Webb v. Sharp
80 U.S. 14 (1871)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Webb v. Sharp, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 14 14 (1871)

Webb v. Sharp

80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 14

Syllabus

In the District of Columbia, a landlord has a tacit lien for his rent on the chattels of his tenant on the demised premises from the time the chattels are placed therein until the expiration of three months after the rent becomes due, which lien has priority over a mortgage on the chattels given after they are placed on the premises. But it seems that a bona fide sale or removal of the goods would discharge them from the lien.

By the Act of Congress passed February 22, 1867, [Footnote 1] the right of distress for rent in the District of Columbia was abolished, and instead thereof, it was enacted

"That the landlord shall have a tacit lien upon such of the tenant's personal chattels upon the premises as are subject to execution for debt, to commence with the tenancy and continue for three months after the rent is due, and until the termination of any action for such rent brought within said three months."

And under the act, this lien may be enforced:

(1) By attachment, to be issued upon affidavit that the rent is due and unpaid; or, if not due, that the defendant is about to remove or sell all, or some, of said chattels; or,

(2) By judgment against the tenant and execution, to be levied on said chattels, or any of them, in whosesoever hands they may be found; or,

(3) By action against any purchaser of any of said chattels, with notice of the lien.

This act of Congress being in force, one Polkinhorn, owner of a house in Washington City, leased it to Snow et al. for a printing office, and they afterwards bought and placed a printing press therein. Subsequently, on the 11th of December, 1867, they borrowed money and executed to one Webb a deed of trust to secure the repayment of the loan, the press, however, still remaining on the premises leased.

Page 80 U. S. 15

The loan, though it became due, was never paid. And the tenants falling behind in payment of their rent also, Polkinhorn, their landlord, attached the printing press; the rent for which the attachment was made having accrued in 1869, within three months prior to the issuing of the attachment. Judgment being perfected on the attachment, a writ of fieri facias was issued to the marshal of the District, who levied on the press, then still remaining upon the premises. Hereupon Webb, the trustee under the deed of trust, issued a replevin against the marshal in the court below. That court adjudged that the plaintiff should take nothing by his suit and that the marshal have a return of the printing-press. From this judgment Webb brought the case here.

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