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03/01/88 Clovis Beeding, v. Thomas K. Miller

March 1, 1988





520 N.E.2d 1058, 167 Ill. App. 3d 128, 117 Ill. Dec. 707 1988.IL.277

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. Paul A. Logli, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE INGLIS delivered the opinion of the court. LINDBERG, P.J., and NASH, J., concur.


This action was brought by the owner of a mobile home park to evict the owner of a mobile home from property leased in that park. Defendant filed a counterclaim against plaintiff and third-party complaint against plaintiff's wife. The trial court held in favor of defendant on plaintiff's complaint and in favor of plaintiff and third-party defendant on defendant's counterclaim. Plaintiff appeals challenging the trial court's interpretation of section 8 of the Mobile Home Landlord and Tenant Rights Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 80, par. 208), the constitutionality of that section as interpreted, and the court's finding on the facts presented. Defendant cross-appeals challenging the sufficiency of the evidentiary hearing held by the trial court on defendant's counterclaim. We affirm.

Plaintiff, Clovis Beeding, is the owner and operator of the Maple Leaf Mobile Home Park located in Loves Park, Illinois. Defendant, Thomas Miller, is the owner of a mobile home located on lot 38 of the mobile home park. Defendant leases that site from plaintiff pursuant to a written lease executed between the parties on July 29, 1981. The lease term is for one year and is renewed automatically unless either party provides the other with adequate notice of their intent not to renew. On June 8, 1985, defendant received notice from plaintiff that his lease of the mobile home lot would not be renewed at the end of the term. Pursuant to section 8 of the Act, a landlord's notice of intent not to renew must state the reasons for nonrenewal, such as nonpayment of rent, violation of the law, or violation of the park rules. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 80, par. 208.) Plaintiff's reasons for non-renewal were stated as follows:

"1. Continual violation of park rules. Specifically, paragraph 9, in that the yards have not been kept neat and clean.

2. In violation of paragraph 12 of the park rules and regulations, disposal of garbage has created a health hazard which situation endangers the other tenants in the park."

Defendant was provided with a copy of the park rules and regulations at the time he signed the lease. Paragraph 9 of the park rules and regulations provides, inter alia, that the tenant keep his lot neat and lawn clean and mowed. Paragraph 12 regulates the disposal of trash and garbage, specifically describing the type of garbage containers required, pickup times, and further prohibiting storage of the containers in front of the mobile home.

Despite receiving the notice of nonrenewal, defendant did not vacate the premises at the expiration of the lease term ending July 29, 1985. Instead, defendant attempted to continue making monthly rent payments. Payments attempted after July 29, 1985, were refused.

On August 20, 1985, plaintiff filed this action seeking possession of lot 38. This is plaintiff's third judicial attempt to regain possession of lot 38. Plaintiff's first attempt was dismissed for failure to comply with notice time provisions. Plaintiff's second attempt ended in a decision for defendant because plaintiff failed to show that defendant had notice of the park rules and regulations. In the instant action, defendant filed his answer denying the allegations in the notice of non-renewal and raising affirmative defenses. Defendant also filed a counterclaim against plaintiff and third-party complaint against plaintiff's wife, Dorothy Beeding, alleging numerous violations of statutes and local ordinances and seeking injunctive and compensatory relief. Defendant later filed an amendment to his counterclaim and third-party complaint adding a second count and alleging that the Beedings were engaged in deceptive practices in violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 121 1/2, par. 261 et seq.). Count II also sought injunctive and compensatory relief.

The trial court held a hearing at which time plaintiff introduced evidence on the reasons for non-renewal of the lease and defendant presented rebuttal evidence and evidence on the counterclaim. Essentially, the trial consisted of both sides calling neighbors to the witness stand to testify regarding the condition of defendant's lot. These witnesses gave conflicting accounts regarding the upkeep of defendant's lot, particularly with respect to the length of the grass and weeds around defendant's mobile home. With regard to defendant's disposal of garbage, one witness did testify vaguely on that point, but did not state what she found objectionable about it. She did state that defendant occasionally left empty oil cans in his front yard; however, this was not corroborated. A second witness objected to defendant storing his garbage containers on his back porch as opposed to in a storage shed. Other witnesses testified that there was nothing objectionable about the manner in which defendant disposed of his garbage.

The court also heard from an inspector of the Illinois Department of Health who stated that none of the violations alleged in defendant's counterclaim existed on the occasions he inspected the mobile home park for license eligibility. Also, an investigator for the Loves Park Planning and Zoning Department testified that he was currently investigating allegations of nonconforming uses in the mobile home park.

Defendant rested following the presentation of his evidence, and counsel for the parties were given an opportunity to make summations. On September 16, 1986, the trial court rendered an oral ruling finding that (1) the statutory provision allowing a mobile home park owner to terminate a lease with notice and a statement of reasons requires proof of cause; (2) the statutory provision requiring proof of cause to terminate a mobile home lot lease is constitutional; and (3) plaintiff was not entitled to possession of the lot since he failed to show cause for termination of the lease. The trial court further determined that the evidence presented at trial was not sufficient to support the relief sought in either counts I or II of defendant's counterclaim. The trial court's oral decision indicated that a written order would follow.

Prior to the entry of a written order, plaintiff and defendant filed their respective appeals from the court's oral decision. The parties stipulated that the transcript of the trial court's oral decision was true and accurate and, if necessary, should stand in lieu of a written order. We subsequently entered an order allowing plaintiff "to supplement the record with a copy of the report of proceedings at the hearing on September 16, 1986, before the trial Judge, containing the judgment order of the trial court and a stipulation of the parties that said report of proceedings is accurate." Our order did not state that the transcript of the oral decision could stand in lieu of a written order. (See E. J. De Paoli Co. v. Novus, Inc. (1987), 156 Ill. App. 3d 796, 798 (appellate court's jurisdiction cannot be conferred by agreement of the parties).) This case was originally set on our September 1987 docket. On July 28, 1987, we dismissed both appeals in an order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 23 (107 Ill. 2d R. 23) after questioning our jurisdiction in the absence of a written order as required by the trial Judge. Beeding v. Miller (1987), 156 Ill. App. 3d 1171 (unpublished Rule 23 order).

On July 31, 1987, plaintiff filed his motion with the trial court for entry of a written order. On August 6, 1987, a written order was entered in accordance with the trial court's prior oral decision. Plaintiff and defendant then filed their respective notices of appeal and cross-appeal from the written order. The parties have resubmitted their original briefs at our invitation., PLAINTIFF'S APPEAL

Plaintiff first contends that the trial court's interpretation of section 8 of the Act requiring the landlord to show proof of cause for non-renewal of the lease was error. Plaintiff argues that the section 8 language requiring a landlord to state the reasons for non-renewal is "surplusage" and "does not mandate proof of those stated ...

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