Wade v. Jobe Case Brief

Summary of Wade v. Jobe, S. Ct. UT [1991]

Relevant Facts: Df Jobe rented house from PL Wade in Ogden, UT with her three children. Shortly afterward she noticed several defects, one, no hot water was caused by the flame on the water heater being extinguished by the rising sewer leakage in the basement. Pl was notified and who pumped the sewage and water out of the basement onto the sidewalk several times. These problems continued for several months when the tenant notified the LL that she would withhold the rent until the sewage problem was solved permanently. PL did not do so. A month later the City Inspection revealed the premises unfit for human habitation. A week later another inspection determined numerous code violations which would condemn the property unless fixed. The tenant moved and the LL filed suit to recover unpaid rent. Df filed counterclaim.

Legal Issue(s): Whether an implied warranty of habitability exists; and if so can a tenant offset unpaid rent as a result of the LL’s breach?

Court’s Holding: Yes, Yes

Procedure: Trial LL was awarded unpaid rent, T was denied offset. Df appealed. Remand for trial to determine whether breach of warranty of habitability as defined by this opinion.

Law or Rule(s): In residential leases an implied warranty of habitability exists, bare living requirements must be met, and the premises are fit for human occupation during the duration of the lease.

Court Rationale: Failure to supply water or heat, or violations involving safety and health will often sustain a tenant’s claim for breach of warranty of habitability. If a claimed defect has an impact on the health and safety of the tenant a code violation is not necessary to establish a breach. Here the premises were not in habitable condition. Two inspections detailed numerous violations. The trial judge “a substantial hazard to the health and safety of the occupants." The presence of raw sewage on the sidewalks and stagnant water in the basement created a foul odor. The tenant notified the LL. The LL did nothing except temporarily alleviate the condition. The LL did not controvert the evidence of the substantial problems. Where the tenant provided notice of disrepair, as did the city, the tenant has at least 3 options. Continue paying and file an action to recover; or withhold the rent; or terminate the agreement and move bringing damage claim for the costs expended. If the tenant is awarded damages it is based on percentage diminution, or lost % of use and enjoyment.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The repairs were performed whenever the tenant notified LL of disrepair and the tenant remained in possession for 9 months aware of the conditions.

Defendant’s Argument: The premises were not fit for human occupancy as determined by the City Inspection, and created a safety and health hazard.

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