Pitts v. Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority

Decision Date08 July 1953
Docket NumberNo. 33359,33359
Citation113 N.E.2d 869,160 Ohio St. 129,51 O.O. 51
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. Where the owner of a dwelling delivers possession thereof to another for use 'as a home' and it is so used and occupied for several years pursuant to a written agreement under which the latter pays monthly rent to the owner, there is a presumption of law that the relationship of landlord and tenant exists between the parties.

2. A license to do an act upon land involves the exclusive occupation of the land by the licensee, so far as is necessary to do the act and no further, whereas a lease gives a right of possession of the land and the exclusive occupation of it for all purposes not prohibited by its terms.

3. One having neither occupation nor control of premises ordinarily is under no legal duty to an invitee of another with respect to the condition or use of those premises. (Paragraph two of the syllabus in Brown v. Cleveland Baseball Co., 158 Ohio St. 1, 106 N.E.2d 632, approved and followed.)

4. In order to have the occupation or control of premises necessary to impose such legal duty with respect to the condition or use of those premises, one must ordinarily have the power and the right to admit such individuals to the premises or to exclude them from the premises. (Paragraph three of the syllabus in Brown v. Cleveland Baseball Co., 158 Ohio St. 1, 106 N.E.2d 632, approved and followed.)

5. Where steps are usable only as a means of ingress to and egress from a leased dwelling, the landlord thereof does not have occupation or control over those steps merely because they rest upon ground otherwise occupied by and within the control of such landlord.

6. The statutes providing for the organization of public housing authorities do not impose upon such an authority liability for negligence in the maintenance of a dwelling leased to another for use as a home, where such housing authority is out of possession and control of such premises.

An action was instituted against defendant by Lynn Pitts, herein referred to as plaintiff, by his father and next friend, to recover damages for personal injuries Likewise an action was instituted against defendant by plaintiff's father, Willie Joe Pitts, to recover for expenses incurred on behalf of plaintiff by reason of those injuries.

As the two actions involve the same operative facts and questions of law, we will refer only to the action by Lynn.

From the petition and opening statements, it appears that in October 1950 the plaintiff, who was then approximately two and one-half years old, was going up the steps leading only to the living unit occupied by his family when the overhang on one side of the third step broke, causing the injuries involved; that the foregoing living unit was owned by defendant, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, and had been built on property owned by the federal government; that that housing unit had been first occupied by plaintiff's father and his family in 1947; that the breaking of the step was caused by its rotten and deteriorated condition; and that plaintiff's father and mother had complained to defendant on three different occasions about that condition but defendant had done nothing about it.

It further appears that the occupancy of this living unit by plaintiff's family was pursuant to a so-called 'registration certificate' which reads:

'The undersigned hereby registers for the use and occupancy of the unit identified above at the address shown above; subject to the terms and conditions of occupancy prescribed by the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority and in effect as of the date of this certificate and subject to payment of the following charges:

                "1. Fixed monthly charges:       Rent $33.00
                "2. Charges for initial period
                    from 3-26-47 to 4-1-47:      Rent $ 6.60

'The undersigned occupant(s) certifies that the terms and conditions of occupancy have been read and hereby acknowledges receipt of a copy of this registration certificate and terms and conditions of occupancy.

'Date March 22, 1947

'Signature of occupant(s)

'Willie J. Pitts

'Daisy Pitts

'Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority

'Terms And Conditions of Occupancy

'The following terms and conditions of occupancy (hereinafter called terms) are made a part of the registration certificate signed by the occupant. 'Part I--General

'1. Use of Dwelling

'a. An occupant signing a registration certificate shall use this dwelling as a home for his family only. Occupants shall follow rules and regulations which have been made for the safety, comfort, and welfare of all the tenants. Occupants shall enjoy the use of this dwelling and join with the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (hereinafter known as CMHA) in making it a desirable place to live. Any failure to furnish utility services shall not be considered to be a violation of this condition.

