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Hannan v. Dusch

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. Lessee brought suit to recover damages from lessor. After signing a lease, the lessee discovered former tenants, which the lessor refused to evict, occupied the property.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under the American rule, the lessee has a right to possession, but absent an explicit covenant, the lessor has no duty to deliver possession.

    Facts. The Plaintiff, Hannan (Plaintiff), leased property from the Defendant, Dusch (Defendant), for a term of 15 years. When the Plaintiff attempted to take possession of the property, he discovered there were tenants still on the property. Defendant refused to take action to evict tenants and argued that it was the Plaintiff’s duty to see that the premises were available. The Plaintiff sued to recover damages.

    Issue. Whether a landlord, without any express covenant to deliver possession of the property is required by law to deliver possession of the property.

    Held. Affirmed, the landlord has no duty to deliver possession of the property unless both parties specifically covenanted for it.
    Virginia abides by the American rule, which recognizes the lessee’s right to possession, but imposes no duty on the lessor to deliver possession. The lessee may covenant to require the landlord to deliver possession.
    There may be an ethical duty in good conscience upon the lessor to oust the old tenants, but the duty to oust the old tenants by statutory remedy rested on lessee.

    Discussion. The court discussed the two conflicting rules applicable to the case. The English rule on one hand, implies a covenant requiring the lessor to put the lessee in possession. The American rule, on the other hand, recognizes the lessee’s right to possession, but imposes no duty on the lessor to deliver possession. The court noted that there were remedies available to the lessee under Virginia law regarding unlawful entry and detainer. Therefore the American rule was the rule that Virginia chose to adopt.


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