ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE:
STEVEN C. LITZ C. DUANE ONEAL
Monrovia, Indiana JEFFREY P. AYRES
Lewis & Kappes
COURT OF APPEALS OF INDIANA
CARLOS and RENEE BARBER, )
vs. ) No. 55A04-0009-CV-410
ECHO LAKE MOBILE HOME COM., )
The Honorable Jane Spencer Craney, Judge
Cause No. 55D03-0007-SC-1066
APPEAL FROM THE MORGAN SUPERIOR COURT
December 5, 2001
OPINION - FOR PUBLICATION
SHARPNACK, Chief Judge
Carlos and Renee Barber appeal the trial courts judgment in favor of Echo
Lake Manufactured Home Community (Echo Lake).
See footnote The Barbers raise one issue, which
we restate as whether the trial courts judgment was clearly erroneous because Echo
Lake could only terminate the Barbers month-to-month lease for one of the four
reasons provided in Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30.See footnote We affirm.
The facts most favorable to the trial courts judgment follow. Echo Lake
is a manufactured housing community where tenants rent a lot on which they
may place a manufactured house owned by the tenants. The Barbers have
rented a lot at Echo Lake since 1993. The Barbers and Echo
Lake did not enter into a written contractual lease agreement. Rather, they
had a verbal agreement that established monthly rent and cable fees.
On July 6, 2000, Echo Lake filed a claim to evict the Barbers
because the Barbers had not vacated the lot after being given thirty days
notice. After holding a hearing, the trial court entered judgment in favor
of Echo Lake. The Barbers moved for a stay of judgment pending
appeal, which the trial court granted.
The sole issue on appeal is whether the trial courts judgment was clearly
erroneous because Echo Lake could only terminate the Barbers month-to-month lease for one
of the four reasons provided in Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30. Because this
case was tried by the court without a jury, we shall not set
aside the . . . judgment unless clearly erroneous. Ind. Trial Rule
52(A). A judgment is clearly erroneous if the record leaves us with
a firm conviction that a mistake has been made.
Mullis v. Brennan,
716 N.E.2d 58, 62 (Ind. Ct App. 1999). Because the trial court
did not enter any specific findings of fact, we may affirm the general
judgment based upon any theory supported by the evidence. Coates v. Jaye,
633 N.E.2d 334, 336 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), rehg denied, trans. denied.
We presume that the trial court correctly applied the law. Perdue Farms,
Inc. v. Pryor, 683 N.E.2d 239, 240 (Ind. 1997). In addition, we
must give due regard to the trial courts opportunity to judge the credibility
of the witnesses. T.R. 52(A). We may not reweigh the evidence,
and we may consider only the evidence and reasonable inferences therefrom that support
the trial courts judgment. Robinson v. Valladares, 738 N.E.2d 278, 281 (Ind.
Ct. App. 2000). This deferential standard of review is particularly important in
small claims actions, where trials are informal, with the sole objective of dispensing
speedy justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law.
The Barbers did not have a written lease. Instead, they had a
verbal agreement that established monthly rental and cable fees. Indiana law defines
all general tenancies, in which the premises are occupied by the consent of
the landlord, as month-to-month tenancies. Ind. Code § 32-7-1-2. A month-to-month
tenancy may be terminated by one party giving one-month notice to the other
party. Ind. Code § 32-7-1-3. This court has previously noted that
tenancies controlled by Ind. Code § 32-7-1-3 may be terminated without cause.
Halliday v. Auburn Mobile Homes, 511 N.E.2d 1086, 1087 n.1 (Ind. Ct. App.
1987). Here, the parties do not dispute that Echo Lake gave the
Barbers one-month notice. Consequently, the lease was properly terminated by Echo Lake.
See Speiser v. Addis, 411 N.E.2d 439, 441 (Ind. Ct. App. 1980)
(holding that landlord gave sufficient notice under Ind. Code § 32-7-1-3 to terminate
a month-to-month tenancy).
Nevertheless, the Barbers argue that, rather than following the preceding argument, the trial
court should have relied upon Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30 and should have held
that the Barbers month-to-month tenancy was improperly terminated without cause. Specifically,
the Barbers claim that Ind. Code § 32-7-1-3, which provides for termination of
tenancies without cause, conflicts with Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30, which provides four reasons
why a mobile home park may eject a person from the premises.
Because of this alleged conflict, the Barbers claim that Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30
should control because that statute is more specific and was more recently enacted.
