Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Was my Missouri-lawyer brother, David Shuler, blowing smoke up my fanny when he suggested it was fine for a landlord to shut off utilities on tenant?

(Updated at 11:15 a.m., 10/12/16, to include extended version of e-mail between Roger Shuler and his brother, Missouri lawyer David Shuler.)

What does it mean when your landlord tries to force you out of property by turning off the utilities? It means you have a really sleazy landlord because such forms of "constructive eviction" are unlawful in all 50 states.

What does it mean when your brother, who happens to be a lawyer and a landlord, tries to convince you it's perfectly fine for landlords to turn off utilities in order to get tenants out? It probably means you have a pretty crappy brother.

My wife, Carol, and I experienced both of these scenarios in the process of losing our home in Birmingham, Alabama, to what now appears to be a wrongful foreclosure. To say the experience was unpleasant would be a Bunyanesque understatement. When it happened, I had just been released from being unlawfully incarcerated for five months -- and if forced to make a choice, I would gladly go back to jail for another five months over going through another foreclosure.

Who was the landlord that illegally shut off our utilities? That would be Spartan Value Investors, a Birmingham company headed by a fellow named Clayton Mobley, which apparently was the winning bidder for our house in a courthouse auction. Once Spartan bought our house -- assuming it was done lawfully, and that's a big if -- we became "tenants at sufferance" and they became our landlords. That means they could use the normal eviction process, if necessary, to get us out of the house. But they could not turn off our utilities. Someone apparently forgot to tell the creepy capitalists at Spartan about that little quirk of the law.

What about the lawyer/landlord who tried to convince me that it would be fine for Spartan to shut off our utilities? That would be my brother -- attorney David N. Shuler of Springfield, Missouri.

Hmmm . . . whose side was David Shuler really on here?

First, let's consider the actions of Spartan Value Investors. As one of their employees, Lindsay Jackson Davis, periodically stopped by to post threatening notices on our door, we received word from Alabama Power and Birmingham Water Works that our accounts had been taken out of our names and placed with Spartan.

This was strange for several reasons. In most landlord-tenant agreements I'm aware of, the tenant pays for utilities, so the landlord wants them in the tenant's name. Here was Spartan doing just the opposite -- putting the accounts in their name, even though it was our responsibility to pay them as long as we were there. Even more troubling, both utilities swapped the accounts over before ever contacting us. They apparently just took Spartan's word that the property belonged to them and did not check with us before making the change. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems Spartan came real close to tortiously interfering with our business relationships with the utility companies. (Note: After Carol had several conversations with them, Alabama Power apparently came to its senses and put the account back in our name -- we timely paid it, and our power never was shut off.)

With my brain fried from having been kidnapped and thrown in jail, I tried to consult my lawyer brother about all of this. Here's what he said, via an e-mail dated May 28, 2014:

I don't handle real estate matters and I certainly do not know the law in Alabama. I do know that here in Missouri, they do start turning off utilities one by one to try to get people to leave the house voluntarily as opposed to being removed by force. I know there are some rules about turning off the heat if it is extremely cold outside, but otherwise, I think the new owner can turn off the utilities as they see fit. Again, that is just my understanding but I certainly do not know the law on that issue.

That paragraph includes enough qualifiers to sink the Lusitania, but the gist of it this: According to David Shuler, Esq., it's common practice for landlords to turn off utilities, one by one, on tenants. And get this . . . such tactics are designed to get the tenant to leave "voluntarily." Who knew? (Note: A reader suggested I run the full e-mail exchange, and I think that's a good idea. I've added an extended version of the e-mail at the end of this post.)

My brother and Spartan Value Investors apparently were on the same wavelength. (Imagine that!). A "friend" from my college days visited us in Birmingham and convinced me to go back to Springfield with him for a few days, while Carol held down the fort in Birmingham. While I was gone, I got a frantic call from Carol, saying that our water had been turned off. My memory was that it was off for several hours before, via multiple calls to Birmingham Water Works, she was able to get it back on.

Was any of this lawful -- and did my attorney brother have a clue what he was talking about? First, let's consider the law in Alabama, where this happened and where Spartan Value Investors operates. This is from Code of Alabama 35-9A-427:

Section 35-9A-427

Recovery of possession limited.

A landlord may not recover or take possession of the dwelling unit by action or otherwise, including willful diminution of services to the tenant by interrupting or causing the interruption of heat, running water, hot water, electric, gas, or other essential service to the tenant, except in case of abandonment, surrender, or as permitted in this chapter.

