2008 Ct. Sup. 3273
No. HDSP-144961Connecticut Superior Court Judicial District of Hartford, Housing Session at Hartford
March 7, 2008
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
PETER E. WIESE, JUDGE.
I PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This matter is a summary process action commenced by notice to quit and writ summons and complaint. In the first count the plaintiff alleges that on September 1, 2007 the parties entered into a month to month oral lease with monthly rental payments of $900. The complaint states that the defendant breached the lease agreement by nonpayment of rent for the month of October 2007. In the second count the complaint alleges that the lease was terminated by lapse of time.
The pro se defendant responded to the complaint with an answer and special defenses. The pleading contests the existence of a verbal month-to-month lease and denies that the lease agreement terminated through lapse of time. In the special defense the defendant raises the issue of whether the premises are in a fit and habitable condition. On February 13, 2008 a trial was conducted. The parties appeared and presented sworn testimony and a number of exhibits.
Based on the credible evidence presented, the court finds the following facts to have been proven. The plaintiff is the owner of real property located at 1123-1127 Albany Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut. The plaintiff purchased the property from Alma Samuels on July 20, 2007. At the time of the purchase the defendant had an existing written lease with a five-year term beginning on November 22, 2005 and ending on November 22, 2010. The lease provided that the tenant had the option to extend the term for an additional five years. The monthly rent was specified at $900. The lease was not recorded on the land records. At CT Page 3274 the time that the sale took place the defendant had possession of a portion of the premises where he operated a hair and nail salon. The plaintiff had knowledge of the tenancy. On the day of the closing the parties met and discussed the written lease. The plaintiff requested a copy of the lease and indicated that she would honor it. The defendant did not provide the lease to the plaintiff at that time. General Statutes § 47-19 provides in relevant part:
No lease of any building for any term exceeding one year or which provides for the renewal thereof . . . shall be effectual against any person other than the lessor and lessee and their respective heirs, successors, administrators and executors, unless it is in writing, executed, attested, acknowledged and recorded in the same manner as a deed of land, provided a notice of lease in writing, executed, attested, acknowledged and recorded in the same manner as a deed of land . . .
In the present matter the plaintiff had notice of the leasehold interest at the time of the purchase. Accordingly, the plaintiff purchased the property subject to a lease between the defendant and the prior owner. In this regard the Supreme Court has stated:
General Statutes § 47-19 is designed to protect bona fide purchasers without actual notice from being bound by unrecorded leases. A bona fide purchaser is one who buys property of another without notice that some third party has a right to or interest in such property, and pays a full and fair price for the same before he has notice of a claim or interest of such other in the property. The purchaser has such notice if he knows facts which are sufficient to put a prudent man on inquiry which, if prosecuted with reasonable diligence, would certainly lead to discovery of a conflicting claim. (Citations omitted, internal quotation marks omitted.) Drazen Properties Limited Partnership v. E.F. Mahon, Inc., 19 Conn.App. 471 (1989).
The plaintiff has made efforts to make necessary repairs to the building. However, there remain two areas of significant concern. First, the basement area contains a substantial amount of flammable clutter. CT Page 3275 Second, a portion of the defendant’s lease premises has a ceiling and walls which have failed due to water damage. This creates unacceptable fire safety issues because of a lack of fire separation between rental units. The premises has been inspected by the Hartford Fire and Building Departments. The plaintiff was notified that the building was unsafe during an inspection of the premises on January 2, 2008. At the time of trial, representatives of these departments testified that the building is unsafe and not habitable. The court finds this evidence to be credible.
The lease agreement provides in relevant parts:
Tenant shall be relieved from paying rent and other charges during any portion of the Lease term that the Lease Premises are inoperable or unfit for occupancy, or use, in whole or in part, for Tenant’s purposes.
[l]andlord covenants and warrants that upon performance by Tenant of its obligations hereunder, Landlord will keep and maintain Tenant in exclusive, quiet, peaceable and undisturbed and uninterrupted possession of the Lease Premises during the term of this Lease.
(Defendant’s Exhibit J, paras. 14 and 16.)
In construing a written lease . . . three elementary principles must be [considered]: (1) The intention of the parties is controlling and must be gathered from the language of the lease in the light of the circumstances surrounding the parties at the execution of the instrument; (2) the language must be given its ordinary meaning unless a technical or special meaning is clearly intended; [and] (3) the lease must be construed as a whole and in such manner as to give effect to every provision, if reasonably possible. Furthermore, when the language of the [lease] is clear and unambiguous, [it] is to be given effect according to its terms. A court will not torture words to import ambiguity [when] the ordinary meaning leaves no room for ambiguity . . . Similarly, any ambiguity in a [lease] must emanate from the language used in the [lease] CT Page 3276 rather than from one party’s subjective perception of [its] terms. (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted).
Bristol v. Ocean State Job Lot Stores of Connecticut, Inc., 284 Conn. 1
Based upon the credible evidence, including the unambiguous terms of the lease, the Court finds that the defendant was not contractually obligated to pay the rent during the relevant period of time. The leased premises were “inoperable or unfit for occupancy, or use, in whole or in part, for Tenant’s purposes.” Accordingly, judgment shall enter in favor of the defendant.
Judgment shall enter in favor of the defendant.
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