Leg 100 Landlord-Tenant Law Case Study – Case Of Larry Landlord and Roger Renter

Leg 100 Assignment 2 Instructions

Larry Landlord has recently renovated an apartment and has put it on the market to be rented for $800.00 a month. Larry Landlord has been in business for approximately five (5) years and has had both positive and negative experiences with tenants. Larry Landlord is hoping to find a good, long-term tenant for his apartment. Roger Renter saw Larry’s sign for the apartment for rent and thought the location and the apartment would be perfect. Roger met Larry to look at the apartment and Roger fell in love with it. All of the interior fixtures had been replaced and the unit had a nice large closet. Roger noticed that although newly painted, the exterior of the apartment did show a little bit of wear. Because of the condition of the exterior of the building, Roger asked Larry about any roof leaks. Larry stated that he had never had a leak and was not aware of any leaks.

Roger and Larry entered into a valid contract for the rental of the apartment. (Note: The issue of whether or not a contract exists is NOT part of this question. For purposes of this question assume the contract is valid and there are no issues with the contract.)

Roger Renter was very happy in his new location; the apartment was quiet and the neighbors were friendly. Larry Landlord was also very happy because Roger Renter was a model tenant. Roger Renter paid on time and was quiet and respectful to other tenants.

The part of the country where Roger rented was rainy in the summertime. Roger rented and moved into the apartment in October. In June, a tremendous rainstorm occurred and Roger’s roof began to leak. The leak was minor at first and Roger merely put a trash can under the leak and had no other issues that month. When handing over his monthly rent check, Roger told Larry about the small leak. Larry thanked Roger for letting him know about the leak and told Roger he would have it fixed.

The next month the rains came again and the leak grew larger in Roger’s apartment. Roger was not home at the time of the rain and therefore the leak damaged some of Roger’s furniture. Roger called Larry to let him know that there was a leak and asked when it might be fixed. Roger also stated that he thought Larry had fixed the roof. Larry curtly stated, “When it rains, sometimes it pours. When it pours, sometimes it leaks.” Roger did not like Larry’s tone or response and called back to ask when the roof might be fixed. Larry stated, “When I get to it.” The following day, Roger sent Larry a note about the roof leak and asked Larry to please address the issue.

The week before the rent was due, another rainstorm occurred and the leak was even larger. This time the leak damaged Roger’s clothing, furniture, and some precious items he had inherited from family members. Roger called Larry and asked Larry to fix roof immediately. Larry responded in a similar and condescending manner. Roger hung up the phone and threw his baseball bat against the wall, damaging the drywall and knocking out an electrical socket.

Since it was the rainy season, Roger knew it would rain again and therefore simply moved his items away from the leak and did nothing to help mitigate the damage from the leaking roof.

Larry came into the apartment to investigate the leak and found damage from not only the leak but also from the thrown baseball bat. Roger states that the baseball bat damage was a direct result of Larry’s inability to fix the leak based on his anger from Larry’s curt response.

Suppose you are a mediator. In five to seven (5-7) pages discuss the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant in which you:

  • Explore the legal rights and responsibilities of the tenant and the landlord.
  • Decide whether or not the landlord and / or the tenant had a legal duty to mitigate damages.
  • Determine whether or not Larry has legal grounds to evict Roger. Explain why or why not.
  • Describe whether or not Roger has a legal obligation to pay for the damage he caused and determine whether or not Larry would be liable for any direct damage.
  • Support each response with facts presented in the scenario.
  • Use proper legal terminology throughout your responses.

Leg 100 Assignment Sample Answer

Introduction

            In the course of the tenancy agreement, the tenant and the landlord upon entering a binding contract have legal rights and responsibilities that are governed by state laws, which vary from one state to another. The landlord-tenant law consists of three major components, the contract law, the property law and the law of negligence. In view of the legal rights of the tenant and the landlord under these laws, the paper addresses responsibilities and legal rights of the landlord and tenant in a specific situation upon entering a binding lease agreement.

