Midvalley woman out of the doghouse in eviction case | AspenTimes.com
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Midvalley woman out of the doghouse in eviction case

Allyn Harvey

A midvalley woman who was facing eviction from her home of five years was victorious in court Tuesday.

Pitkin County Court Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely ruled in favor of Maria Villigua, a single mother who speaks little English.

She will not have to leave the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park, even though she admitted to keeping a dog at her home in violation of her lease. In addition to keeping her home, Villigua will be able to recover court costs and attorney fees from the trailer park management.

Fernandez-Ely’s decision came a week after she heard allegations from the landlord, Richard Downey, that Villigua was lying on the stand, and from Villigua that Downey was a racist who was trying to take control of the park by evicting residents and buying their trailers.

The ruling addressed none of those inflammatory charges. Instead, the judge focused on the incomplete documentation and inconsistent application of park rules in the case.

The judge had found problems with the park management’s handling of the Villigua case from the outset.

On Oct. 18, according to testimony given last week, Downey handed a correction notice regarding the dog to an elderly man who answered the door at Villigua’s house. He then Scotch-taped a copy of the notice to the door.

“The First Notice states that Mr. Downey personally served Maria Villigua with a copy,” the judge wrote. “This was not the case; an unidentified man was served … With respect to whether `posting’ the notice with scotch tape is `affixing’ it, the Court finds that scotch tape is not designed to withstand wind and weather and is incapable of substantial attachment.”

Fernandez-Ely also pointed out that the first notice gave the wrong date of the start of Villigua’s tenancy and incorrectly identified the location of her trailer.

She also questioned why Downey didn’t investigate allegations that Villigua’s dog bit two children in October, when, according to his testimony, he first learned of the incident.

Fernandez-Ely’s ruling also points out that there is no evidence the second notice, a “Termination of Tenancy and Demand for Possession” purportedly issued on Jan. 10, was ever served directly to Villigua or affixed to her front door. She also noted that some of the reasons given for eviction on the second notice weren’t included on the first notice.

Finally, Fernandez-Ely took issue with the fact that the mobile home park management has been inconsistent in enforcing the rule against dogs for more than five years.

She noted that by 2000 there were considerably more dogs living at the park than allowed under the no-dog rule, which was adopted in 1995 and allowed the canine residents that were already living there to remain. “The tenant justifiably believed that dogs were now allowed,” Fernandez-Ely wrote.

And, the judge pointed out that other residents living illegally with dogs had been allowed more time to either find a new home for the dog or move out.

The judge concluded with a paragraph on the defendant’s right to recover her court costs. “The Defendant, as the prevailing party, is entitled to attorney fees and costs incurred in the defense of this action.”

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