Friday, August 27, 2010

Roanoke Landlord Ordered To Pay Triple Damages Totalling $13,600



Landlord Gunther Gass was charged triple damages in court today for trying to use an unconventional method of tenant removal. From what I understand a landlord only pays triple damages if they have over 10 units or are Section 8 landlords. Gunther Gass appears to have 2 houses and this case doesn't appear to be section 8 because the tenant had rent to pay. If anyone knows the law on this please comment.


Landlord ordered to pay tenant

Gunther Gass of Elliston had tried to evict his renter by turning off her water. By Mike Gangloff
 981-3336

A landlord who tried to evict a tenant by turning off her water, reporting her to Child Protective Services and summoning police to roust her from her bed must pay $13,600, a judge said in an order to be entered in Roanoke General District Court today.

Shannon M. Boyd's struggle with her landlord, retold last week in court, began in December when she notified him she had lost her job and would be unable to pay the $575 monthly rent until she got her final paycheck. Boyd shared a Southeast Roanoke duplex with her two children and her boyfriend.

The landlord, Gunther Gass of Elliston, replied that she'd better find the money.

On Dec. 29, Gass had Boyd's water turned off. On Dec. 30, he came to the duplex with a city housing inspector, who condemned the building and said no one could live there unless water was restored within two days. Gass said he had no intention of doing that unless Boyd paid him, she said.

Then, after Gass and the inspector left, a Child Protective Services worker arrived to tell Boyd that Gass had reported she was keeping her children, ages 1 and 4, in an unsafe home.

Boyd moved her children to her parents' home in Bedford County, but returned to the apartment late on New Year's Day. Her arrival was reported to Gass by neighbor Elizabeth Dudley, who described herself in court last week as a neighborhood watch leader.

Gass called police, then came to the duplex and unlocked the door so officers could enter. Boyd testified that she was in bed and was undressed, and officers made her put clothes on as they watched, then charged her with trespassing and told her to leave the apartment. The trespassing charge was thrown out when it came to court.

In last week's hearing, Gass apologized and said he had acted badly. He said he had been swayed by months of calls from Dudley, who said the eight security cameras around her residence recorded activity that included fights and what she thought might be drug dealing.

But when Judge Frederick King asked Dudley if she had definitely seen drugs, she said she had not. And Boyd said that topless video footage of her that Dudley claimed to have taken could only have been shot through Boyd's window.

In the order set to become effective today, King said that Gass, who had more than 15 years experience as a landlord, knew how to lawfully evict someone. Instead, Gass showed a "willful and wanton disregard" for Boyd's rights and violated his own lease with her, King said.

King awarded $2,500 to Boyd for a trespass claim, $2,500 for malicious prosecution, $2,500 in punitive damages and refunded her $575 security deposit.

He said Gass violated Virginia landlord-tenant and consumer protection laws, and awarded Boyd $525 as triple damages for an illegally steep $175 late fee Gass charged when Boyd was a few days late with her November rent. King also ordered Gass to pay $5,000 to the Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley, which represented Boyd in her lawsuit against Gass.

"It's really nice to have recognition that all the claims were well-founded," attorney Henry Woodward of the Legal Aid Society said.

Gass will have 10 days to appeal King's order.

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