One day before he was to appear in court to argue several motions, a law student and fair housing advocate reached a tentative settlement with the rent-to-own housing company that sued him over demands for repairs to the home he agreed to purchase.
Matthew Cardinale, who also publishes the online Atlanta Progressive News website, was sued by San Francisco-based Divvy Homes in April after the company accused Cardinale of seeking thousands of dollars in repairs to the northwest Atlanta home he contracted to purchase. Divvy Homes contended among other things that Cardinale “appears to have entered into the lease agreement for purposes of his own agenda and not in a good faith effort to pursue home ownership” with Divvy.
Cardinale, who was awarded a law school scholarship after arguing and winning a case at the Georgia Supreme Court in 2012, fought back hard, filing multiple motions and briefs against Divvy. They included an anti-SLAPP motion taking aim at Divvy’s argument that the contract should be rescinded because he is a housing advocate.
Divvy, represented by Troutman Sanders partners William Droze and Jeff Greenway, said that Cardinale “began making repair requests to Divvy Homes and sought to prorate the February rent” as soon as he moved in to the home and that neither Divvy nor Cardinale had realized the extent of damage the house had when it was inspected.
Divvy argued that Cardinale had reported via social media that he was preparing to sue Divvy and had “breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing” under Georgia contract law.
In an email, Droze said the parties “are working towards a mutually satisfactory settlement and hope to be able to accomplish Divvy Homes’ mission of getting Mr. Cardinale on the right path to homeownership.”
Arguments slated for Tuesday before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall were postponed.
“We’ve been talking over the last several days and tentatively reached a settlement on Monday, but it’s not finalized,” said Cardinale. “I do feel comfortable saying that it involves me purchasing the house. The hearing was postponed with no new date set—the court gave us a couple of weeks to figure that out.”
Cardinale has long been active in pushing for progressive legislation in Atlanta and elsewhere, and his nonprofit, SMARTAlec, has worked with Atlanta, Clarkston and other municipalities to address fair housing issues.
He was awarded a full legal scholarship to Gonzaga University School of Law after persuading the Georgia Supreme Court that Atlanta officials had violated the state Open Meetings Act. He recently finished up his coursework at Emory University Law School.
Cardinale said he is not particularly eager to sit for the bar exam or practice law.
“I don’t really care for litigation,” he said. “I’m good at it; I get so angry. I enjoy it while I’m doing it. But I hate court work; I’m interested in pursuing public policy.”
Cardinale admitted he was somewhat disappointed that he wasn’t able to argue his case before Schwall.
“I was ready; I had my two binders with about 700 pages of litigation, and I felt very strongly about my motions,” he said.
“But I’m interested in drafting legislation. I think that’s a better use of my time,” he said. “So when the possibility of a settlement came along that was mutually beneficial, I was ready to jump on it.”