Thursday, October 6, 2016

Why did my brother, Missouri attorney David Shuler, try to convince me that it's fine for landlords to turn off utilities on tenants--when it clearly is unlawful?

If you live in rental property, it probably will become apparent -- if it hasn't already -- that you are in a one-sided relationship with your landlord. Based on research and personal experience, I've concluded that most state legislatures are perfectly happy with landlords enjoying an uneven playing field, while tenants have relatively few substantive rights.

You do have at least one significant right as a tenant, and it seems to be pretty much universal in the United States: Landlords cannot turn off your utilities in an effort to force you to leave the property -- or to retaliate for a perceived offense.

During our foreclosure nightmare, my wife, Carol, and I had experience with this kind of behavior. It's called "constructive eviction," and our research indicates it is illegal in all 50 states. You would think an attorney -- such as my brother, David Shuler, of Springfield, Missouri -- would know that, especially when you consider that he also is a landlord.

But as Carol and I were fighting desperately in May 2014 to save our home of 25 years -- just after I had been released from being unlawfully incarcerated for five months in Shelby County, Alabama --my brother apparently tried to convince me that it was perfectly fine for a landlord to turn off utilities.

That raises these questions: Was my brother trying to help us save our house, or was he trying to help get us out of it as soon as possible -- to the benefit of politically connected individuals in Alabama? Is there an Alabama-Missouri connection to the abuse we've suffered -- which includes an unlawful eviction here in Missouri, resulting in a Greene County deputy breaking Carol's arm -- and is my brother in the midst of it, helping the other side?

In seeking to answer that question, let's go back to fall 2013. After being cheated out of our jobs (me at UAB in 2008; Carol at Infinity Insurance in 2009), we started to fall behind on our mortgage --which, until early 2013 or so, had been timely paid for 23 years in a row. Chase Mortgage granted us a forbearance, of undetermined length, and we set out on trying to get our mortgage situation straightened out.

That effort ran into a major roadblock on October 23, 2013, when I was arrested because of a defamation lawsuit that Republican operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke had filed. They sought a preliminary injunction, which has been prohibited in defamation cases by more than 200 years of First Amendment law. I was arrested for alleged civil contempt regarding an injunction that was unconstitutional to begin with -- and evidence later showed that we had not been lawfully summoned to court anyway. I became the only U.S. journalist to be incarcerated in 2013 and apparently the only one in our nation's history to be arrested because of an unlawful preliminary injunction in a defamation case.

With me in jail and Carol under constant threat of being arrested (Riley and Duke sued her too, suggesting extremely dark motivations were in play), we obviously could do nothing about our mortgage problems. While I was in jail, Carol received notice from Chase Mortgage that our forbearance period was over, and our home was being placed into the foreclosure process. We received no explanation as to the timing, and were granted no consideration of my unlawful incarceration.

When I was released on March 26, 2014, we had less than the 30 days allowed by state law to save our house. We were not able to stop the freight train bearing down on our home and all its occupants -- and possessions -- so our house (according to public documents; we weren't there) was auctioned on the courthouse steps in Shelby County. The mortgage holder typically buys foreclosed properties, but that did not happen in our case. In fact, there apparently was a bidding war for our home -- at 5204 Logan Drive in Birmingham, AL -- because (we learned much later) the house sold for almost $9,000 more than the amount we owed on it.

That amount represented what little was left of our equity, and based on my research, the foreclosing law firm should have sent those funds to us. Did that happen? No, it did not -- and we have written several recent posts about that.

An outfit called Spartan Value Investors (owned by a youthful and creepy little capitalist named Clayton Mobley) apparently bought our home at foreclosure and started placing notices on our door that we were to be out by such and such a date. In essence, we had entered into a temporary landlord-tenant relationship with Spartan. We had gone from homeowners to "tenants at sufferance," and believe me, that is an unpleasant situation to be in. Based on our experience, the tenant is, indeed, suffering.

Substantial evidence now suggests that we were the victims of a wrongful foreclosure, one carried out not to collect a debt but for an ulterior purpose. That is prohibited under Alabama law, and if proven, would mean our house essentially was stolen right out from under us.

At the time, however, I could not think much about such matters. Staring homelessness in the face, I contacted my family in Missouri and let them know what was happening. (Not sure I would do that, if I had it to do over again.)

