Swartzbaugh v. Sampson
54 P.2d 73 (1936)

  • The Swartzbaughs owned some land in joint tenancy. Mr. Swartzbaugh wanted to lease some of the land to Sampson to open a boxing ring. Mrs. Swartzbaugh objected to the lease. Mr. Swartzbaugh went through with the lease agreement without Mrs. Swartzbaugh approval or signature.
    • Sampson ripped out Mrs. Swartzbaugh’s walnut grove, and built a $10k boxing arena on the land. He only paid Mr. Swartzbaugh $15 a month in rent.
    • Mrs. Swartzbaugh was worried about “women and liquor” entering the land.
    • There was some question as to whether the elderly Mr. Swartzbaugh was competent to enter into a contract.
  • Mrs. Swartzbaugh sued to have the lease canceled and Sampson evicted.
  • The Trial Court dismissed the case and left Sampson’s lease intact. Mrs. Swartzbaugh appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court noted that in a joint tenancy, all the tenants have a right to possess the land and use it as they see fit. A joint tenant has no right to charge another joint tenant rent for occupancy or profits derived from that person’s labor on the land.
    • The Court also noted that in a joint tenancy, one tenant has the right to place a mortgage or lien on their interest in the property. However, this does not bind the other tenants.
    • The Court found that a tenant “may, by either lease or license, confer upon another person the right to use the property of the co-tenancy as fully as such lessor or licensor himself might have used or occupied it if such lease or license had not been granted.”
      • Basically, since Mr. Swartzbaugh had a right to build a boxing ring on the land without requiring Mrs. Swartzbaugh permission, he had a right to allow Sampson to build a boxing ring on the land without requiring Mrs. Swartzbaugh’s permission.
      • Of course, Sampson could only lease what Mr. Swartzbaugh owned, which was a partial possession of the land.
        • For example, Sampson could not bar Mrs. Swartzbaugh from entering the part of the property he was leasing because, as co-tenants, Mr. Swartzbaugh did not have the right to bar Mrs. Swartzbaugh from entering their shared property. If Mrs. Swartzbaugh was barred, she had a right to sue for ouster.
        • As co-tenants, Mr. Swartzbaugh was liable to Mrs. Swartzbaugh for half the rent he received from Sampson. He owed her $7.50 a month.
  • After this case, Mr. Swartzbaugh gave his interest in the non-leased land to Mrs. Swartzbaugh, and his interest in the leased land to his daughter, thereby splitting the land into two independent parcels.