Background of the Case Study

            Larry the Landlord has remodeled and rented an apartment to Roger the Renter. Roger on viewing the apartment realizes that though the interior is in habitable state, with nice finishing, he notices that the exterior of the building is not in good condition and asks Larry whether the roof leaks. Larry asserts that he is not aware of any roof leaks and that the apartment is in perfect habitability state. However, the summer rains start and the roof leaks, to which Roger informs Larry, who hesitates to make repairs. Storms increase the downpour and the roof leaks more making Roger angry since his furniture gets destroyed. He again informs Larry, who shows no urgency; Roger gets emotional throwing his baseball and damaging the drywall and knocking out one of the electrical circuits. 

Legal Rights and Responsibilities of the Landlord and Tenant

            When the landlord and the tenant enter into a valid lease agreement as is in the case of Larry and Roger, the two parties assume a number of duties, responsibilities and rights. As the landlord, Larry is responsible for the provision of the basics under the fiduciary duty to his tenant. This should be done to ensure the apartment is of the right minimum habitability as provided in the law. The basics that the Larry should provide to ensure the habitability of the apartment include working lights, safety that includes working locks, working electrical heating conditions, good staircases, maintenance of the supplied items such as roofs, floors, refrigerator, stoves and replacement of bulbs.

 In essence, Larry must maintain the premise, which means the condition of the building must meet the minimum implied warranty of habitability and should meet the building codes. In many of the states in the United States, regardless whether there is lease agreement, the landlord must meet the implied warranty of habitability (Wortham, 2001). Larry must not only maintain the premise but must also improve the quality of housing where possible. He has the duty to ensure his apartment is in the most livable condition possible for his tenants.

In as much as the landlord has duties and responsibilities, the tenant must also comply with a number of duties and responsibilities during his/her tenancy. Roger, as a tenant to Larry, must comply with the lease agreement and exercise good use of the apartment. He should use all the fixtures well and keep the living quarters in good living condition. However, he is entitled to peaceful enjoyment of the premise without any disturbance from the landlord. The laws that govern landlord-tenant demand that the landlord and tenant have a duty to mitigate damages where possible. Mitigation is merely lessening the extent of any damages that may occur.

The Duty to Mitigate Damages by the Landlord or the Tenant

The legal rights of tenants under laws in most states include prohibition against harassment, which could arise in form of shut off of utilities, increases in rent and eviction. However, sometimes, the landlord and the tenant have duty to mitigate damages. According to (Garman & Forgue, 2011; Karp & Klayman, 2003) in many states, in the wake of the warranty of habitability, a number of statutes have been passed, which imposes duty on the landlord to make repairs. Where the landlord has the duty to repair and fails to do so, the tenant may sue the landlord for damages or make repairs and deduct the same from the rent. (Karp & Klayman, 2003) further points that it is the duty of the tenant to use the premise in reasonable fashion and deliver it in same condition as when received. The tenant has an obligation to protect the premise against waste such as willful destruction of windows, walls and fixtures and any damages to such must be made at the cost of the tenant.

In the case of Larry and Roger, Larry the landlord has a duty to repair the leaking roof. However, Roger could decide to make the repairs and deduct the same from the rent. In the event that the tenant elects to do the repairs, an itemized statement on the repairs costs must be send to the landlord and the same deducted from rent (Jennings, 2013). Before repairing the tenant must give the landlord a prior notice. In case, where the tenant has been permitted to repair but not deduct, the tenant can repair and recover in tort for damages caused, often through a court procedure. However, according to the author, the landlord may not undertake any responsibility the repairs if they were caused by the tenant or family of the tenant.

In the case provided, Larry has a duty to repair the leaking roof since it falls under the parts of the premise that the landlord has jurisdiction to repair. Roger, on the other hand could make repairs and deduct the costs of repairs through the rent payable to the landlord. In the case, Larry has been informed by Roger about the leaking roof through telephone calls and a written notice. Since the landlord has been informed, Roger can proceed to make the repairs on the leaking roof and deduct the costs from rent.

