''Latent'' Defects Legal Definition
Under the implied warranty of suitability, a commercial landlord warrants that "at the inception of the lease there are no latent defects in the facilities that are vital to the use of the premises for their intended commercial purpose and that these essential facilities will remain in suitable condition." Davidow v. Inwood North Prof'l Group - Phase I, 747 S.W.2d 373, 377 (Tex. 1988).
The term "latent" applies to that which is "not clearly apparent or certainly present to any but a most searching examination but may emerge and develop with effect and significance." WEBSTER'S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY 1275 (1993).
By contrast, "patent" means to be open, exposed, and evident. WEBSTER'S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY at 1654.
The Texas Supreme Court has specifically limited the implied warranty of suitability to protect tenants from the hazards of latent defects because the burden of finding and repairing latent defects is more equitably placed on the permanent owner of the premises who is more likely to have the resources, expertise, and incentive to cure hidden problems. See Davidow, 747 S.W.2d at 375-76.
Whether a landlord has breached the implied warranty of suitability is usually a fact question to be determined from the particular circumstances of each case, including the nature of the defect. See id. at 377.