Hannan v. Dusch Case Brief

Summary of Hannan v. Dusch, Supreme Court of VA (1930)

Parties: PL Hannan lessee & found it occupied vs. DF landlord – agreed to lease it, not make it vacant

Cause of action/remedy sought: The following is a legal action for damages as the result of a breach of K (deed).

Procedural History: DF demurred and trial court ruled for DF. This court affirms.

Facts: 8-31-27 PL leased apt. from DF for 15 years to begin January 1, 1928.

PL was ready and willing to take possession, yet DF refused to put PL in possession or keep the property open on that or any other date.

There was no express covenant in the lease as to the delivery to the premises, nor for the quiet possession of the premises. DF maintains he gave PL the legal right to possession and therefore DF had no other duty.

Issue(s): Under VA property law, is landlord, who w/o any express covenant as to delivery of possession leases property to a tenant, required to oust trespassers and wrongdoers so as to have it open for entry by the tenant at the beginning of the term (is there an implied covenant to deliver possession)?

Holding: No, such a covenant is not implied in a lease, because the lessee has a statutory remedy.

Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: English rule v. American rule

English rule – absent any stipulations, every lease has an implied covenant that the landlord shall open the premises for the entry of the tenant, on the day the lease term begins.

American Rule – Recognizes lessee’s legal right to possession, but does not imply a duty on the lessor.

Here, we have the American rule, and state provides PL with a statute to remedy the situation. PL’s cause of action was against the holdover tenant. PL chose not to utilize this remedy.

Rule: A taking of both the American and English rules: there is a statutory method for lessees who did not have delivery expressly stated in their agreement. There is an implied covenant in such cases on the part of the landlord to assure to the tenant the legal right of possession — that at the beginning of the tenant’s term there is no legal obstacle to the right of possession.

Did court avoid issues?: No.

Dicta: Questions not before the court. The history of the English v. American rule is also entertaining, in that it seems to have little or no bearing on the outcome.

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