Linda K. Miller, Appellant,
William Burnett, Appellee.
BY THE COURT
1. As a
general rule, an appellate court cannot determine whether
substantial evidence supports a trial court's factual
findings unless a transcript of the evidence presented to the
trial court is included in the appellate record.
Although Kansas recognizes a landlord's duty to mitigate
damages, that duty does not arise unless the tenant has
abandoned the property. A landlord's duty to mitigate
damages does not authorize interference with the tenant's
rights to exclusive possession and quiet enjoyment of the
from Wabaunsee District Court; Gary L. Nafziger, judge.
Reversed and remanded with directions.
K. Miller, appellant pro se.
William Burnett, appellee pro se.
A. Stewart, associate counsel, for amicus curiae Kansas
Standridge, P.J., Leben, J., and Patricia Macke Dick,
District Judge, assigned.
early 2016, Linda K. Miller sued her landlord, William
Burnett, claiming she was entitled to damages because he had
allowed his neighbor's horses to graze on the 35 acres of
pastureland that she rented from him and also had denied her
access to the land for several months. Burnett filed a
counterclaim against Miller, claiming she hadn't paid
rent. Miller lost at both small-claims court and at a bench
trial in district court; the court ordered her to pay Burnett
the rent she owed. On appeal, she essentially argues that,
based on the evidence, the district court reached the wrong
at least from her vantage point, she did not include a trial
transcript in the record on appeal. Without this, we cannot
know what evidence the district court relied on to make its
decision, so we cannot evaluate the factual validity of that
can evaluate the district court's legal conclusion that
because Miller hadn't paid rent, Burnett was required to
mitigate his damages by allowing his neighbor's horses to
graze on the rented property. That's not correct. First,
while landlords do have a duty to mitigate damages under
Kansas law (a minority position nationally), that duty arises
only when a tenant abandons the property-it simply
doesn't apply in this situation, where all we know for
sure is that the tenant failed to pay rent but might have
still occupied the premises. Second, the district court's
conclusion is at odds with another principle of
landlord-tenant law, the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment,
which exists in every Kansas lease and prevents a landlord
from interfering with the tenant's exclusive use and
possession of the rented property. The law simply does not
authorize a landlord to breach this covenant of quiet
enjoyment and interfere with the tenant's sole possession
based on a nonpayment of rent when the tenant is still in
possession-a landlord has other legal remedies available when
a tenant fails to pay rent.
and Procedural Background
around 2010, Miller rented 35 acres of pastureland in
Wabaunsee County from Burnett; she and her husband used the
land to grow and harvest brome grass. The parties seem to
agree that they had an oral lease agreement, that the rent
was $1, 000 a year, and that the lease terminated on March 1,
2016. (By statute, oral farm leases in Kansas run ...