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Ousted retail business tenant loses at bench trial

Ousted retail business tenant loses at bench trial

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Defense verdict

Action: Breach of contract

Injuries alleged: Failure to cure

Case name: Joaquin Ramirez v. Sar International, Inc.

Court/case no.: Forsyth County Superior Court/No. 19-CVS-7296

Jury and/or judge: Judge Susan Bray

Amount: $0

Date: Feb. 14, 2023

Attorney: Elliot Fus of Blanco Tackabery in Winston-Salem (for the defense)

In 2017, Joaquin Ramirez entered into a lease purchase agreement (LPA) to rent a former gas station property in Davie County from Sar International, Inc. Pursuant to the agreement, Ramirez was to receive title to the property after making $180,000 in rental payments over approximately six years.

The LPA required Ramirez to “occupy and use the Premises as a retail business.”

Ramirez took possession of the property, paid monthly rents and began renovations, but never opened for business.

In February 2019, the parties had further discussions and signed a handwritten building purchase agreement (BPA) stating that Ramirez “is going to buy this property for $100,000.00” and that closing “will” occur within 60 days.

Ramirez did not buy the property but kept making rent payments.

In or about July 2019, Sar allowed a new tenant/prospective buyer to assume possession of the premises. In August 2019, Sar sent a notice of default, in accordance with the terms of the LPA, advising that the LPA would be terminated upon Ramirez’s failure to cure breaches of the LPA within 10 days.

The breaches included not opening for business as well as not paying property taxes and obtaining insurance, as required by the LPA.

Sar ultimately sold the property to the new tenant/prospective buyer for a higher price. Ramirez alleged breach of the LPA by “locking out” Ramirez prior to giving the required notice to cure. He sought damages including $17,221 for renovations and $53,600 for rental payments made.

Following a bench trial, the judge held that the LPA was extinguished by novation when the parties entered into the BPA.

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