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Morford v. Lensey Corp.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Rock Island County; the Hon. Edward Keefe, Judge, presiding.


This is an appeal by the plaintiffs Susan Morford and Sylvia Strosche (hereinafter tenants) from the dismissal of counts I, II and III of their amended complaint against the Lensey Corporation (hereinafter landlord). All three counts were dismissed, on motion of the landlord, for failure to state claims upon which relief could be granted. From the dismissals, the tenants appeal. The issues raised concern the sufficiency of the three counts in stating causes of action.

The facts in the complaint, taken as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss, indicate that the tenants and the landlord entered into a written residential lease for a Rock Island apartment on or about July 31, 1977. The lease was renewed for an additional year on or about July 31, 1978, and the renewed lease contained an automatic renewal provision, effective until July 31, 1980. Following July 31, 1980, the tenants continued to occupy the apartment on a month-to-month basis, paying rent monthly. According to the factual allegations of the complaint, throughout their tenancy, the leased apartment contained numerous physical defects and substandard conditions, which were stated to be violations of the minimum housing standards for the city of Rock Island. Sixteen separate physical defects or conditions were listed in the first amended complaint. The landlord had been notified of the conditions and defects, but had refused or failed to make any repairs.

On or about December 4, 1980, the tenants requested that the housing inspection department of the city of Rock Island make an inspection of their apartment premises. That inspection was made on December 5, 1980, and the landlord was notified of defects and substandard conditions in the premises. The landlord was instructed by the city to bring the premises into compliance with the city's housing code. Subsequent to the defendant landlord's receipt of notice from the city, the landlord, on December 23, 1980, served tenants with a 30-day notice to quit, directing them to vacate by February 1, 1981. Tenants were at all times in complete compliance with their obligations as tenants to the landlord. The tenants complied with the notice to quit and vacated the premises. The landlord refused to return their $125 security deposit, which had been paid at the inception of the lease arrangement.

The tenants responded with the instant action against the landlord. Count I of their first amended complaint sought to assert a claim for breach of the implied covenant of habitability. It set forth the prior and existing contractual relationships between the tenants and landlord, and it alleged, as part of the lease, an implied warranty of habitability. The warranty of habitability was grounded, in part, on the minimum housing standards of the city of Rock Island. Sixteen specific defects or substandard conditions, allegedly violations of the applicable housing code, were set forth as breaches of the implied warranty of habitability. The tenants also alleged that the premises, with the defects and substandard conditions, was unfit for occupancy. Count I concluded with allegations of damages, and a request for relief.

Count II of the complaint sought to assert a cause of action premised upon violations of sections 1 and 2 of article XI of the Illinois Constitution of 1970. (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XI, secs. 1, 2.) Those sections state:

"Section 1. Public Policy — Legislative Responsibility

The public policy of the State and the duty of each person is to provide and maintain a healthful environment for the benefit of this and future generations. The General Assembly shall provide by law for the implementation and enforcement of this public policy.

Section 2. Rights of Individuals

Each person has the right to a healthful environment. Each person may enforce this right against any party, government or private, through appropriate legal proceedings subject to reasonable limitation and regulation as the General Assembly may provide by law."

Count III's factual allegations were substantially those set forth in count I.

Count II of tenants' complaint set forth the facts of the previous counts, and included factual allegations that the premises, at the tenants' request, had been inspected by the housing department, that violations had been found, and that the landlord had been notified of the violations. Count III alleged that the notice to quit from the landlord was delivered shortly after the finding of violations and notice to the landlord, and that the landlord had terminated the tenancy solely because of the tenants' complaints to the city's housing inspection department. The tenants premised recovery upon the landlord's retaliatory eviction of them for making those complaints to the housing department. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 80, par. 71.

Count IV of the complaint pleaded a cause of action for breach of contract respecting the failure to return their damage deposit of $125.

The landlord filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. A hearing on the motion to dismiss was held, and on January 18, 1982, the trial court entered its judgment order dismissing counts I, II, and III of the complaint. Dismissal was denied as to count IV. However, on February 23, 1982, count IV was disposed of by consent order. Thereafter, on March 12, 1982, within 30 days of the consent ...

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