Getting Past Thompson v. Harris: A New Standard of Constructive Eviction in Arizona

by Donald W. Hudspeth

Provided by Law Offices of Donald W. Hudspeth, PC

In 1969 the Arizona Court of Appeals decided Thompson v Harris.1 Thompson the famous (or infamous) welding shop case, dramatically illustrates the traditional rule that a landlord has no duty to one tenant to correct the nuisance activities of another.

Put more legalistically the case holds that a "landlord's obligation under a covenant of quiet enjoyment ... does not extend to acts of other tenants or third parties unless such acts are performed on behalf of the landlord or by one claiming paramount title.''2

The facts of Thompson are roughly as follows: In 1962, Thompson leased space for the Longbranch Bar, 1937 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, Arizona, from Harris, the landlord. Sometime thereafter, Harris rented adjacent space to an unidentified second tenant for a welding shop. Thompson's bar and the welding shop shared a common wall. Because the welding shop had no toilet facilities, some of its occupants used the common wall as a urinal. Soon, the wall developed an offensive odor and began to leak.

Thompson complained to Harris, who spoke to the welding shop proprietor about the problem, but neither Harris nor the welding shop took any action to correct the problem. Thompson then deducted money from the rent check to pay for mopping and deodorants. Harris returned the check with a Notice of Termination.

At trial Thompson argued that his failure to pay the rent in full did not breach the lease because Harris had breached the lease by, among other reasons, not acting to cure the problem. Both the trial court and the court of appeals rejected this argument, holding that "the landlord had no duty to prevent the improper use of the wall by another tenant."3

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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