Court Sides With Landlord Over Storm Damage
The Vermont Supreme Court has just overturned a judgment that had been entered against a landlord in that state when snow and ice from a rooftop fell and crushed the tenant’s car.
The trial court that originally heard the case ruled that the landlord had violated the implied warranty of habitability when heavy snow and ice fell from the roof of tenants residence onto her parking place, destroying her car. That court awarded damages measured by the difference between the value of the car before the incident and its sale price afterwards.
The landlord appealed the case, arguing that the implied warranty of habitability only protects the tenant herself, and does not extend to her car, and that even if the implied warranty of habitability were to apply, damages would have to be limited to the value of the lease as warranted. The tenant responded by attempting to add a claim for negligence.
But the Supreme Court agreed with the landlord, that while the landlord “will deliver and maintain premises that are safe, clean and fit for human habitation,” this warranty does not extend to personal property.
The Court was also reluctant to allow damages for the loss of the parking space itself as an item of habitability. “While it may be exceptionally inconvenient not to have access to a parking space and therefore access to a car, the absence of a parking space is not an equivalent threat to health and safety as that posed by clogged toilets, raw sewage, and poisoned water.”
It is important to note that the Court did not consider whether the accumulation of ice and snow on the roof over the tenant’s designated parking space constituted negligence on the part of the landlord.
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