However, in electing to make repairs for the leaking roof, Larry may elect not to make repairs for the drywall destroyed through the actions of Roger. Although Roger attributes his destruction of the wall due to anger caused by the leaking roof, he had responsibility of exercising caution to prevent the destruction of the property. Therefore, Roger should bear the costs of repairs of the drywall caused by his negligence. According to (Karp & Klayman, 2003) the tenant has the obligation to maintain the premise in good condition and deliver it the state as when it was rented to him or her. In case he decides to make repairs of the leaking roof, the costs of repairs of the drywall should not be deducted from rent as they were caused through his negligence.

Alternatively, Roger may elect to sue Larry for damages for breach of warranty of habitability caused to his furniture as measured by the expenses incurred due to his refusal to make the roof repairs. Roger may seek for the reformation of the lease contract because of conduct of Larry to refuse to perform repairs considering he was given considerable written notice of the leaking roof.

Larry’s Legal Grounds to Evict Roger

In a case where one party, either the landlord or tenant fails to honor the lease agreement, a number of remedies can be undertaken by the aggrieved party. According to (Karp & Klayman, 2003) the chief remedies that the landlord can choose to undertake includes eviction, action for rent or damages and wrongful abandonment. Evection has been defined by the authors as a legal procedure where the landlord removes the tenant for breaching the lease agreement. In the case provided, Larry has no legal grounds to evict Roger.

Read also Constructive Eviction – The Case of Steve vs Billy

The common law provided that the lease agreement was mutually exclusive and therefore any breach did not guarantee the landlord with the right to disposes the tenant of the property. The landlord would only have a cause for action for damages caused by the tenant. However, modern landlord-tenant relationship provides for conditions of eviction. According to (Karp & Klayman, 2003) there is state statute provision that allows the landlord to sue tenant to regain possession of the property. However, this is only possible if the tenant failed to comply with the provisions of the covenant, in which in this case, Roger clearly has not breached.

The breach of lease agreement that initiates eviction proceeding by the landlord results from several reasons, which include unlawful use of the premises, failure to pay rent, violation of local and state health codes and the violation of the use of provisions as outlined in the premise lease agreement. However, Roger is in conformity with all the premise lease provisions that can initiate eviction process. The case provides no reason to believe Roger has violated the local and state health codes; he pays his rent and uses the premise lawfully. Although Roger destroyed the electrical circuit and the drywall, these could be considered minimal breach which could be attributed to anger caused by failure of Larry to make repairs as promised, which constitute construction eviction by the landlord. Since Roger has not reasonably breached any of the provisions of the lease agreement, Larry has not legal ground to evict him from his premise.

Roger’s Legal Obligation to Pay for Damages Caused and Larry’s Liability for Any Direct Damage

Roger has legal obligation to pay for the repairs of the damaged drywalls and wall socket. It is the tenant’s responsibility to avoid waste, which includes protecting the premise from weather and intentional destruction (Karp & Klayman, 2003). Roger could elect to make repairs of the drywall and wall socket at his own expenses or Larry could make the repairs and Roger to meet the costs of repairs. Although Larry was slow in attending to the leaking roof, this does not guarantee Roger the right to destroy the premise or its fixtures. He has only a legal procedure of reporting the Larry and seeking for any damages caused by his actions or for payment of tort caused by damages.

As already indicated, Larry is liable for any direct damages to Roger for his inability to make repairs promptly even after telephone and sufficient written notice indicating the leaking roof. The direct damages are a result of his negligence and failure to undertake prompt repairs of the leaking roof. Larry is liable for damages of furniture of Roger that were caused by the leaking roof.

Conclusion

The landlord-tenant relationship is governed by the lease agreement. Subject to the specific state provisions, the legal responsibilities of tenants and landlords vary. However, most legal provisions provide that it is the duty of the landlord to make repairs as provide through sufficient notice by tenant and provide a habitable premise as provided for in the warranty of habitability. The tenant is also mandated to exercise good use of the premise. In Roger and Larry’s case, the Larry the landlord has legal responsibility for direct damages caused by his failure to make repairs even after sufficient notice. Roger is also legally responsible for damages caused on the drywall and wall socket due to his overreaction instead of seeking legal claims against the landlord. Although Roger damaged the premise and fixture, Larry has no legal ground to evict Roger.

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