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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Trent Cowherd, of Springfield, Missouri, proves that landlords can be among the world's biggest butt-holes

My wife, Carol, and I had owned our home in Birmingham, Alabama, for roughly 25 years before having it swiped out from underneath us in a foreclosure that was dubious (at best) and criminal (at worst). The process almost certainly amounted to a civil case of wrongful foreclosure, which under Alabama law, means an action that was taken not to recover the alleged debt owed but for some ulterior purpose.

I had forgotten what it was like to be a renter, but my memory was that the experience in Birmingham (from 1978 to 1990) was generally OK -- even though friends had shared a number of horror stories over the years. I had forgotten most of those tales, or who had even told them -- but they flooded back to mind after our experience of renting a two-bedroom duplex apartment from Trent Cowherd for a little more than 13 months (July 2014 to September 2015).

We've already shown Trent Cowherd, his lawyer Craig Frederick Lowther, lawyer David Shuler (my brother, for God's sake), and Judge Kelly Ann Halford took all sorts of flagrantly unlawful actions that led to our eviction last September 9 -- an event that left Carol with an arm broken so badly that it required repair from a trauma surgeon.

But what is it like to deal with a landlord in postmodern America? If our experience with Trent Cowherd and his staff is any indication, it is grim, indeed. An Answer and Counterclaim, which I filed on August 24, 2015, might best summarize what it was like to interact with the "professionals" at Trent Cowherd's company. (The Answer and Counterclaim can be read at the end of this post.)

Trent Cowherd and his wife, Sharon
(From Facebook)
I never received any document -- and I haven't seen any in a court docket -- that counters any of the factual statements or legal arguments in my answer/counterclaim. (By the way, our counterclaim was due to be heard on October 1, 2015, but we could not attend because Carol was in severe pain from arm surgery. I'm not aware of any answer being filed to our counterclaim, which should mean that we are entitled to a default judgment, under the law.)

My primary communications came with a Cowherd employee named Megan after someone had left a Notice to Vacate on our door on July 2, 2015. (See copy of the notice at the end of this post; the lease calls for such 30-day notice to be provided on the first of the month--the notice is a classic example of Cowherd violating its own lease.)

Carol and I were a bit stunned to receive a Notice to Vacate, given that our rent had always been timely paid, and even Cowherd never suggested that we were anything other than model tenants. When I called and asked Megan what was up, she explained that my mother, Gondy Shuler, had indicated she no longer wanted to be cosigner when the 13-month term was up at the end of July and the agreement was due to continue on a month-to-month basis.

Megan stated that a Notice to Vacate had been placed on our door because Carol and I had not been qualified on our own. This presented a couple of curious issues:

(1) No one from Cowherd, prior to placing the Notice to Vacate on our door, ever contacted us to say we needed to qualify on our own;

(2) When I asked Megan to point out where such a requirement was spelled out in the lease, she was stumped. That, of course, is because the lease includes no such language.

Did Megan react well to having it pointed out that no such provision existed in the lease? Not exactly. "I don't have to renew a lease with you, and we're deciding not to renew the lease."

Notice the tone that some might describe as "snotty." Also, notice that we suddenly were not being told to vacate because we had not qualified on our own -- we were being booted at Cowherd's whim. And that whim developed when the company was informed that it was attempting to violate its own lease.

Trent Cowherd
(from Facebook)
Now, get this: Megan plainly stated that we were to vacate by July 31, based on a whim, so obviously our rent for August was not due. But when Cowherd filed a "rent and possession" lawsuit against us on August 5, it claimed we were in arrears on rent. And this came after Cowherd's own representative had essentially told us not to pay the rent -- that we were going to be forced to vacate, regardless.

Does this sound like the action of a butt-hole to you? It sure does to me.

And get this: Cowherd had the audacity to send us a bill claiming we owed more than $2,000 for new carpet, paint, and other miscellaneous items. The carpet was filthy when we moved in, so much so that we had to wash our feet every night to get the stench off. Uncarpeted areas had not even been swept, and the sinks were clogged from the moment we arrived. As for paint, we did nothing to the walls or any other painted area.

When the same landlord proceeds to unlawfully schedule an eviction inside the 10-day window when no such action can take place, under Missouri law . . . and the same landlord ignores a Notice of Appeal that had been timely filed and placed an automatic stay on the eviction . . . and the same landlord allows cops to burst into your apartment with an assault rifle and multiple handguns drawn . . . and one or more of the cops assaults your wife and leaves her arm in a shattered state -- well, that's pretty solid evidence that Trent Cowherd is a butt-hole of world-class proportions, at least when it comes to running his company.


