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Spesock v. Ogden

January 21, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of Snohomish County. Docket No: 95-2-06053-4. Date filed: 09/25/95. Judge signing: Hon. James H. Allendoerfer.

PER CURIAM. -- Eugene Ogden appeals the trial court's decision he was lawfully evicted after his landlord terminated his month-to-month tenancy. Ogden contends the court should have found a 1-year quasi- contract had been created because of cleanup work Ogden and a co-tenant completed on the property and because the landlords, respondents Gary and Marjorie Spesock, were aware Ogden needed to remain on the property for 1 year. Because the trial court's relevant findings of fact have not been challenged, are supported by substantial evidence, and support the Conclusion a quasi-contract cannot be equitably imposed, the court's judgment is affirmed.


Beginning March 1, 1995, Michael Howe rented property for his auto repair business from Michael Marcin for $1,000 per month on a month-to-month basis. At that time, he sublet part of the property to Ogden for $500 per month. Howe testified Ogden was aware of the lease he had with Marcin, but was not sure if he knew the term was month-to-month. Ogden told Howe he needed a place until April 1996. Ogden testified he had an "oral understanding" with Howe he would be on the property until April 1996.

Ogden and Howe moved in in March. In order to be able to move into a building on the site, and because the property was in violation of county code regulations, Ogden and Howe began an extensive cleanup project. Ogden testified "if [the site] wasn't cleaned up it was going to be shut down."

In mid-April, and for about three weeks thereafter, Ogden and Howe intensified their cleanup. Spesock, who had sold the property to Marcin in June 1994, repossessed it by deed of trust foreclosure on April 27, 1995. During this time, Spesock met with Ogden and Howe and agreed they could remain on the premises under the existing lease terms. Spesock acknowledged the cleaned-up condition of the property and promised to "make it up" by discounted rent in the future. He told them he planned to sell the property and offered them the first option to buy. Ogden said he did not want to buy the property because he would be moving onto his own site in April 1996.

Spesock later told Ogden and Howe the rent would be increased to $1,680 effective May 1. Howe declined the new terms and moved off the site. Ogden reluctantly agreed and paid $840 rent for May on May 13. He failed to pay rent for June.

Ogden continued to clean the property. On July 10, 1995, Spesock served Ogden with a tenancy termination notice effective July 31. Ogden refused to vacate and Spesock filed the instant unlawful detainer action on August 8. Pursuant to a temporary order entered August 17, Ogden paid Spesock $1,680 rent for the months of July and August 1995.

The trial court found there was insufficient evidence to establish the existence of an oral lease running through April 1996. The court made several findings in support of its Conclusion the tenancy was month-to-month. The court found because Spesock had sold the property once and wanted to sell it again, it was not logical for him to enter into an 11-month lease. It found Spesock promised Ogden a rent discount, but not a long-term lease, for cleaning the property. It found Ogden neither sought nor received a long-term lease commitment from Spesock or Marcin. Finally, the court found the cleanup project was not consideration for a long-term lease because Howe terminated the tenancy after having participated in the project and because Ogden paid increased rent of $840 on May 13 even after having virtually completed his cleanup work.

The court also concluded Ogden failed to establish the existence of a contract implied in law (quasi-contract). In support, the court found as follows:

(a) The clean-up efforts performed by Ogden began at least a month before Spesock was even the owner/landlord of the premises.

Therefore, they benefitted [sic] (or were intended to benefit) Marcin, not Spesock.

(b) The parties agreed that the clean-up efforts were to be offset by discounted rent, not by an extended lease.

(c) The clean-up efforts benefitted [sic] Ogden himself to a significant degree. His business was allowed to continue by the county for several additional months; moreover, the premises were more usable by Ogden in a clean condition. To this extent, Ogden volunteered his services. (This analysis is consistent with Howe's decision to forego any ...

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