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Constructive Eviction

Constructive Eviction

If a rented property is in an uninhabitable condition, the tenant can forgo paying rent under the constructive eviction law. Let us take a look at the elements that will help you understand this law better.
Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
When one hires a residential property on lease or rent, it is expected that the place will be in a livable condition. The tenant is legally obliged to pay rent to the landlord as agreed upon. But, what if the living conditions are absolutely uninhabitable? There are many issues that should be answered or taken care of by the landlord, like providing electricity, water, fixing a leaking roof, repairing a wall that may collapse, etc. However, when these things are not taken care of by the landlord, then the tenant has only one option, seek help from the law.

What is this Law?
When a person hires a property on rent, it is quite natural that the tenant will expect no interference from the landlord. They can reside in the apartment without any disturbance or harassment from the landlord or anyone else. The landlord is not supposed to enter the residence without the permission of the tenant. It also means that the landlord will respect all the implied warranty of habitability. This means, the landlord needs to maintain and repair all the necessary problems in the residence within a specific period. This includes maintaining the plumbing, provision of unbroken doors and windows, electricity, gas, hot and cold water, sewage disposal, and all the other necessities that make a place habitable.

However, when the landlord breaches the warranty of habitability, then the tenant has an option to use the constructive eviction law. The property becomes so inhabitable, that the tenant is forced to move out before the lease period ends. This means the landlord has used illegal tactics to evict the tenant from the property. The landlord may use unethical means or harass the tenant in any way, such that the tenant has no choice but to evict the place. When something like this happens, the tenant may move out of the residence and refuse to pay the remaining rent according to the lease contract under the law.

In order to prove that the landlord has failed to do something that comes under his legal duty, or has caused harassment to the tenant, one needs to prove the elements. These elements will help show that the residential property has turned uninhabitable. These elements are as follows:
  • The uninhabitable conditions and interferences occurred were due to the landlord's action and not by some third-party elements.
  • The tenant had vacated the premises within a reasonable time before filling a claim.
  • Not providing 24-hour notice before the landlord forcefully entered the tenant's apartment.
  • Documentation is the most important of these elements.
These elements can be explained using the following example. Suppose a tenant enters into a 6-year contract with the landlord for a one-bedroom apartment. For the first 8 months, all goes well with the building and the landlord. Suddenly, the lights in the passage stop working. After a few days, the sewers get clogged. The tenant sends repeated written as well as telephonic requests to the landlord to get these things fixed. Nothing is done, and the lift stops working. The tenant lives right on the 10th floor, and has to take the stairs every day. All the other tenants continue to complain, but to no avail. The water supply is cut off, and the central air conditioner stops functioning. This leaves the tenants high and dry. They have no choice but to move out. They come to know that the landlord wants to give up the entire building on lease to a software company at a higher rent. Thus, the tenants move out after enduring for more than 6 months, and sue the landlord with constructive eviction.

Before the tenants leave, they take photographs, and even video footage as evidence for the judge or mediator about the uninhabitable conditions they were forced to live in. They can prove that even after sending repeated requests, the landlord did nothing within 30 days of receiving complaints. These tenants are supposed to send him a letter that informs him of their departure, and demand their security deposit back. The letter is a written notice that provides the landlord with sufficient time to cover up the defects faced by the tenants. You should seek legal advice if you are facing similar harassment by your landlord. You may receive some compensation under the law.