Fowler v. Rapley - 82 U.S. 328 (1872)
U.S. Supreme Court
Fowler v. Rapley, 82 U.S. 15 Wall. 328 328 (1872)
Fowler v. Rapley, 82 U.S. 328 (1872)
82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 328
Under the landlord and tenant law of the District of Columbia, as regulated by the Act of Congress of February 22, 1867, the "tacit lien" given by the act upon certain of the tenant's personal chattels on the premises attaches at the commencement of the tenancy to any such chattels then on the premises, and continues to attach to them into whosesoever hands the chattels may come during the time allowed by the act for instituting proceedings, unless the lien is displaced by the removal of the chattels or by the sale of them by the tenant in the ordinary course of mercantile transactions. It is not displaced by a sale of the stock in mass, while they remain in mass, to a person who knew that the premises were leased and continues to occupy them, selling in the ordinary way the goods, nor even by a second sale of that sort.
An Act of Congress of February 22, 1867, [Footnote 1] abolishes the right of distress in the District of Columbia, and enacts that
"Instead of it 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 this lien may be enforced:"
"First. 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,"
"Second. 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,"
"Third. By action against the purchaser of any of said chattels, with notice of the lien, in which action the plaintiff may have judgment for the value of the chattels purchased by the defendant, but not exceeding the rent in arrear and damages."
In this condition of the statutory law the firm of Stackpole & Hall engaged in selling lumber and ice, at wholesale and retail, in the City of Washington, on the 1st of July, 1867, rented a wharf, in the said city, for the purpose of a lumberyard and ice houses, from one Rapley, at the monthly rent of $100. Stackpole & Hall carried on their business, on the premises, until the 23d of November, 1867, when they sold out their stock of ice and lumber to one Perkins, rent being at this time due, and in arrear from the 1st day of the preceding August. Perkins immediately took possession of the stock and of the premises, and continued the business until the 14th of January, 1868, when, there having been no discharge of the arrears of rent, he sold the stock, and delivered the same to one Fowler, who immediately took possession of the premises, and continued the business thereon.
On the 24th of January, 1868, Rapley sued Stackpole & Hall for rent in arrear, to-wit, $100 per month for the months of August, September, October, November, and December, 1867, and caused an attachment to be issued under the act of Congress above quoted, and under the same the marshal seized upon part of the property which had belonged to Stackpole & Hall, and had been by them sold to Perkins, and by Perkins to Fowler, and which had not been removed from the premises.
Both Perkins and Fowler knew, at the time of their respective purchases, that the premises were rented premises, but neither of them had notice otherwise than by implication from the facts above set forth, that the rent was in arrear.
Upon this case, which was stated for the opinion of the court below, that court, on a writ of replevin issued by Fowler against Rapley and the marshal for the seized property,
gave judgment for the defendants. This judgment Fowler now brought here for review.