A Constructive Eviction is an Eviction by Coercion
Have you ever been locked out of your apartment because you owed rent?
An Eviction Should Not Happen This Way
A constructive eviction is an illegal course of action by a landlord or roommate that forces a tenant out of the apartment without a court order. A constructive eviction exists when a landlord does something or fails to do what is needed for the apartment or building to make it habitable.
A constructive eviction is caused due to a landlord or co-tenant’s negligence or retaliatory action. The landlord or roommate creates an obstructive or negative environment in or around the apartment that is so intolerable that the tenant has no other recourse than to move out.
The landlord or roommate may think he or she is taking self-help action to deal with an unpaid rent or occupancy problem. What is actually happening are efforts geared toward getting the tenant to move out sooner rather than later, without the time and expense of going to housing court.
When an apartment is rented to a tenant, there is an implied warranty of habitability. That means that the landlord or property manager intends to maintain the property and render it safe and livable during the term of the tenancy. A tenant, co-tenant or roommate can break the lease due to a violation of that warranty. However, legal notice in writing must be provided.
When the landlord or roommate lets the apartment go to waste, the tenant is essentially deprived of the full use of the apartment. There is little or no action on the part of the landlord to remedy the problem. It is hoped the poor condition of the apartment will cause someone to move out. The landlord doesn’t send an eviction notice, but instead, takes one or more of the following action(s):
• Changes the lock on the apartment door to force the tenant to see the landlord to get a key. The landlord may become immediately unavailable. Usually done when a tenant owes rent;
• Change the apartment lock before the end of the lease;
• No working heat or hot water on purpose, or cut off the utilities;
• Tenant is unable to use landlord supplied appliances due to repairs needed;
• Landlord provides insufficient or no effort to eliminate illegal activities in the building;
• A non-functional elevator;
• Continued lack of security by not having a working lock on the front and/or rear entry doors;
• Allow, by no or insufficient effort, an infestation of pests and vermin, rendering the apartment unlivable;
• Intimidates the tenant(s) to pay the rent by yelling and screaming, cursing, and harassing the tenant at will;
Usually, these types of actions are taken by a landlord to ‘encourage’ the tenant to either pay the rent, or leave and save legal fees. If pursued by the tenant, the landlord can be brought to court for these actions. In fact, in many states, a constructive eviction could result in a landlord paying three times the rent plus tenant legal fees in compensatory damages to the tenant. This is due to the landlord’s violation of implied warranty of habitability and disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of the premises.
Constructive eviction does allow a tenant to walk away from the apartment, free from the lease, rent, and any other renting obligations regarding the apartment. The tenant must notify the landlord of the problem, and allow a reasonable time period for the landlord to address it. If the landlord or property manager fails to remedy the problem, the tenant has the right to move out, even break the lease. States have their own regulations regarding this action.
At the End of the Day…
A landlord or property manager cannot resort to taking or fail to take action at a property in order to get rid of a tenant. Homeowners and roommates need to use the housing court system to legitimize rent collection or eviction cases. As frustrating as it may be, a practical, legal approach rather than self-help when it concerns tenancy issues is required.