Piper v. Fletcher

Citation88 N.W. 380,115 Iowa 263
Decision Date21 December 1901
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa


Appeal from district court, Lucas county; F. W. Eichelberger, Judge.

Suit in equity to cancel a lease, and to enjoin defendant Ramsey from prosecuting an action against the plaintiffs for the recovery of rent before a justice of the peace of Lucas county. The trial court granted the relief asked, and defendants appeal. Affirmed.J. A. Campbell, for appellants.

Stuart & Stuart, for appellees.


January 20, 1898, plaintiffs leased of the defendant Fletcher a brick storeroom in the town of Oakley for the term of five years at the agreed yearly rental of $162.50. The following is a true copy of the lease: “Oakley, Iowa, Jan. 20, '98. J. C. Fletcher, party of the first part, leases to R. D. Piper and J. L. Piper, parties of the second part, the new brick storeroom, 24x60, situated in the village of Oakley, county of Lucas, and state of Iowa, for a period of 5 years from March, 1898, at an annual rental of $162.50; the same to be paid monthly. The said room to be furnished with counters, shelves, etc., and kept in repair by party of the first part. J. C. Fletcher. R. D. Piper. J. L. Piper.” The building was in course of construction at the time the lease was executed, and was not completed and ready for occupancy until about March 2, 1898. Fletcher represented that he would finish the storeroom in first-class shape; would fit it with adjustable bracket shelves, and with counters and drawers suitable for a general country store. When plaintiffs moved into the building they found but one rough coat of plastering on the walls, which was soft and would easily crumble; that the counters were made of green elm lumber and rough pine boards; and that there was no drawers as promised. Plaintiffs objected to these matters, and defendant informed them that the fixtures were temporary; that he had purchased other good shelving, which he would put in; and that he would paper the walls. These promises were never fulfilled. Thereafter, and about January 1, 1899, Fletcher sold the premises to his codefendant Ramsey, and plaintiffs attorned to him. After his purchase, plaintiffs demanded of Ramsey that he make the repairs as promised; but he refused to do so, claiming that he was not bound by the covenants in the lease. Plaintiffs claim that during the years 1898 and 1899 their goods were seriously damaged by sand and dirt falling from the imperfect plastering, and that in September of the year 1899 the walls began to crack and spread away from the joists; that these cracks increased in number and size, and that the walls so spread as that the ends of the joists on the second floor became plainly visible; that the lower joists at one end of the building became rotten, and some of them broke down, causing the floor to settle in places from 8 to 10 inches; and that this process continued until about the 14th of October, 1899, when they vacated the building and surrendered the same to the defendants because of its untenantable and unsafe condition. After giving notice to defendants of the vacation of the property, plaintiffs commenced this action to cancel the lease. After the commencement of the suit, defendant Ramsey brought action against plaintiffs before a justice of the peace to recover the rent alleged to be due. Thereupon plaintiffs secured a writ of injunction restraining the prosecution of that action.

Much is said in argument about implied covenants between landlord and tenant, but as there was an express covenant to repair in this case, and an agreement as to how the room should be furnished, this discussion is entirely foreign to the case. Where a lessor lets a building for a particular purpose, and covenants to repair it, it is his duty to put it in such a state of repair as the business requires; and it is not important whether or not the defects existed at the date of the lease, or arise from defects in construction or from general dilapidation. “Good repair and good condition at all times is the fair intent of the agreement.” Myers v. Burns, 35 N. Y. 269;Bass v. Rollins (Minn.) 65 N. W. 348;Bentley v. Taylor, 81 Iowa, 306, 47 N. W. 58;Ward v. Robertson, 77 Iowa, 159, 41 N. W. 603.

With these rules as to the construction of the covenants settled, the next question is the effect of a breach thereof. That the tenant may recover damages for breach of covenant to repair is well...

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