'b. Occupancy period. The rental period for each dwelling shall be for one month (beginning the first day of the month), from the first date of occupancy until terminated as prescribed in paragraph 5.

'2. Terms of Payment

'a. Rates of payment. Rent is payable in advance at the management office on or before the first day of each month, in amounts specified on the registration certificate. Charges for partial periods shall be computed on basis of 1/30 of the monthly rate. Each month shall be considered as having 30 days for the purpose of rental computations.

'b. Initial and recurring payments. Occupants shall pay a full month's rent at time of signing registration certificate before moving into the dwelling. On the first day of the following calendar month the occupant shall pay the amount necessary to adjust charges to the regular rental period.

'3. Refunds

'Unearned rent. If the occupant moves from the project before the end of the period for which rent has been paid and has given the housing manager required notice and leaves the dwelling in good condition, the unused rent will be refunded. Refunds will be made on same basis as partial rent periods. 1/30 of the monthly rate. Each month shall be considered as having 30 days for the purpose of refund computations.

'4. Utilities

'The CMHA shall furnish the following utility services included in rent, without extra charge: Electricity, gas for heating, cooking and water heating and water.

'Occupants shall pay for utility service and used in excess of that allowed by CMHA.

'5. Termination of Occupancy

'a. By the CMHA. The CHMA may terminate occupancy by giving advance notice in writing in accordance with state laws under the following conditions: If the occupant fails to pay rent or other charges when due; if the occupant does not comply with all of the terms; if the occupant misrepresents facts required by section 7; if CMHA closes all or part of project; if other accommodations suitable to the occupant are available in other parts of the project or in other projects which are to continue in occupancy under the CMHA and the CMHA offers the occupant an opportunity to use such accommodations at the established charges. The occupant agrees to accept as sufficient any notice delivered personally, affixed to the door of the premises, or mailed to the premises. If the CMHA terminates occupancy it shall have the right to re-enter and take possession of the premises and remove all persons and property.

'b. By the occupant. When an occupant wishes to move from the project he must give the housing manager notice of his intent by filling out a 'notice of intent to vacate' not less than 15 days in advance. Occupants engaged in the military service who are transferred to another duty station may give 1 day's notice prior to moving.

'On date of termination, an occupant must remove himself and his property from the project. The dwelling, equipment, and furniture shall be in good order, allowing for reasonable wear and tear. If the occupant leaves personal property in the dwelling or on the project after termination of occupancy by notice or otherwise such property shall be disposed of in accordance with local laws on the abandonment of personal property.

'6. Occupant's Responsibilities

'a. Aid in maintenance. The CMHA and the occupant/s shall co-operate in care of the dwelling and grounds. The occupant shall notify the housing manager of damage or need for repair of property.

'b. Alterations by occupants. Occupants must obtain the consent of the housing manager before making alterations or repairs to the dwelling or its equipment.

'c. Entry. The occupant shall permit the duly authorized representatives of CMHA to enter the dwelling without notice during reasonable hours when necessary in order to provide efficient service (repairs, improvements, etc.).

'd. Transfer of subletting. Occupants must obtain authorization from the housing manager before subletting or giving accommodations to roomers, boarders or lodgers.

'e. Rubbish, garbage, and waste. Occupants shall dispose of rubbish, garbage, and waste in the proper manner in the interest of health, sanitation, and appearance of the project, as determined by the housing manager.

'f. Care of CMHA property. The occupant is responsible for keeping CMHA owned equipment and furniture in good condition and may be required to receipt for them.

'7. Information Required by the CMHA

'The occupants shall submit to the CMHA upon request, signed statements setting forth the pertinent facts concerning the occupant's household composition, employment status, and family income. CMHA may re-examine such information periodically for the purpose of determining whether the occupant has the right to continue to occupay the dwelling.

'8. Representatives and Waivers

Representatives of the CMHA have not made any promises with respect to the premises or dwelling other than mentioned herein: The failure of CMHA to enforce any of these...

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