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Brown v. Southall Realty Co

Law Dictionary
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Property Law Keyed to Cribbet

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.393 U.S. 1018, 89 S. Ct. 621, 21 L. Ed. 2d 562 (1969)

Brief Fact Summary. Appellee, landlord, brought an action for possession against the Appellant, Brown, for rent in arrears of $230. Brown contended that no rent was due under the lease because the lease was an illegal contract, where landlord, with knowledge of housing regulations violations, entered into the lease with Brown stating that the premises were habitable in spite of the violations.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. A contract which is knowingly entered into concerning premises which are known to violate the housing regulations will not be enforceable and the contract will be void.


Facts. Appellee, landlord, brought an action for possession against the Appellant, Brown, for rent in arrears of $230. Brown contended that no rent was due under the lease because the lease was an illegal contract, where landlord, with knowledge of housing regulations violations, entered into the lease with Brown stating that the premises were habitable in spite of the violations. Prior to the signing of the lease, landlord was on notice that housing code violations existed on the property in question which were found by an inspector to be an obstructed commode, a broken railing, and an insufficient height in the basement, such that the entire basement was unsuitable as a dwelling place. Mr. Penn, owner of the premises in question, testified adversely to landlord and stated at trial that “he had submitted a sworn statement to the Housing Division on December 8, 1964 to the effect that the basement was unoccupied at that time and would continue to be kept vacant until the violations w
ere corrected.” The Appellant, Brown, contends that the lease should have been declared unenforceable because it was knowingly entered into in contravention of the housing regulations, which state that “No persons shall offer to rent any habitation, or the furnishings thereof, unless such habitation and its furnishings are in a clean, safe and sanitary condition, in repair, and free from rodents and vermin.” [Section 2304 of District of Columbia Housing Regulations]. After the landlord prevailed in the trial court, the Appellant, Brown, appealed.

Issue. Was the lease agreement void and unenforceable as an illegal contract?

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