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Prescott v. Smits

Vermont Supreme Court
505 A.2d 1211 (1985)


Facts

In May 1982, Dirk Smits and Kay Smits (defendants) leased a farm from Richard Prescott and Nancy Prescott (plaintiffs). The parties orally agreed the lease would last for three years. Upon moving onto the farm, the Smits experienced numerous issues with the property. In October 1982, the Smits vacated the farm and stopped paying rent. The Prescotts sued for nonpayment of rent. Any lease longer than one year must be in writing. The parties did not dispute that the original oral lease was invalid for this reason and that it created a mere tenancy at will. The dispute was whether this tenancy at will had been converted into a year-to-year tenancy. If a year-to-year tenancy had been created, then the Smits were required to pay rent for the full year, even though they vacated in less than a year. The Smits argued that a year-to-year tenancy can only be found if there is continuous possession over a period of years, which was not the case here. The lower court found that a year-to-year tenancy had been created and held the Smits liable for one year’s rent, minus the amount they had already paid. The Smits appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Hill, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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