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Young-Bey v. Southern Management Corporation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 6, 2019

JEFFREY M. YOUNG-BEY, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHERN MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, INC. and DAYE AMBERSLEY, Prop. Mgr., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jeffrey M. Young-Bey, who is self-represented, has filed a civil action challenging the practices of his apartment building's management company, Southern Management Corporation ("SMC"), and its property manager, Daye Ambersley. Young-Bey has asserted 21 causes of action under federal and state law, including claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p (2012); the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 (2012); the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act, Md. Code Ann., Com. Law, § 14-202 (West 2013); the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, Md. Code Ann., Com. Law, § 13-301; the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act, Md. Code Ann., Bus. Reg. § 7 (West 2010); and various state common law tort claims. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are presented in the light most favorable to Young-Bey, the non-moving party.

         In February 2018, Young-Bey entered into a one-year lease agreement for an apartment at Silver Spring Towers on Thayer Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland. After moving into the apartment, Young-Bey complained to SMC, the property management company, about several defects in his apartment, including plumbing and heating problems, only some of which were addressed. SMC also barred Young-Bey from making rental payments through its online payment portal. Young-Bey alleges that, following these events, Defendants engaged in unlawful debt collection practices and initiated a series of unlawful eviction and debt collection proceedings against him in the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County ("the Montgomery County District Court") on April 12, 2018, July 9, 2018, July 11, 2018, and July 26, 2018.

         On July 30, 2018, Young-Bey filed his Complaint in this Court. In October 2018, Young-Bey filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order or Preliminary Injunction in which he requested that the Court enjoin eviction proceedings in Montgomery County District Court. After ordering and receiving a response from Defendants, the Court construed the motion as a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and denied it. See Young-Bey v. S. Mgmt. Corp., Inc., No. TDC-18-2331, 2018 WL 4922349, at *3 (D. Md. Oct. 10, 2018). Then, after being formally served with the Summons and Complaint, Defendants filed the pending Motion to Dismiss. Nearly two months later and several weeks after the deadline for opposing the Motion had passed, Young-Bey filed on February 11, 2019 a Motion for Extension of Time to File Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The Court granted Young-Bey until March 15, 2019 to file an amended complaint or respond to the pending Motion. On March 18, 2019, Young-Bey again moved for an extension of time to respond. The Court again granted Young-Bey an extension, until April 1, 2019, to file his response. Despite these extensions, Young-Bey never filed an amended complaint or a memorandum in opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants seek dismissal of Young-Bey's Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). They argue that: (1) Young-Bey has not pleaded sufficient facts to demonstrate that Defendants are debt collectors subject to the FDCPA; (2) Young-Bey has not stated sufficient facts to state a plausible claim that Defendants acted with discriminatory intent in violation of the FHA; and (3) if the federal claims are dismissed, the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Young-Bey's state law claims. Because the Court agrees with these arguments, it need not address Defendants' remaining arguments that Young-Bey's state law claims should be dismissed on the merits.

         I. Legal Standard

         To defeat a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow "the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although courts should construe pleadings of self-represented litigants liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).

         When deciding a motion to dismiss, a court may "take judicial notice of matters of public record" and may consider exhibits submitted with the motion "so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic." Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). With their Motion, Defendants have submitted the following extrinsic exhibits: (1) the lease governing Young-Beyss tenancy at Silver Spring Towers; and (2) a printout from a Maryland state government website containing background information about SMC. The Court will consider the lease because it is cited in the Complaint as the document governing the parties' relationship and is integral to Young-Bey's allegations. However, the website information relating to SMC is not integral to the Complaint, so the Court will not consider it in deciding Defendants' Motion.

         II. FDCPA

         Defendants argue that Young-Bey's FDCPA claims should be dismissed because Defendants are not "debt collectors" and therefore are not subject to the FDCPA. The FDCPA protects consumers from "abusive debt collection practices" by prohibiting debt collectors from using "any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt." 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692(e), 1692e. However, the statute only applies to a "debt collector," 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692b-1692g, 1692k(a), defined as any person who uses interstate commerce "or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts," or "who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another," § 1692a(6). With few exceptions, these requirement's do not apply to a "creditor," defined by the FDCPA as one "who offers or extends credit creating a debt or to whom a debt is owed." 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(4); see Henson v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc., 817 F.3d 131, 135-36 (4th Cir. 2016). Thus, the primary distinction between a debt collector and a creditor is that a debt collector "collects debt on behalf of others," while a creditor collects debt "for its own account." Henson, 817 F.3d at 135.

         Here, Young-Bey has failed to provide any allegations in his Complaint that SMC is collecting a debt for a third party and thus is a debt collector subject to the FDCPA. Defendants, in contrast, state that SMC is an owner-operated property management company whose primary business is managing properties as a landlord, which the lease confirms by listing SMC as the lessor and Young-Bey as the lessee. Indeed, Young-Bey acknowledges in the Complaint that SMC was a party to the lease. Where SMC is a party to the lease contract and seeks to collect debts in the form of rent, those debts ...


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