In the United States of America, landlord-tenant laws such as the federal Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, state landlord-tenant legislations and codes as well as common law govern the relationship between landlords and tenants. The paper explores the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant in a given case scenario using the legislations as a basis. The paper then analyzes the duties of the parties to mitigate damages. It also discusses the probabilities of the landlord having the legal grounds to evict the tenant. Finally, the paper determines whether the tenant had a legal obligation to pay for damages he caused, and whether the landlord is liable for any direct damage to the property.
A landlord has the right to receive rent from his tenant. The price for the rent of an apartment should be of the amount agreed to by the parties and payable on a timely basis (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009). Roger, the tenant, owes Larry, the landlord, rent for the period he stayed in the apartment. Larry also has the right to have the tenant return his property at the end of the rent period undamaged. In the case of any damages to the property, the landlord has the right to expect that the tenant will pay him for the damages at the end of the rent period (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009). The law permits the landlord to deduct the amount used to repair the damages to the property that the tenant caused, from the deposit on security the tenant paid at the commencement of the rent duration. Roger should pay Larry for the drywall and electrical sockets damages he caused when he threw his baseball bat against the apartment wall in frustration.
A landlord also has maintenance rights and responsibilities. He reserves the right to conduct reasonable inspections of his property so as to undertake repairs. However, so that the exercise of his maintenance rights is not considered trespass by the tenant. Larry should grant Roger, at least, twenty-four hours’ notice of his intention to enter the apartment for inspection (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009, p. 468). The law also imposes several duties on landlords. He is responsible for observing all national, state, and local legislation on all matters pertaining to the use and condition of the property. A landlord also has the responsibility of renting to the tenant a dwelling that is habitable and free from structural defects (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009).
Furthermore, a landlord has the duty of providing timely repairs to the premises for general maintenance purposes or upon being informed by a tenant. Larry should have acted on Roger’s pleas to have the apartment repaired as soon as he informed him of the leaking roof. Moreover, a landlord has the duty of respecting a tenant’s rights (Wilkie, Luxton, Morgan, & Cole, 2006).
A tenant, on the other hand, has the right to peaceful possession. Under common law, this right is known as the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment of a dwelling. Upon a landlord renting his property to a tenant, he gives a tenant the possession and use of the property (Wilkie et al., 2006). A tenant has under certain aggravated circumstances caused by a landlord’s neglect, the right to withhold rent (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009). An example of an aggravated circumstance would be where a landlord fails to fulfill an essential duty such as providing a tenant with a secure and habitable residence. However, before withholding rent, a tenant must furnish a landlord with seven days’ notice of the problem so as to enable him to have sufficient time to fix it (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009, p. 469). After withholding the rent, a tenant should seek a court order to spend the withheld rent in undertaking the necessary repairs on the apartment. Therefore, upon Roger deciding to withhold rent, he should seek a court order to repair the leaking roof using the rent. If he fails to request the assistance of the court, then the landlord has the right to evict the tenant for non-payment of rent.
Roger, the tenant, has the responsibility of paying Larry the agreed rent and on time. He also has the duty of maintaining the apartment. During his possession, the dwelling should be free from damage apart from the ordinary wear and tear (Wilkie et al., 2006). He should promptly inform the landlord of any maintenance problems.
The tenant is under a legal obligation to mitigate damages caused by the owner breaching the contract (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009). Roger was supposed to act with due diligence. The third time it rained, knowing that it was a rainy season, Roger should have done more than simply moving items away from the leak. In effectively mitigating damages, Roger should have procured reasonable substitute housing within two business days of Larry’s non-compliance. Moreover, the law in Section 47(a) of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act allows him to procure reasonable housing immediately upon the landlord failing to provide the necessary repairs, and the damage recurs within six months (Sullivan, 2006, p. 1313). Furthermore, he should have procured the services of a professional to fix the leaking roof and subsequently deducted the fair cost of the repairs from the rent that he was due to pay Larry.
Normally, under common law and statutory law, a landlord has the legal duty of mitigating damages (Sullivan, 2006). However, in this case, Roger was the one undergoing losses to his property as a result of Larry’s negligence. The only items of loss to the landlord were the damaged electrical socket and drywall and Roger, being liable, would pay for them. Therefore, Larry did not have a duty to mitigate damages.
Grounds for Eviction
In evicting the tenant, the landlord has to prove in a court of competent jurisdiction that the tenant breached the contract. Examples of violations include nonpayment of rent and damages to the premises (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009). Larry would have the onus to prove to court on the preponderance of the evidence that Roger breached the agreement. Upon Larry satisfying the court and the court granting him an eviction order, he must notify Roger. Without a court order, Larry would be going against the law by evicting Roger, and he would be liable to Roger for damages amounting to three months’ rent or actual damages (Sullivan, 2006, p. 1297). Larry can try proving in court that Roger breached the rent agreement by damaging the drywall and electrical sockets.
However, Roger’s defense would be that Larry failed in his legal duty to maintain a habitable apartment. The implied warranty of habitability grants tenants the right to withhold rent if a landlord fails to comply with the law (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009). It also gives tenants the right to sue landlords to defend themselves against an eviction for nonpayment of rent. Therefore, Larry lacks adequate ground for evicting Roger as his case is not watertight. A similar ruling was held in the case of Vanlandingham v. Ivanow in the Appellate Court of Illinois. Justice McCollough ruled that the landlords could not evict the tenants for withholding rent as they had failed to maintain the building in a habitable condition (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009, p. 469).
Legal Obligation and Liability
According to Section 47(f) of the URLTA, the tenant has the responsibility of not willfully or negligently demolishing, damaging, loosening or removing any piece of the property (Sullivan, 2006, p. 1311). In Roger’s case, he intentionally threw a baseball bat against the apartment’s wall and consequently, damaged the drywall and electrical socket. He is, therefore, legally liable for the damage he caused and is obligated to pay for the damages.
Under the implied warranty of habitability, a doctrine under common law, a landlord has the legal duty of ensuring that his/her tenant lives in a habitable environment (Beatty & Samuelson, 2009). Larry violated this duty and is liable for direct damages on Roger’s property. Moreover, Larry, as the landlord, would be legally liable under the law of tort for personal injury to the tenant’s property that results from conditions in the premises that were not apparent to the tenant upon a reasonable inspection of the premises (Wilkie et al., 2006). Upon inspection of the apartment before moving in, Roger did not see the leak or have any reasonable reason to suspect that there was a leak. Larry would, however, not be liable for the damage to the drywall and the electrical socket that Roger caused.
In a tenant-landlord relationship, the two parties have legal rights and responsibilities that they must uphold. For example, a landlord has the right to receive rent payment and the duty to maintain a dwelling in a habitable condition. As for a client, he has the right to a peaceful possession of the house and the responsibility to pay rent on time. Infringement of these rights and duties can lead to suits for eviction or damages. The court, on its part, expects that the aggrieved party mitigates damages to reduce the loss that occurred as a result of the breach of contract. For the parties to avoid disputes, they should simply conform to the relevant laws and regulations.