Landlord/Tenant Law

A. The following questions relate to the Vermont Supreme Court decision in Hilder v. St. Peter

1. Who were Ella Hilder and family?

    -----single mother, three children, infant grandchild

2. What were the conditions in the apartment that led to the lawsuit?

    -----see facts p. 1 of case

3. How did the lower court rule?  What did they order the landlord to pay to Ms. Hilder?

    -----return of all rent paid
    -----additional $1500 in compensatory damages

4. In its decision, the Vermont Supreme Court discussed the development of landlord-tenant law from the early common law through modern times.  It identified three doctrines that were the foundation of the early common law relationship between landlord and tenant. What do these terms mean? 

    -----see page 2 of case

Why did these doctrines make sense in the middle ages but not in modern times? What is different today?

    -----tenants are now interested in the building, not the land
    -----tenants are no longer capable of making repairs
    -----there is no longer equality of bargaining power

6.  What new principles, or modification of existing principles, did the Supreme Court say would regulate the relationship between landlord and tenant in the future in Vermont?

    -----covenants are now dependent (obligation to pay rent dependent on habitable dwelling)
    -----there is now recognized an implied warranty of habitability

7.  What two standards did the court say it would look to in order to determine whether the warranty of habitability was breached in any given case?

    -----"safe, clean and fit for human habitation" (impact on tenant's safety and health)
    -----complies with applicable housing codes

<>8. Identify the four remedies the court said would be available to tenants when the landlord breaches the warranty of habitability

    ----- damages (difference in value and discomfort/annoyance)
    ----- rent withholding (constructive eviction overturned)
    ----- repair and deduct
    ----- punitive damages

B.  The following questions relate to the Vermont Landlord-Tenant Act linked from the lecture notes

True or false:

1. A rental agreement between a tenant and landlord is not binding unless it is written.

    -----4451 (8)
    -----if it's written, it's a "lease"
    -----note also definition of "normal wear and tear"

2. A landlord may raise the rent effective the first day of the rental period following at least 60 days' notice

    -----4455 (b)

3. Landlords are prohibited from charging a prospective tenant an application fee.

    -----True  (1989 amendment)
    -----Does it prohibit fee for a credit report? Probably not--if it's no more than the charge for the credit check

4. If there is no lease, a tenant can move out after giving the landlord one rental period notice.

    -----4456 (d)

5. A tenant who violates the terms of a lease can be evicted on 14 days’ notice.

    -----4467 (b)

6. A tenant can only be evicted for “cause” (i.e., violation of the lease or non-payment of rent).

    -----4467 (c) (no lease) and (e) (if there's a lease)

7. A tenant who receives an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent can avoid eviction by paying back rent before the termination date in the notice.

    -----4467 (a)
    -----but only 3 times in 12-month period


Multiple Choice:

1. Included in the warranty of habitability is the requirement that the landlord supply
a. a reasonable amount of heat
b. an adequate amount of water
c. both of the above
d. none of the above, unless they are required in a building, housing or health regulation

    -----4457 (a) - (c)

2. If there is a defect in the property, the tenant may repair it and deduct the cost from the rent if
a. the landlord has been given at least 30 days to repair the defect
b. the amount deducted does not exceed one-half of one month’s rent
c. the tenant provides the landlord with actual notice of the cost of the repair
d. all of the above conditions are met

    -----4459 (a) and (b)

3. A landlord may enter the tenant’s dwelling
a. with or without the tenant’s consent, as long as the landlord is not acting “unreasonably”
b. only with the tenant’s consent
c. without consent if he/she reasonably believes there is imminent danger to any person or property
d. only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.



4. A landlord may keep the tenant's security deposit if

a. there is normal wear and tear
b. there is damage beyond the control of the tenant (e.g., flood, lightning strike; not a party!)
c. the tenant has not paid a utility bill owed to a utility or the landlord
d. all of the above are true

    -----4461 (b)

Short Answer

Tina Tenant calls today (Oct. 22) with the following questions.  Answer each based on Vermont's landlord-tenant law.  Assume she signed a one-year rental agreement (lease) that expires May 31.

1. I haven't paid this month’s rent yet, because I'm out of money.  My landlord says that if I don't pay it by the end of the day, he'll turn off my heat.  He says he can do it, because it's in the lease that I signed--which it is.  Can he?

    -----"illegal" or "self-help" eviction
    -----"attempt to circumvent"

2. If I move out at the end of the month, he says I'm responsible for rent until the end of May, even if he finds another tenant.  Is that true?

    -----really an issue of contract law
    -----duty to mitigate damages/"cover"
    -----4462 (b)

3. The hot water in our bathrooms doesn’t work.  I’ve mentioned it to the landlord several times, but he hasn’t done anything.  What should my next step be?

    -----write to health inspector and/or landord

4. When can I expect my security deposit to be returned?

    -----14 days
    -----4461 (c)

5. I know there is some damage to the apartment. How will I know if the amount of the deposit that is returned to me is fair?

    -----4461 (c) and (e)

6. The building is for sale and the landlord says that if it's sold, I'll have to move, even if my lease hasn't expired.  Is that true?

    -----4467 (d) where there is no lease

7. The landlord also says that even if I pay my back rent, he's going to evict me soon because he wants to rent the place to his son. Can he do that? How long will I be able to stay if he can?

<>     -----if lease, can't evict until expiration
    -----if no lease, 4467 (c)
Good resources:

Rental Housing Health Code (relevant to warranty of habitability)

Vermont Tenants, Inc.
Click on "Renting in Vermont"
Page 22 has link to city ordinances/Chapter 18 is health code (click on the file for details)
    limit on number of tenants is in planning and zoning