Monday, January 6, 2014

Knight v. Hallsthammar case brief

Knight v. Hallsthammar case brief summary
623 P.2d 268 (1981)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant tenants appealed the decision of the Municipal Court for the Los Angeles Judicial District of Los Angeles County (California), which returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff landlords in plaintiffs' unlawful detainer action against defendant who refused to pay rent due to disrepair of the apartment building and increased rent.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff landlords purchased residential rental property. Plaintiffs hired an investment property company to manage that property. The company sent a letter to defendant tenants that there would be a rent increase. Defendant, as representative of the tenants' association, sent a letter to the management company which stated that defendants would withhold all future rents because of both the state of disrepair and rent increases. The management company indicated that any repairs would only be done to vacant apartments. Defendants were served with three-day notices to pay the new rent or face eviction. Plaintiffs brought an unlawful detainer action.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The jury in the trial court was unable to reach a verdict as to three defendants but returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs as to four defendants.

DISCUSSION

  • The court reversed the trial court's decision because the trial court's erroneous instructions to the jury as to plaintiffs' duties to repair and failure to set forth properly the standards of habitability were likely to mislead the jury. 
  • Further, the court held that defendants did not waive plaintiffs' breach of implied warranty of habitability by continuing to live in the apartments.

CONCLUSION
The court reversed the trial court's decision which found in favor of plaintiff landlords because the trial court gave erroneous instructions to the jury as to plaintiffs' duties to repair and its failure to set forth properly the standards of habitability were likely to mislead the jury. The court also held that defendant tenants did not waive plaintiffs' warranty of habitability by continuing to live in the rental units.

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