Legal remedies for defenses to contract and habitability
Dan Maltbie and John Burke, students at Indiana University, resided in an apartment in an older house in Bloomington, Indiana. The agreed rent was $235 per month. When Maltbie and Burke moved in, they discovered numerous defects: rotting porch floorboards, broken and loose windows, an inoperable front door lock, leaks in the plumbing, a back door that would not close, a missing bathroom door, inadequate water pressure, falling plaster, exposed wiring over the bathtub, and a malfunctioning toilet. Later, they discovered more leaks in the plumbing, a leaking roof, the absence of heat and hot water, cockroach infestation, and pigeons in the attic.
The City of Bloomington had a housing code in effect at that time. Code enforcement officers inspected the apartment and found over 50 violations, 11 of which were “life-safety” violations (defined as conditions that might be severely “hazardous to health of the occupant”). These conditions remained largely uncorrected after notice by the code officers and further complaints by Maltbie and Burke.
Maltbie vacated the apartment before the one-year lease term expired, notified the landlord, and refused to pay any further rent. The landlord agreed to let Burke remain and pay $112.50 per month. The landlord then filed suit against Maltbie and Burke for $610.75, which was the balance due under the written rental contract plus certain charges. Maltbie and Burke filed counterclaims, seeking damages and abatement of the rent for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.
You are counsel for Maltbie and Burke.
a. What are the defenses to contract formation and would they apply in this case? Why or why not?
b. What are the elements of implied warranty of habitability and have they been met in this case? Why or why not?
c. Are there any damages would you seek? Why?
You are counsel for Landlord
a. What are the elements of contract formation and have they been met in this case? Why or why not?
b. What arguments would you make against breach of the implied warranty of habitability?
c. What damages would you seek? Why?