© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Judge Rules In Favor Of Quicks In Rental Dispute

Wikimedia Commons

An Oneida County judge has ruled in favor of Terry and Elizabeth Quick in a neighborhood dispute over the short-term rental of their house on Echo Lake in Oneida County.

Judge Patrick O’Melia issued an order May 3 that dismissed the summary judgment motion of the plaintiffs who alleged that the Quicks violated the restrictive covenants of the Farris-Martin-Schauder Subdivision by renting (since 2013) of their house on a weekly basis as a vacation property. Seeking a permanent injunction against the Quicks to stop the short-term rentals were the plaintiffs, Paul and Karen Werner of Eagle River, Roy and Barbara Smale of Colgate, Charles and Lori Hunter of Eagle River and James and Karen Buhl of Neenah.

The Quicks are from Blomington, Ill. The Quicks have a “tourist rooming house permit” from the Sugar Camp township and the Oneida County Zoning Department, with rental operations performed under the name “Quick Escape.” The Sugar Camp town board voted to have the county revoke the permit, but the county refused to do so, court filings say. The covenants that apply to the platted subdivision state, “That no business, trade, manufacture or commercial enterprise of any kind, nature or description, shall be maintained or conducted within or upon any of the lots in said subdivision, and said premises shall be used for residential or recreational purposes only.”

There isn’t much dispute over the rental activities of the Quicks, O’Melia noted. “This is a disagreement of law, not a disagreement of fact,” he said in his written decision. The judge also noted, “A management company assists the defendants with the rentals. The property is advertised for rent, but there are no advertisements posted on-site.” In an aside, he did take note of the plaintiffs’ allegations that the “renters are loud and upset the peace/tranquility of the subdivision. There are also claims of stolen firewood and beer bottles strewn about.” However, even if true, they do not rise to “preclude summary judgment in this case,” he wrote. “The defendants are either violating the restrictive covenant in renting their property on a short-term basis or they are not – the behavior of their guests at the property is not particularly relevant. Stealing firewood and leaving beer bottles around, for example, would not transform non-business use into business use.” Both the plaintiffs and defendants cited case law from Wisconsin and out-of-state in making their arguments for summary judgment. “For what it is worth, the defendants have been able to marshal a few more extra-jurisdictional cases that serve as persuasive authority than the plaintiffs have,” the Branch I judge said. “However, deciding these issues is not a matter of doing a ‘headcount’ on which side has been able to cite more case law. The analysis is qualitative, rather than quantitative. “At the onset, it should be noted that this is a relatively close case,” he continued. “In reaching its decision in this case, the Court has – first and foremost – has been mindful of the strong public policy favoring the free and unrestricted use of property.” While it is certainly possible the authors of the restrictive covenant wanted to ban short-term rentals of houses in that subdivision, under the cited Crowley decision, “A restriction must be expressed in clear, unambiguous, and peremptory terms before it can be employed to bar a given use.”

As such, O’Melia concluded, “the defendants are “not in violation of any clear, unambiguous, and peremptory provision of the restrictive covenant.” In addition, “the Quicks do not conduct financial transactions or solicit rentals on-site in the subdivision.” Finally, he added, “If the drafters of the restrictive covenant for this subdivision had wanted to forbid the Quicks’ activities, they should have expressly banned short-term rentals.” He rejected the plaintiffs’ motion, while granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss “on the merits” and with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled. He also awarded the Quicks statutory costs of the court case.

Up North Updates
* indicates required