Constructive eviction occurs when the landlord acts to keep the tenant from continuing to live in the rental unit. If the landlord doesn’t correct or terminate the flawed situation, and it seriously impedes the tenant’s use and enjoyment of premises, the tenant can abandon such premises with no obligation to pay rent.
When residential property is uninhabitable or when a tenant cannot stay in the premises because the premises is unlivable, it creates a condition under which the tenant has been constructively evicted. The facts and circumstances are such that the tenant is unable to have full use and possession of the rental property and thus, has technically been evicted.
To claim constructive eviction, the tenant must provide the landlord with a written notice that states the problem so the landlord has time to remedy the situation. The landlord must have adequate time to repair the problem. Constructive eviction can be as extreme as physically preventing you from entering your leased property or it can be something the landlord does that makes the premises unlivable. Some examples include:
- Changing the locks so that the tenant cannot enter
- Blocking the door or driveway
- Turning off the heat, electricity or water
- A leaky roof that is in danger of collapsing
- Where the landlord’s treatment of tenant is intolerable
The tenant can claim constructive conviction after the tenant has given the landlord notice of the problem and given the landlord enough time to fix the problem. If the landlord fails to remedy the problem after notice, the tenant may then leave the rental property. In some states, the tenant must actually leave the property physically before suing for damages. Each state has different laws about constructive eviction. In many places, you must prove the following:
- You provided the landlord with notice of the conditions involved
- The conditions were so severe that you were forced to leave for health or safety reasons
- You did in fact move out of the rented premises
Generally, you cannot claim constructive eviction when faulty conditions are caused by neighbors. The only exception is when the neighbor’s actions are under the landlord’s control. Usually the landlord has to be the person who fails to correct or terminate the disturbance, and the disturbance must seriously interfere with the tenant’s use and enjoyment of the rental property. However, you may have a claim against your neighbor under your city’s noise ordinances.
If you feel like you have a claim for constructive eviction, you should consult an attorney before making a move. An experienced real estate lawyer can help explore your options and determine whether you have been constructively evicted.