Landlord and Tenant–Leases–Lease Executed in Violation of District of Columbia Housing Regulations Is an Illegal Contract–Brown v. Southall Realty Co.
Plaintiff-landlord brought an action for possession based on nonpayment of rent in the Landlord-Tenant Branch of the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions. Although the parties stipulated at trial that the rent was 230 dollars in arrears, defendant-tenant contended that the plaintiff was not entitled to possession because the lease was an illegal contract under the District of Columbia Housing Regulations. The trial court rejected this contention and gave judgment for plaintiff. By the time her appeal to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals was heard, the tenant had vacated the premises and no longer desired to contest the landlord’s right to possession. In response to the landlord’s claim that the tenant’s abandonment had rendered the case moot, the tenant argued that her appeal should still be heard because if the judgment below were left standing, it would be res judicata on the issue of the validity of the lease in a subsequent action by the landlord for rent. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals agreed to hear the appeal and reversed: a lease executed in violation of the District of Columbia Housing Regulations is void as an illegal contract.