That's when my lawyer brother entered the picture, and not long after that and after we had moved to Missouri, I started to wonder if our so-called family and friends in the Midwest were trying to help us or trying to help the forces who seemed bent on destroying us.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how any landlord or bank could turn off someone's utilities unless those utilities were in the name of the landlord. Maybe like at a motel, hotel someplace were what you were paying also include water, lights. Now I'm not saying it didn't take place, I just don't see how they had a legal right to do that. It is a sad but true fact that those who have power over others do what they like, caring less if it is legal or not. They know the ones they run over do not have the money for attorneys to help them and then fear nothing from the courts if they do have to answer for their abuse. I myself believes that there will be another court hearing we will have to answer to one day. No high price lawyers will help with that judge, we will all have to answer for our actions here on earth. Don't know about others states but I think the Alabama Landlord and Tenant Act is one of the best in the world. At times I have been on both sides, landlord&tenant and I think the Alabama law is very clear on what each side can, can not do. It is fair because it spells out what is demand from the tenant and the landlord both. It also gives each a clear process on what to do if the other side is not living up to their part of the deal. In short I hope things work out for you and your wife. The reporting you do is needed. If I was rich, I would put a roof over your head free just so you could keep reporting on the sob's in charge down here in bamaland.

Anonymous said...

Almost everybody is going to have a landlord at some point in life, so this is very important information to know.

legalschnauzer said...

We were in a landlord-tenant situation with Spartan Value Investors, @7:31, and they put both our water and electricity in their names -- and Birmingham Water Works eventually shut our water off. Alabama Power came to its senses, after multiple conversations with my wife, and put the electricity back in our name. It was never shut off. I agree that the Alabama Landlord and Tenant Act seems to be strong. But if a landlord is determined to ignore the law, they can get away with it -- at least for a while. My hope is that Spartan soon will regret treating us the way they did.

Anonymous said...

I don't know exactly what your brother told you about a landlord and your utilities, but if he told you the wrong thing, I'd say he's either a bad lawyer, a bad brother, or he had some personal reason for wanting you out of your house. Maybe it was a combination of all three. Not sure why David Shuler would treat his own flesh and blood that way. Seems pretty classless to me.

legalschnauzer said...

I will spell out exactly what he told me in Part 2 of this post, @10:04. That should run early next week. But I think all three of the issues you cite -- bad lawyer, bad brother, bad motives -- were in play.

Anonymous said...

I know your brother from working in the Springfield legal community. I don't know him well, but he's always seemed like a decent guy to me. If he told you that landlords can turn off utilities on tenants, I'm not sure what he was thinking -- or perhaps you heard him incorrectly or misunderstood what he was trying to say. As you say in your post, David is a landlord himself, so he should know that shutting off utilities on tenants is something you simply don't do.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for sharing, @11:27. David's statements on the subject, which I will feature in my follow-up post, were in writing, so I didn't misunderstand or hear anything incorrectly. David used to be a good guy, but I don't even recognize him anymore. The current David and the brother I grew up with seem like two entirely different people.

Anonymous said...

If I were you, I would treat my brother like my enemy, not my brother.

Anonymous said...

If your brother is a landlord, couldn't he help you and Carol with a place to live?

legalschnauzer said...

You would think so, @1:35, but that's not an easy question to answer. Last fall, after we had been evicted here, David offered to let us rent a 1BR duplex he owns, and I think the rent was going to be $350 a month, plus utilities. That came less than a month (I believe that's correct) after he had played a major role in having us unlawfully evicted and having Carol's arm broken. It also came not long after I discovered a letter he wrote to the judge where he ripped me up one side and down the other, stating flatly that he was going to do everything he could to help the other side in our eviction case. It was the most nasty, vile letter I've ever read written about anyone, especially considering it was written to a judge, on an important issue (the roof over our head), and it was flagrantly prejudicial. So technically, he did offer to help us on that one occasion, with us (I assume) paying the full rate. (BTW, we weren't sure it was a better deal than the fleabag hotel where we already were living. David's rent was lower, but utilities were furnished at the fleabag place, so it looked like pretty much a wash.) By the time of his offer, I had multiple reasons for doubting his motives. In fact, it's more than doubting -- I know he has bad motives, and his letter to the judge proves it, and I will be reporting on that soon.

legalschnauzer said...

