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Knight v. Hallsthammar

Supreme Court of California
623 P.2d 268 (1981)


Facts

In May 1977, Knight (plaintiff) purchased an apartment building in which Hallsthammar and other tenants resided. After acquiring the property, Knight notified the existing tenants that there would be a substantial increase in rent. The tenants responded that they would withhold future rent payments because of the poor quality of the building and the rent increases. The tenants complained of cracked walls, peeling paint, water leaks, heating and electrical problems, broken or inoperable windows, and pests. Complaints were made to the building managers and to prior ownership, but for the most part the tenants stayed current on their rent prior to the change in ownership. Knight then filed a consolidated unlawful detainer action against the tenants, who claimed in defense a breach of the implied warranty of habitability. At trial, the jury ruled against four tenants and did not return a verdict on three others. The four tenants appealed on the grounds that the trial court incorrectly instructed the jury that breach of the implied warranty is a defense only if (1) the tenant did not know of the defective condition at the time of occupancy, and (2) the landlord is given “a reasonable time to correct the defect” while the tenant has possession.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Bird, C.J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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Dissent (Clark, J.)

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