To determine whether Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30 should have controlled the outcome here,
we must rely on our rules of statutory construction. Our primary objective
when interpreting the meaning of a statute is to give effect to the
intent of the legislature that enacted the statute. Guzman v. AAA Auto
Rental, 654 N.E.2d 838, 840 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995). The express language
of the statute controls our interpretation, and we presume that the legislature used
words in their common and ordinary meaning. In re E.I., 653 N.E.2d
503, 507 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995); Ind. Patients Comp. Fund v. Anderson, 661
N.E.2d 907, 909 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996), trans. denied. We examine the
statute as a whole, and the legislative intent ascertained from the whole takes
precedence over the strict meaning of any word. Ind. Patients Comp. Fund,
661 N.E.2d at 909. When possible, we must give effect to every
word of the statute, and no part is to be held meaningless if
it can be reconciled with the rest of the statute. Guzman, 654
N.E.2d at 840. As we attempt to give effect to the intent
of the legislature, we must construe the statute to prevent absurdity. In
re E.I., 653 N.E.2d at 507. In addition, unless an ambiguity exists,
we may not substitute new words for those words provided in the statute.
Sightes v. Barker, 684 N.E.2d 224, 227 (Ind. Ct. App. 1997), trans.
denied. We employ these rules of statutory construction to determine whether Ind.
Code § 16-41-27-30 should have controlled the outcome here.
First, the 1955 Act that originally codified what is now Ind. Code §
16-41-27-30 provided that the Act was to provide for health, sanitation and safety
standards for persons occupying mobile homes. 1955 Ind. Acts c. 321.
In addition, when that chapter of the Indiana Code was recodified in 1993,
the legislature placed the statute at Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30. Title Sixteen
of the Indiana Code contains statutory provisions dealing with Health issues, and Indiana
Code 16-41-27 is entitled Health, Sanitation, and Safety: Mobile Homes. Consequently,
based upon the title of the Act and the location of the statute
in the Indiana Code, the legislatures intent was to provide mobile home parks
or their employees with a statutory ground upon which to remove a person
from the premises and, thereby, increase the safety and security of the park.
Ind. Code § 32-7-1-3, on the other hand, provides information about how much
notice must be given to terminate year-to-year or month-to-month tenancies. See I.C.
32-7-1-3. Title Thirty-two of the Indiana Code contains statutory provisions dealing with
Property issues, and Indiana Code 32-7-1 is entitled Landlord-Tenant Relations. If the
legislature had meant for Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30 to modify the reasons for
which a mobile home landlord could terminate a month-to-month tenancy under Ind. Code
§ 32-7-1-3, then logic suggests that the legislature would have either placed the
new statute in Indiana Code 32-7-1 or referenced Ind. Code § 32-7-1-3 in
the new statute. However, the legislature did not do either of those.
Furthermore, Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30 specifically provides four reasons why an owner, operator,
or caretaker of a mobile home park may eject a person from the
premises . . . . If the legislature had intended to decree
that a mobile home landlord could only terminate a tenant for cause and,
further, had enacted Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30 to provide an exhaustive list of
reasons that constituted justifiable cause for termination, then the legislature would surely have
drafted the code section to provide just that. For example, the statute
could have been written to provide that an owner or operator of a
mobile home park may only evict a tenant from the premises for the
following four reasons. However, as this type of language was not used,
we will not read such a broad intent into the statute. See,
e.g., Guzman, 654 N.E.2d 840-841 (refusing to read a term broadly because it
would render other terms of the statute meaningless). Consequently, we disagree with
the Barbers assertion that Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30 conflicts with Ind. Code §
32-7-1-3 and was intended by the legislature to modify Ind. Code § 32-7-1-3.
In conclusion, Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30 did not control whether Echo Lake had
properly terminated the lease. Rather, under Ind. Code § 32-7-1-3, Echo Lake
properly terminated the lease without cause and with one-month notice. See Speiser,
411 N.E.2d at 441. Therefore, the trial court did not err when
it entered judgment for Echo Lake.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
NAJAM, J. and RILEY, J. CONCUR
The pleadings refer to Echo Lake as Echo Lake Mobile Home Community.
However, Echo Lake claims in its Appellees Brief that its legal name
is Echo Lake Manufactured Housing Community. Consequently, we refer to Echo Lake
by the name it alleges is correct.
See Halliday v. Auburn Mobile
Homes, 511 N.E.2d 1086, 1087 n.1 (Ind. Ct. App. 1987).
Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30 provides:
The owner, operator, or caretaker of a mobile home park may eject a
person from the premises for any of the following reasons:
(1) Nonpayment of charges or fees for accommodations.
(2) Violation of law or disorderly conduct.
(3) Violation of a rule of the state department relating to mobile home
(4) Violation of a rule of the park that is publicly posted within
Footnote: Three sentences in the Barbers argument regarding Ind. Code § 16-41-27-30
make reference to Echo Lakes rules and regulations. In its brief, Echo
Lake notes that the Barbers waived this argument by not presenting the argument
to the trial court but, nevertheless, argues against the Barbers on the merits.
We need not determine whether the Barbers argument was presented to the
trial court because those three sentences are not sufficient to constitute the cogent
argument of a second issue for us to decide.
See Ind. Appellate
Rule 46(A)(8). Instead, we interpret those sentences to be supportive of
the only issue that the Barbers raise, the applicability of Ind. Code §