Another point, @1:35, my mother owns a rental house, and she's not offered to help us along those lines in any way. Of course, my brother is her "trustee," so maybe he controls such things.

The bottom line: My brother is a lawyer, and I report accurately about corruption in our legal system, so nobody in my family, it appears, is about to help us. It's pathetic to think of a family stooping to such a low level, but that's the way it looks from my chair.

Anonymous said...

Have you posted your brother's letter to the judge? Maybe you did and I missed it.

legalschnauzer said...

No, I haven't posted it yet, @2:35, but I will post it soon. If anyone takes bar rules seriously -- and I doubt anyone does -- it probably should cost him his bar card, at least for a while, or some other form of serious sanctions.

You could argue that his letter caused us to be screwed on the eviction case, which caused Carol to have her arm shattered and me to have an assault rifle pointed at my head.

This helps explain why I have a hard time seeing David being interested in our well-being at all.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can blame your brother for your predicament. You may be angry that your mother decided she no longer wanted to pay your rent, and was legally on the hook for it, and as consigner remained on the hook for it until you were out. David obviously offered to assist the eviction process to shield your mother's interests. And you should have been looking for a new place because even if you thought you might be entitled to another months tenancy because of a technicality (Notice on the 2nd rather than the 1st) it was clear your tenancy relationship with the landlord would soon end. A prudent person would have departed ASAP, or attempted to negotiate a temporary delay in good faith. You attack his motives viciously and did even when he offered you a modest accommodation without credit check. He can't charge you under market rates for any apartment without incurring tax liability. He clearly thought assuming financial liability for you utilities was a bad idea. He probably formed that opinion by your reneging on promises to pick up the rent after you got on your feet...your mother was left with the payment obligation.

You could have gotten out of jail quickly if Carol had purged your contempt. You could have had the injunction reversed after the fact, but at least temporary compliance would have set you free far earlier. Carol clearly had access to the blog with posting powers (which in Blogger, would have allowed her to remove the offending posts). And she did eventually remove them.

You are as responsible as your brother for your forcible eviction. You don't seem to remember you didn't pay your rent, work out a deal, or search for a new place to live when it was certain you would have to.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:31, congratulations for being one of the most misinformed individuals I've encountered -- and that's saying something. How wrong are you? Let me count the ways:

1. I didn't blame my brother for my "predicament." I said evidence suggests, to me, that at some point, he developed bad motives and was actively trying to harm us. That's a matter of public record, which I will be reporting on shortly.

2. My mother didn't "decide she no longer wanted to pay the rent." The agreement from the outset was that she would pay our rent for one year. I was not the least bit angry when she discontinued paying the rent because that was our agreement. I was angry at the landlord, Trent Cowherd, for trying to make us "qualify on our own" when there was no such provision in the lease, and you can see the lease, which I have posted on this blog. Cowherd's representative admitted in court, public record, that there was no such provision in the lease.

3. My mother had no further obligations once the one-year term of the lease was up. That's what she signed for. That Cowherd sued her just shows it is a corrupt company. That David allowed them to get away with suing her is disgraceful. She wasn't "on the hook" for anything, and if I had been her lawyer, Cowherd would have been facing a lawsuit for abuse of process. My guess is that David wanted Cowherd to sue her so he would have an excuse to be involved in our case.

4. Your fourth sentence is pure rubbish. There were no grounds for our tenancy to end, not when the landlord is breaching the contract. (I assume you've heard of that concept.) Again, Cowherd's own representative admitted in court they were breaching the contract. Getting notice on the 2nd, not the 1st, was a legitimate but relatively minor point. Breach of contract is not minor.

5. The rest of your first paragraph again is garbage. If you think a prudent person should let someone get away with breaching a contract . . . well, that's your business. But this was my business, and there is nothing "prudent" about letting a corrupt company violate their own lease. I doubt you conduct your own affairs that way, but that's what you want me to do. (BTW, I know who you are, and I've seen these kinds of nonsensical statements from you many times before.)

6. How do you define attacking someone's motives "viciously." I never attacked David's motives, viciously or otherwise, when he offered the 1BR duplex deal; in fact, I didn't respond at all. I just didn't see it as a positive for us, and I had seen his letter to the judge, which shows his real motives in all their glory.

