Law School Clinic and Community Legal Services Providers Collaborate to Advance the Remedy of Implied Warranty of Habitability in Missouri
20 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2019
Date Written: May 12, 2017
Missouri tenants have few defenses to uninhabitable housing conditions. In a statistical study conducted by the Washington University Civil Rights & Community Justice Clinic and the Metropolitan Saint Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council, which encompassed 6,369 landlord-tenant cases from the 2012 calendar year, only two cases (0.03%) resulted in a judgment in favor of the tenant, while 4,934 cases (77.5%) resulted in judgments in favor of the landlord, with the remaining cases being dismissed without a judgment. These findings suggest that unrepresented low-income tenants seeking to raise defenses in rent and possession and eviction cases in the Missouri state courts face significant difficulties. The trial court’s decision in Kohner Properties, Inc. v. Johnson put the practical application of a key affirmative defense — the implied warranty of habitability — at risk. The remedy of implied warranty of habitability developed, in part, as a response to a chronic and prolonged housing shortage, particularly for low-income households. This remedy is necessary because common law constructive eviction, which requires the tenant to abandon the premises, is an insufficient remedy for low-income tenants. The remedy of implied warranty of habitability is crucial to balancing the interests of landlords and tenants, and maintaining an adequate supply of safe, livable, quality housing in Missouri.
Keywords: Housing, landlord tenant law, implied warranty of habitability, evictions, Missouri
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