Anonymous said...

What you describe is an uneven playing field. Tenants are in a very weak position, compared to landlords.

Anonymous said...

You should interview some landlords. I bet they can tell hair-raising stories about tenants from hell.

Anonymous said...

I've been a landlord, and if your rent was timely paid, you kept the place clean, and never drew any complaints, there is no rational reason to run you off. Something else had to be going on here.

(BTW, in my view, the bit about wanting to have you qualify on your own is bogus. If your rent was timely paid, whether it was paid by your mother, brother, or Peter Rabbitt, I see no reason why the landlord would care about that. Landlords want their money each month, on time, and I've never known one to care where it came from.)

legalschnauzer said...

Something else was going on in this situation, @11:18, for sure. My best guess is that involved Alabama thugs, with ties to Missouri thugs, who didn't like the (accurate) reporting on my blog. I had broken the story about Gov. Robert Bentley's affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason roughly 10 days before this "eviction," so the timing there is curious.

S C said...

To 11:18's point, landlords don't care where the money comes from as long as they get it - on time each month. Take that a step further; a tenant who pays on time & causes no problems is somewhat hard to find these days - no one in their right mind runs off a good tenant because the landlord knows they have to start the process all over again, not to mention being out money for a month or two depending how long it takes to find a new tenant.

Makes you wonder if someone 'paid' for that month or two empty stretch in return for them booting you?

legalschnauzer said...

You raise an excellent point, SC. And I should note that there was absolutely nothing in the lease that said we had to "qualify on our own" if the co-signer (my mother) decided she wanted her obligations to end. If there had been such a provision in our lease, we would have followed it, no problem. But I do have a problem when a landlord tries to make us jump through a hoop that isn't there -- and Cowherd's rep. admitted under oath in court that no such provision was there.

What's really disturbing on a personal level is the evidence that suggests my brother, a long-time "friend," and maybe even my mother were involved in knowingly making this happen -- and now my wife has an arm that, while surgically repaired, will never be the same.

Anonymous said...

Well, at the end of the first lease, in many places all that is required is a notice that there is no renewal, even if the terms of the original lease have an auto renewal provision or a month to month extension. The landlord doesn't have to renew or continue on a month to month basis if they want to do something else with the property or get new tenants.

In this case the Shulers had a co signer, required for them to obtain a lease in the first place. Iin fact it was a good thing for the landlord that there was a co signer on the hook for rent, because the co signer ended up making rent payments.

That co signer decided to end her financial obligation. The landlord didn't want to rent anymore with our a co signer, because the Shulers could not qualify for a lease without a co signer.

That was the landlords right. If the Shulers intended. To claim notice was untimely, and they had another month to vacate, they should have paid the rent timely for that month. In similar vein, the notice to vacate was a clear sign that the lease would not continue as before. The wise thing would have been to either stay on good terms with the landlord and re negotiate terms of a new lease, Or to begin a hunt for new lodgings.

To attempt to stay on a single days lapse of notice might succeed for a single month, but no further, and rent would still be delinquent if to paid. To attempt to stay AND not pay is not justifiable even if the landlord said don't pay because I want you out on July 31. An attempt to pay should have been made if there was an attempt to stay. And the Shulers did stay the entire month of August without even attempting to pay. There is no circumstance that would give them right to lodge there for free. Trying to force expensive legal action on the landlords part to reclaim his property instead of renegotiating a short extension ( with payment) or search for new lodgings). led to eviction.

Reading between the lines of published communication by David Shuler, it appears he was trying to extricate his mother from any further financial obligation to the landlord. I get the sense that she had expected Roger and Carol to pay the lions share of the rent, and had been stuck with the rent for most of the lease if not all of it. She felt they hadn't gotten work and had not kept their end of the bargain. At any rate, she didn't want to support them as consigner any longer. The landlord has the right to say no to a month to month renewal when the lease is up, with proper notice.

legalschnauzer said...

Don't know who you are, @3:32, but you obviously are clueless about the facts and law in the case. I will show why, taking it paragraph by paragraph:

1 -- This graph is accurate.

2 -- The cosigner did not "end up" paying the rent. It was agreed at the outset she would pay the rent for one year.

3 -- There is no language in the lease saying Cowherd can breach the contract just because the cosigner doesn't want to be involved anymore. If Cowherd wants to conduct business this way, it should put such language in the lease. This was breach of contract, something not in the lease, something R & C Shuler never agreed to. This is just fundamental lying and cheating with a tenant, which led to significant damages for us.