OK, it's real clear: Landlords cannot shut off utilities in Alabama. What about the law in Missouri --where David Shuler, being both a lawyer and a landlord, might be expected to know a little something about such matters. This is from Missouri Statute 441.233:

Any landlord or its agent who willfully diminishes services to a tenant by interrupting or causing the interruption of essential services, including but not limited to electric, gas, water, or sewer service, to the tenant or to the premises shall be deemed guilty of forcible entry and detainer as described in chapter 534; provided however, this section shall not be applicable if a landlord or its agent takes such action for health or safety reasons.

That is as clear as the law in Alabama, maybe clearer; a landlord who shuts off utilities to a tenant is violating the law. How could David Shuler, who is both a lawyer and a landlord, not know that?

Is David Shuler a bad lawyer, a bad landlord, a bad brother -- or maybe all three? Or maybe, like so many other members of his profession, he instinctively turns into a con man when it serves his purposes -- or the purposes of other con artists who have sought his assistance.

That leaves us with this question: Whose purposes is David Shuler serving, and does it involve stabbing his brother and sister-in-law in the back?


Accounting Bulldog said...

You brother was just trying to help, from what I can read. Maybe post the entire email so we can judge for ourselves? He didn't really know the law as it turned out. He probably loves you and is frustrated with your behavior.

You should have gotten a real lawyer. Better yet, why didn't you take care of your situation? I pay my mortgage on time every month. If I can't afford it I'd get another place to live. Pretty simple stuff. I know you've been through some tough situations, but if people can survive floods and war, you can survive your stuff.

It's tough to help a paranoid -- they don't trust you, pretty simple. Narcissists are also challenging, re. D.J. Trump. You might benefit from talk therapy and support. Might help you deal with stuff. Maybe stay offline for a bit.

You're in a tough way and my prayers are with you.

legalschnauzer said...

You are an interesting character, Mr. Bulldog. You say your "prayers are with" me. (Gee, that's so comforting.) But you suggest I'm a paranoid and a narcissist, and you compare me to Donald Trump. Good thing you are in accounting, because you certainly could not make it in psychiatry. Your bedside manner is nonexistent.

This conversation with my brother had nothing to do with our mortgage. But for the record, ours was paid on time every month for 23 years, until the impact of being cheated out of our jobs by Alabama political forces too hold. Of course, you want to "pray" for me, but you conveniently ignore facts like that. (BTW, how many years has yours been timely paid?)

I'll double check, but I'm pretty sure I've included everything he said in the e-mail. By the way, he's a landlord, so if he is so wildly wrong about the law that governs his business venture, I sure wouldn't want to live in one of his properties.

I soon will be running an ex parte letter he wrote to a judge about me, and it will prove your "he loves you and is frustrated with you" line is baloney.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mr. Bulldog: You don't sound like much of a bulldog; you sound like an apologist for unethical behavior. Perhaps you interact with lawyers, so it's in your best interests to protect them. Roger's brother has every reason to know the law regarding landlords, but he chose to lie to his own flesh and blood about it? Gross, gross, gross. David N. Shuler should be ashamed of himself.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bulldog on one thing: It is pretty simple stuff. It's plain as day that your brother was trying to get you and Carol out of your house. Why would he do that? Not sure, but some of the possible answers don't make your brother look very good.

Chuckles said...

Lesson for today: If a lawyer's lips or moving, or his fingers are tapping on a keyboard, he's blowing smoke up your fanny.

Anonymous said...

Let these words sink in:

"I do know that here in Missouri, they do start turning off utilities one by one to try to get people to leave the house voluntarily as opposed to being removed by force. I know there are some rules about turning off the heat if it is extremely cold outside, but otherwise, I think the new owner can turn off the utilities as they see fit."

I find that highly disturbing. Your brother sounds like a sadist to me. It's like he enjoys sharing this BS, which he knows will cause panic and anxiety for you and your wife.

Anonymous said...

Did your brother's words play a role in you and Carol leaving your house?

legalschnauzer said...

That's a very good question, @11:26, and the answer is "Lord, yes"! It played a huge role, along with the fact that Spartan Value Investors put the utilities in their name for the clear purpose of shutting them off. As I note in the email, we even were told Spartan had put a lock on our water. We probably would have stayed and fought the foreclosure/eviction if it hadn't been for that. (Also, we were hampered by the fact I had been in jail for five months, and my brain was pretty much fried. I just didn't have the capacity at that point to help Carol much with fighting it.) Any legal action would have been before a corrupt Shelby County judge, but there was at least a chance we still would have our house.

Anonymous said...

Your brother sounds like he came from Donald Trump's seed. There is an off-handedness about his lies that makes me think his soul is deeply scarred.

Anonymous said...

@10:21's tone reminds me of the comments you were getting from the person who talked about some one in Jasper. You had outed some AM customers then.

Anonymous said...

