A landlord, L, owns a commercial garage. The garage is used as an automobile repair business. The garage includes three automobile lifts, which are large mechanical platforms used to raise cars off the ground for inspection and repair.
On January 1 of Year 1, L enters into a lease agreement with a tenant, T. T is an automobile mechanic. The lease includes following provisions:
1. Lease Term and Rent: Tenant shall occupy the premises for all of Year 1. Rent shall be $1,000 per month, payable in advance on the first day of each month.
2. Duty to Repair: Tenant shall have a duty to make all repairs that are necessary to maintain the premises, and to return the premises to the Landlord in the same condition as they were at the commencement of this lease.
When T takes possession of the garage on January 1, all of the lifts are working properly, and the roof is weathertight. On March 1 of Year 1, the lift in the first garage bay breaks down. T does not repair the lift. In early April of Year 1, the roof begins to leak. T does not repair the roof.
The garage is next door to a landscaping company, which also sells gardening supplies. Upon moving into the garage, T notices an unpleasant odor around the premises. T discovers that the landscaping company sells bulk fertilizer, which it stores in open bins. Routine breezes regularly carry the odor of the fertilizer to the garage.
T asks the landscaping company to contain the odor, but the company refuses. T asks L to ameliorate the problem, but L is also unsuccessful at persuading the landscaping company to change its practices.
Not only is the odor unpleasant, it begins to give T headaches. After several months, T cannot stand the situation any more. On April 29 of Year 1, T notifies L that T is leaving the premises and terminating the lease. T removes all of his belongings and returns the keys to L, leaving the premises empty on May 1 of Year 1. T pays no rent after making the April 1 payment.
The applicable law imposes a duty on a landlord to mitigate damages. L runs a weekly ad in the local newspaper seeking another tenant. L also posts a “For Rent” sign in front of the garage, and shows the garage to four prospective tenants. After four months, L succeeds in finding another tenant at $1,000 per month. The new tenant pays rent through the end of Year 1.
It costs L $2,000 to repair the broken lift, and another $3,000 to repair the roof. L claims that T is responsible for the cost of these repairs, plus the four months’ rent that L has lost while seeking another tenant. Accordingly, L sends T a written demand for $9,000. T refuses to pay anything.
- Who is responsible for the cost of repairs? Explain.
- Did T properly abandon the premises? Explain.
- Does T owe L rent for the four months during which L sought another tenant? Explain.