4 -- You are saying it's the landlord's right to breach the contract? What law can you cite to support that? I already know the answer: None. The Shulers had signed a lease, and Cowherd was trying to violate it. Trying to hold Cowherd to the lease that had been signed was the proper move -- except that Cowherd is a bully who is used to getting its way, no matter how badly they try to cheat tenants. Must make you proud to work there.

5 -- This all is a lie. I had it on tape that Megan said Cowherd did not want to lease to us, on a whim. And she or some other woman admitted in court, under oath, they were requiring actions from the Shulers that weren't in the lease. This is breach of contract, and probably fraud. This situation was real simple: The Shulers wanted the lease enforced, as written, and Cowherd did not because their own lease did not favor them, for whatever agenda they were trying to pursue. Why don't you be honest and tell us about your agenda.

6 -- Again complete baloney. Gondy Shuler (she's my mother, too, not just David's) agreed to pay the rent for one year, so she wasn't "stuck" with anything. We had kept our end of the bargain and were prepared to pay the rent on month to month basis, as provided in lease, until Cowherd sent thugs to evict us, even though we had filed a notice of appeal and the eviction was stayed. I agree with your last sentence, but you can't accomplish that by violating the lease and breaching the contract, which is what occurred here -- and you must know that because you haven't even tried to deny it.

Looks obvious that you work for Cowherd, which is typical. You don't have any idea about the facts or law surrounding this matter. Are you Trent Cowherd's wife; that would be my guess.

I had a feeling Cowherd was a fly-by-night outfit when we moved in, and I was right. The place was filthy when we moved in. You run a slipshod shop and then try to blame a model tenant when your thuggery leads to problems. I would recommend that no one do business with Cowherd.

Anonymous said...

In last night's debate, Donald Trump said, in so many words, that cheating people is just "business," good business I assume.

Trent Cowherd seems to subscribe to that same form of conducting business. They had every opportunity to write their own one-sided lease, and they still could not abide by it.

This is the kind of "business as usual" that prompted many Americans to support "outsider" presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trump, obviously, is not an outsider, other than the fact he's nuts. But Bernie Sanders showed that a whole lot of Americans want corrupt businesses like Cowherd held accountable.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you post a copy of the lease, @3:32. You obviously work for the landlord. Post the lease so we can see if it includes a section about a co-signer getting off the lease, requiring a tenant to qualify on his own.

legalschnauzer said...

They don't need to post the lease, @5:31. I have it right here:


Anonymous said...

It's funny that I read your headline and thought it seemed a little strong to call the landlord a butthole. Then @3:32 pipes in and proves the landlord is a butthole.

S C said...

Here's what i find interesting:

There an eviction epidemic in the US - when i Googled it, i found umpteen articles. When i Googled foreclosures, i found that there were over 500,000 as of July 2016.

Point being: LS's story is not unique...a foreclosure and an eviction is an everyday occurrence, however the circumstances behind both his and his wife's are far from the norm. Which makes the fact that somebody(s) follows this blog quite closely & seems hellbent on pointing the finger at them quite peculiar, considering there are others (such as MO cops) who act like this was an everyday Missouri eviction...

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, an everday eviction, with 7-8 deputies on hand, including the sheriff himself, plus assault weapons and umpteen handguns drawn.

Oh, I forgot how the Cowherd crew responsible for removing our belongings wound up stealing a bunch of them, according to an eyewitness.

S C said...

You know what just occurred to me? The sheriff's office used that kind of manpower and firepower for a routine eviction for you guys, but there are people in this country who can't get rid of squatters in their own homes!
Squatters rights...seriously? Thieves stealing homes & privacty that law enforcement 'can't' , 'won't' touch, but they evict you guys with assault weapons from a rental property.....


legalschnauzer said...

You make a number of profound points, SC, and renters and owners need to be aware of them.

As I've written many times here, our legal problems started 16-plus years ago when a neighbor with a lengthy criminal record simply refused to stay off our property. He even threatened to sue me for telling him to keep himself and his family members/guests off our yard. We eventually found out that he had built a fence that took up about 400 square feet of our property. This raises a couple of issues that we had to ponder in a serious way:

(1) If you allow an obstruction to remain on your property, you risk eventually losing that property under a legal doctrine called adverse possession. That's why we had to face the problem and have the fence moved. But that pissed off Mr. Criminal and, I think, made him more determined to screw with our property rights.

(2) If you allow trespassers to come and go, and one of them gets injured on your property, guess who can be sued for it -- you! Your homeowners insurance could go through the roof or you could lose it altogether.

We know what the stealing of homes is like. We've been victims of it, even though the law says the right to the "quiet enjoyment" of private property is almost absolute.