Where implied warranty of habitability is raised as a defense to a landlord's action for rent or as a defense to the landlord's action for damages, the finder of fact should determine the difference between the fair market value of the premises if they had been as warranted and the fair rental value of the premises as they were during the occupancy to determine the amount of money owed the tenant. This amount should be deducted from the total amount of rent or damages the tenant is found to owe.
Tenants filed a complaint against landlord alleging breach of the warranty of habitability. Tenants filed a motion for summary judgment and for judgment on the pleadings, which was denied by the trial court. Plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
Were the trial court's actions proper?
The court found that the residential lease contained an implied warranty of habitability and that the covenant to pay rent and the warranty of habitability were mutually dependent. Breach of the covenant of habitability entitled tenants to rescind the lease, to vacate the premises, and to be relieved of any further rental obligation. Such breach could have been raised as a defense in an action by defendant for rent or for unlawful detainer. Tenants' damages should have been measured by the difference between the fair market value of the premises as warranted and the fair rental value of the premises during the occupancy in the unsafe and unsanitary condition, along with damages for annoyance and inconvenience resulting from the breach. A waiver of the implied warranty was found to be against public policy.