Friday, February 10, 2012

Smith v. McEnany case brief

Smith v. McEnany

-Lot in Boston, part was covered by a shed which was used by the D to store wagons.
-Eviction = building of permanent brick wall which encroached along the back of the shed.
-Wall was built with the P’s assent and with knowledge that it encroached.

P: The wall only minimally interfered with the use of the premises.  The degree of interference did not cause the tenant deforcement for an appreciable amount of time.
D: The building of a brick wall upon the portion of the lot being rented under the lease = a wrongful eviction and denies the tenant enjoyment of the premises.

Does the encroachment by the P on the tenant’s leased lot, dispossess the tenant of the premises and thus deny the tenant enjoyment?

Yes, the D had the right to treat this displacement as an eviction which determined the lease.

The trial judge ruled that this was effectively an eviction.

-A wrongful eviction of the tenant by the landlord from a part of the premises suspends the rent under the lease.  The landlord shall not apportion [assign or divide] his own wrong.
-The rent arises out of the land, the whole rent is charged on every part of the land.

-The covenant to pay rent is dependent on the covenant of quiet enjoyment.  
-If the landlord, or agent of the landlord, or someone who is claiming paramount title based on a prior conveyance from the LL evicts the T, then the T’s covenant to pay rent is suspended so long as the eviction lasts.
-The suspension of the duty to pay rent does not mean that the T is absolved from performing on other covenants, such as the covenant to repair.
-The rule does not apply to a de minimus encroachment.

Court reasoned that the main reason a wrongful eviction suspends the rent is that the enjoyment of the whole consideration is the foundation of the debt and the condition of the covenant, and that the obligation to pay cannot be apportioned.  Traditionally, rent issues out of the land, and that the whole rent is charged on every part of the land.  If the landlord withdraws part of it he cannot recover either on the lease or outside of it for the occupation of the residue.  When the tenant is admittedly evicted from any portion of the land the rent is suspended because, by the terms of the instrument as construed, the tenant has made it an absolute condition that he should have the whole of the demised premises, at least as against willful interference on the landlord’s part.  An eviction like the one here does not necessarily end the lease, or other obligations of the tenant under it, such as the covenant to repair.

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