Your brother's words remind me of those tapes Al-Qaeda used to release. There is a sense of terrorism about it.

Anonymous said...

Aside from issues with your brother, you are doing a true public service by writing about landlord-tenant law. I wish every tenant could read this. I fear many of them fall victim to such unlawful stunts.

Anonymous said...

The water company told you that Spartan Investors put a lock on your water? That sounds almost criminal.

legalschnauzer said...

It's darned horrifying, I know that. When you add that it was almost June in Alabama, and we were looking at having our electricity turned off, well . . . a house can become hot enough to kill somebody.

My understanding with the water is that Spartan put the bill in its name and then failed to pay the bill. Hence, the water got cut off.

Accounting Bulldog said...

June in Alabama and no electrical? Yeah sure your house will become so hot people die... Gee I wonder how many people died before air conditioning??? Now you're making me laugh! Do what the Old Folks did and take care of your business.

Don't get me wrong. No question you were hard done by. I feel bad for you being tossed in jail like a sack of sh*t, but most of the other things you should have been jailed for, you've walked away from. Since you have nothing, you have nothing to lose, but no credibility. Nine people out of ten watching your creepy YouTube videos can see right away that you're like Uncle Lester the perv my mother warned me about.

I'm a church-goer and I hear people saying "I’m a Christian and so I’m all about forgiveness because nobody’s perfect". I am sure as sweetness a Christian who believes in redemption for people who make mistakes. That includes you, my ex wife, and Donald Trump as well. If someone does something terrible I can forgive ‘em, I suppose, if they’re sincere about it, but I don’t want them necessarily trying to be a "journalist" and attacking their family and anyone in a suit based on ZERO evidence at all.

Yeah, you were right once. But a broken clock is right twice a day, and you can't even pull that off.

That said, maybe there’s a whole sinister deal going on, a whole deal going on there where your brother for no reason at all gives a cr*p about some real estate company and wants to screw you. Sure, sure. And the moon is made of holy blue cheese.

Don't insult my profession when you currently can't generate a cent for yourself!

Accounting Bulldog

Accounting Bulldog said...

Let me tell you, reading these insults when I DID NOT insult you in any way makes me very very upset. I PREYED for you more than once, not just under my breath. I went to my PASTOR and I asked him what do you do for a man who turns on his brother? It's right there in the Bible, Cain and Abel. It isn't some cartoon on the cartoon network, it's as real as real can be. I said to him with Russian government to help Trump that WikiLeaks hasn’t released

S C said...

I read comments on LS's posts about this matter, and some people cast doubt about the circumstances surrounding LS's arrest, their foreclosure, move to MO, Spartan, etc)

But the word conspiracy comes to mind - considering one of the people LS wrote about (the lobbyist who happened to be tight with a former Governor) prior to his arrest -she went on to get proceeds from the sale of LS and his wife's house. That is unf'ing real. The more i think about it, the more it seems like a message: WE CAN DO WHATEVER THE HELL WE WANT & GET AWAY WITH IT, TOO.

legalschnauzer said...

Well, Mr. Bulldog is back: I said before you were quite a character, and you prove me correct again. It seems you can't edit your own comments or any thought that comes in your head. Your comments are so peculiar, I have no idea if they are meant to be taken seriously or not. You now claim you didn't insult me, but you suggested I'm paranoid and narcissistic (pretty sure you have no idea what that one means). Now, we learn you "preyed" for me (interesting spelling of that word and claim I turned on my brother, apparently never considering the evidence that shows it was the other way around. Oh now, I'm a perv.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your "insights" with us, but when it comes down to it, you just aren't very bright or very interesting. I do have no doubt that you have an ex wife. God only knows what she had to endure.

Anonymous said...

Brother David gets even more sadistic in the extended version of the e-mail. Get this:

"I also don't know what the new owner can or can not do with your personal belongings once they have you removed from the premises. I have heard horror stories about belongings just being set outside and getting damaged by rain or stolen. I don't know what duty if any they have to protect your belongings. That is why I think it would be much safer and smarter to move your things to another place while you still have control of the situation."

This guy clearly was trying to terrorize you and your wife, and he seems to enjoy it. Actually uses the term "horror stories." Scary, scary dude.

legalschnauzer said...

Memo to "Holden Mikoch" at @5:16 --

Feel free to call me at (205) 381-5673, and I would be happy to discuss. Comment you left makes no sense in written form, but perhaps you can explain it verbally.

The tone of your comment, plus the "clever" name you've chosen for yourself, makes me think you are a deeply disturbed person. Maybe you can prove otherwise in a different format.

Anonymous said...

Hah! You got a comment from somebody using the name "Holden Mikoch"? Was a fifth grader? No wait, that sounds like a juvenile of the third-grade level.