7. I never reneged on promises to pick up the rent. We challenged the eviction because we intended to pick up the rent on a month to month basis, per the lease. Tenants don't have many rights, but they do have the right to make sure the landlord abides by the lease. We would have won that case if we hadn't had a corrupt judge, Halford Rose, who split the eviction and breach of contract cases and forced us to be evicted before our breach case was even heard. Hell, courts probably don't pull that garbage in third world countries, which essentially is what Missouri has become -- and you apparently like it that way.

(continued on next comment)

legalschnauzer said...

(continued from previous comment)

8. Your second paragraph is a real hoot, with your arrogance and stupidity really shining through. You claim to have insight about our eviction in Missouri and my incarceration in Alabama? Wow, you are like Carnac the Magnificent. That claim certainly narrows down the people you could be. In fact, I'm quite certain I know who you are, and that means it is no surprise to see all the ignorant material in your comment. A few facts for you to digest, if you are capable (and you aren't):

a. When I was arrested, Carol never had even looked at my blog mechanism, beyond her ability to access the e-mail account to which it was attached. Over multiple phone calls from jail, I explained to her how to create a post and publish it, and she was able to put up posts on my situation.

b. To remove posts, about six of them, published over roughly a year, was a much more difficult task to explain. We finally got it figured out over jail phone calls, which I'm sure were recorded and you are welcome to seek copies of, as far as I'm concerned.

c. Why do you care when I got out of jail to begin with? Have you ever been in jail, before a corrupt judge, who is influenced by the corrupt plaintiff/lawyer on the other side. We had no guarantees they would release me even if Carol removed the posts. We weren't dealing with trustworthy people. The judge was assigned from another county, and Carol didn't even know how to contact him. Also, the whole process would have been easier if Carol could have come to the jail to visit. But she couldn't because they were trying to arrest her, too, which would have meant sure death for our pets. (Of course, you don't care about pets, but we do.) You seem to be from the "blame Carol for everything" school, which tells me you have the thinking powers of a 3-year-old.

9. Your last paragraph is rubbish, too, like the others. Our rent WAS paid, just ask my mother. There was no reason to work out a deal because we already had a deal -- it's called a lease. We weren't going to search for a new place to live when we already had a lease, and we were abiding by it. The prudent thing was to make sure the landlord abided by it, and we would have won that case with a semi-competent judge, which is as hard to find in MO as it is in AL.

No wonder you didn't sign your name to this. I'd be embarrassed to put my name to it, too. I would suggest that you call me if you want to discuss further, but you already have my number, and I know you are too big a coward to face me.

Not sure why you wrote this. You know I have zero respect for you and your opinions. I've told you that straight to your face. What a sad, pathetic person you have become. I truly pity you, and the person who has to live with you. Cheap, cheap, cheap . . . you have become your favorite word.

Anonymous said...

@10:31 -- Can you cite any law to support the following?

"You may be angry that your mother decided she no longer wanted to pay your rent, and was legally on the hook for it, and as consigner remained on the hook for it until you were out."

I practice real-estate and tenant-landlord law in a state that is not Missouri or Alabama, and I know this is not the law in many states. In my state, and others that I'm familiar with, the cosigner can be "on the hook" only for the set term of the lease (one year, usually) but not once the lease goes month to month. I'm not aware of any state that is different from that, and I highly doubt that Missouri is different from that. It's simple contract law: The cosigner can be liable for the specific term for which he signs, but not for the unknown term once the lease goes month to month.

If you cite Missouri law to support this claim, I'd love to read it. That would make Missouri a pretty unusual state in landlord/tenant law. If that's the law in Missorui, I would never cosign anything, and I would say David Shuler (the lawyer) was very unwise to let his mother cosign a lease under those conditions. If that's the law, and I doubt it is, I would say David Shuler almost committed malpractice on "behalf" of his mother.

One oddity about this case: It seems clear to me that Mr. Schnauzer and his wife were the ones on the hook for rent once the one-year term was up. Why didn't the landlord just let it go month to month and see if they could pay the rent. If they couldn't pay it at some point, then the landlord would have had a legitimate eviction action. Trying to force out good tenants who have not even been given a chance to timely pay the rent on their own makes no sense. And I've read the lease, as posted on Scribd, and that's how it should have been handled under the terms.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for your comment @2:57. That's my understanding of the law, too, and it's why I've never understood why my brother allowed my mother to be dragged into this thing. That Cowherd sued her, with no grounds for doing so, still pisses me off. That my brother sat there and let them do it -- and then tried to blame me for it -- well, something has happened to his mind and/or any moral compass that he might have once had.

