An eviction notice is one of the worst pieces of correspondence that any renter can receive. But there is actually a more insidious way for a landlord to get rid of a tenant they don’t want to rent to any longer: constructive eviction. Constructive eviction is the name given to an informal process by which a landlord forces a tenant out of a property by rendering it uninhabitable. Tenants do have certain rights when a constructive eviction takes place, so if you feel you’ve been a victim of this process, you should contact a real estate attorney in your area who is familiar with representing tenants in constructive eviction claims. There are plenty of law firms around that handle this sort of work, so there’s no reason to put up with a constructive eviction without a fight.
What does Constructive Eviction Look Like
As mentioned above, a constructive eviction occurs when the landlord fails to make necessary repairs and allows the property to fall below the minimum legal standards of habitability. This can include things like allowing the heat to be out for an extended period during the winter; shutting off the water; or ignoring health hazards like toxic mold, radon, asbestos, or lead paint. When a landlord fails to repair issues such as these within a reasonable time, they are failing in a legal duty to maintain the basic habitability of the rented premises.
Of course, your landlord is not obligated to provide you with a palace, so minor issues like slightly drafty windows, ugly carpeting, or broken ceiling fans won’t rise to the level of constructive eviction. Instead, constructive eviction concerns itself with defects that threaten the tenant’s health and well-being. If the place you live has been rendered uninhabitable due to your landlord’s inaction, then you should speak with a real estate attorney about filing a constructive eviction claim.
How to Sue Your Landlord for Constructive Eviction
In order to successfully sue your landlord for constructive eviction, your lawyer will need to be able to prove three things – with your help. First, you must show that your landlord owed you a particular duty, namely to maintain a habitable living space. Next, it must be proven that your landlord breached that duty. Then, you must prove that the premises in fact became uninhabitable. After that, you must show that you provided the landlord with ample notice of the defect and a reasonable time in which to fix it. Finally, you must show that you actually vacated the premises within a reasonable time after the landlord failed to repair the condition rendering the property uninhabitable.
One of the best things you can do to satisfy all of the above conditions and succeed in you constructive eviction claim is to maintain stellar records and evidence. Take pictures, keep copies of correspondence to and from your landlord, and hold onto any inspector opinions about the defect. The more evidence tending to show a constructive eviction that your lawyer has, the more able they will be to do their job and win for you.
It’s worth reiterating that the last element of constructive eviction involves actually leaving the premises – you must show that the uncured defect actually drove you out of your home. If you stay on living there despite the conditions, your claim will not succeed. Also, while you’re entitled to withhold rent due to the constructive eviction, if you wind up losing in court, you will be obligated to pay every penny of back rent; keep this in mind before deciding not to pay. If you do win, though, you don’t have to pay back any withheld rent, and you will be entitled to terminate your lease free of penalties.
A landlord has a duty to keep a property that they are renting to a tenant in habitable condition, even if they don’t like the tenant. If your landlord allows the property you are renting to become uninhabitable for any reason, you may have a claim for constructive eviction. Speak with a real estate attorney in your area to discuss your rights and a potential claim against your landlord.