The owner of Lewes Realty has agreed to pay two of the company’s former rental-property clients money due them since fall, following civil actions filed in Justice of the Peace Court 3 in Georgetown.
Carole Sieber, Lewes Realty owner, will pay property owner John Constantini $15,000 and will pay Marylou Wellbrock-Reeves $11,126.
Sieber says her company handles at least 300 rental properties in the Lewes resort area. She testified she has not yet determined how much money Lewes Realty owes rental property owners for the 2009 season.
Sieber’s real estate license has been suspended by the Delaware Real Estate Commission, after an investigation by the state’s Professional Licensure Commission determined the company had failed to pay property owners in a timely manner.
Sieber said the payment problems stem from Lewes Realty’s former rental property accounts manager’s mishandling of bookkeeping.
Sieber appeared Thursday, Dec. 30, before Judge John Martin.
“We’re going to make it right. It’s been hard, but we’re going to do it,” Sieber said during a break between cases.
“We’re working on the books. We’re working on all accounts separately. It’s not as simple as it seems,” she said.
Sieber said in addition to collecting and handling rental income for properties, her company also handled utilities, insurance and other expenses for some property owners.
She said it wasn’t until October that she became aware of the extent of late payments to property owners.
“Mr. Constantini and I have talked, and we’ve made an agreement to pay,” Sieber told Martin.
Martin also allowed Constantini to collect $140 in interest on the unpaid balance, and 5 percent interest on any still unpaid balance.
Sieber said half of the rental fees in Constantini’s case, which was filed with the Justice of the Peace Court in October, stemmed from rental fees due him in the 2007 season and half from the 2008 season.
Lewes Realty client Marylou Wellbrock-Reeves sought $11,126 in unpaid rental fees from the 2009 season.
Wellbrock-Reeves, represented by attorney Hal Dukes, was called by her attorney to the witness stand.
“Why was the money not sent to you?” Dukes asked.
“I do not know,” Wellbrock-Reeves said. She said Lewes Realty had handled the West Cape Shores rental property she owns in an acceptable manner until this season.
“I can’t tell you how upset I am about it. I have a mortgage, and I have two children in college,” Wellbrock-Reeves told the court.
She said she’s made the 220-mile drive from her home in New Jersey to the Cape Region a couple of times in an effort to collect money she’s owed.
Wellbrock-Reeves said she attended the Nov. 13 real estate commission hearing at which Sieber’s license was suspended.
Dukes also called Sieber to the stand to testify.
“Ms. Sieber, these are uncomfortable times for everyone,” Dukes said before asking pointed questions about Lewes Realty’s financial status.
“Do you have the capacity to pay all of these claims?” Dukes asked.
“We’re working on that,” Sieber said.
“If the corporation is hollow – Lewes Realty has no money – it can’t hide behind the corporate umbrella,” Dukes told the court.
Martin asked Dukes to prepare a factual legal memorandum by Thursday, Jan. 14, detailing his arguments and concerns about Lewes Realty’s capacity to pay money it owes.
“The reality is, I don’t think there are any additional facts,” Dukes told the court.
Martin gave Sieber’s attorney, Donald Gouge Jr., until Monday, Feb. 1, to respond to Dukes’s memorandum.
Gouge asked the court to enter a judgment against Lewes Realty for Wellbrock-Reeves’s claim, rejecting a payment agreement.
Sieber has another Justice of the Peace Court hearing later this month to face other Lewes Realty rental property owners who are seeking judgments against the company.
She is also scheduled to appear at a disciplinary hearing before the Delaware Real Estate Commission at 9 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 14, in Dover.
Kay Warren, deputy director of the Division of Professional Regulation said Gouge has requested a continuance, which would move the hearing date to 9 a.m., Thursday, March 11.
Warren said the real estate commission has not yet decided whether to grant the continuance, which Gouge requested because of a court schedule conflict.
The hearing, which is open to the public, would be held at the Division of Professional Regulation, 861 Silver Lake Blvd., in Dover. For additional information, go to dpr.delaware.gov