 2015, Baker and her family moved.
moved for a continuance of the trial in county court, but it
was not granted. The parties presented the evidence we
previously detailed. Baker testified to damages of $465
related to lawn care; she did not testify about any other
damages. The court took the matter under advisement and
rendered a take-nothing judgment in favor of Landlord.
Neither party asked for and the trial court did not make
findings of fact and conclusions of law.
appeal to this Court, Baker makes numerous arguments and
attaches over 100 pages of documents to her brief. To the
extent these documents were not admitted into evidence before
the trial court, we have not considered them. She asks us to
render judgment for her or, alternatively, remand to the
of Review & ...