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Murphy v. Smallridge

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
468 S.E.2d 167 (1996)


In May 1990, the Murphys (plaintiffs) signed a one-year lease to rent a house from the Smallridges (defendants). After the term expired on June 1, 1991, the lease became a periodic tenancy. The Smallridges repeatedly dumped trash in the house’s yard. After multiple complaints to the Smallridges, the Murphys anonymously reported them to the state Department of Natural Resources. The Department investigated, and on September 26, 1991 informed the Smallridges that the dumping was illegal. The next day, the Smallridges informed the Murphys that the lease would be terminated, but then agreed to let them remain in exchange for a $150 increase in rent. The Murphys instead vacated the premises and filed suit for retaliatory eviction. The trial court dismissed their suit for failure to state a cause of action, holding that retaliatory eviction can only be raised as a defense by a tenant who remains on a property and is subject to an eviction action by the landlord. The Murphys appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Cleckley, J.)

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