In essence, Cowherd created a problem where none existed. As you say, the lease calls for it to go month to month, and if we could pay, say, in month 3, then Cowherd has a real eviction case. For the record, they never would have had to file an eviction case in that scenario. We know our obligations, and if we hadn't met them, then we would have moved out. Nobody would have to tell us to do that.

Holden Mikoch said...

"Why did my brother, Missouri attorney David Shuler, try to convince me that it's fine for landlords to turn off utilities on tenants--when it clearly is unlawful?"....

BECAUSE HE HATES YOU, Along with most of Alabama.

legalschnauzer said...

Why would my brother hate me? Why would "most of Alabama" hate me? Not sure I follow.

Anonymous said...

Have any of your posts related to your brother, Luther Strange, Liberty Duke, your house or all the ashley madison articles had a positive outcome for you? Hate is a pretty powerful word so I don't know if that is accurate but I do get a bit bored with the 'sophmoric' gossip aspect of some of your posts. I used to come here and review your posts more often b/c I felt they were informative. I really don't care about the feud with you and your brother, Liberty Duke's baby or all the ashley madison stuff. If this is truly one of the top 50 law blogs in the US then please focus on real legal issues. I know I have the right to start my own blog or not read yours at all and I have to say that I've reduced my visits a good bit lately as your site seems to have taken on a more childish tone. Please take my comments as constructive thoughts and suggestions only. Yahoo was once I site I read a good bit as well but now I never go there b/c the site changed their look and their focus. And btw, I would give you my name but you seem to negatively blast a lot of people who state their opinion that might disagree with yours and I don't like conflict.

legalschnauzer said...

I don't write this blog to have a positive outcome for me. I write it to help educate people about matters of public importance. If it has a positive impact, in a broad sense, that's great. If it doesn't, so it goes. These posts are about abuses of our publicly supported institutions, and I can't affect change on my own. I can help provide the clarion call, so that's what I try to do.

Are you saying my blog has taken on a more "childish tone" since I was beaten and thrown in jail, and my wife was assaulted and left with a shattered arm? That's childish to you? I'd suggest you examine your own priorities before telling me how to handle mine.

Having said that, I really don't know why you would be fearful of sharing your name. Can you point to any specific examples where I have "negatively blasted" people who express an opinion different from my own? I would really like to see one.

You don't like conflict? That sounds like a cop-out to me.

Anonymous said...

Your reaction to my comments are just as I predicated. Dude, you need to really evaluate your life. I don't think your plight is childish but your reaction by whining about it on this blog is. And what has been the outcome of the liberty duke junk, Jennifer garrison stuff or all the ashley Madison post? I'm sure writing about it makes you feel better but what has it accomplished? Seriously, has it changed anything? Why don't you find something that you can impact?

legalschnauzer said...

@9:41 -- You don't have the courage to ID yourself, so I really don't give a crap what you think. I asked you to cite examples of me "negatively blasting" people because their opinion differs from mine, and as expected, you couldn't provide any. Try this: Cite any examples of me whining on this blog. Bet you can't do that either. Feel free to hit the exits, Dude. When you leave, I'll have 4-5 new readers to replace your sorry ass. I keep up with this stuff, so I'm not at all worried about you taking a hike. In fact, I hope you take a hike -- the sooner, the better. This blog is for intelligent people, and you clearly don't have the capacity to keep up.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my intent was never to upset you or question your intelligence. There is no positive outcome that comes from your anger. I'll leave you be to your efforts. Good luck. You win

S C said...

Regarding @9:41 PM's question: what has been the outcome of the posts about X, Y, and Z - I've never had a blog, but if it were me, my hope would be that it helps expose corruption. Pure and simple

It's like the saying " If life was easy, it wouldn't be hard "

It took decades of corruption for Alabama to get where it is (and it's not the only state). It's going to take a while to impact its legacy of shit, i'd imagine.

legalschnauzer said...

Oh, I'm angry, but you can't cite a single example of me "negatively bashing" people or "whining." Do you realize you put labels on people you don't even know. I gave you every opportunity to put some substance behind your comments, and you couldn't do it. So, what was your intent in coming here?