What is constructive eviction?

This occurs when a landlord does not physically or legally evict a tenant, but causes a substantial interference with the tenant's occupancy, usually rendering the property uninhabitable. Often this is due to the landlord's neglect or interference with the tenant's use and enjoyment of the property.

Examples include failure to provide or repair necessities (i.e. heat, water, and utilities), failure to provide a reasonable means of entering and exiting the unit (i.e. changing locks or blocking an entrance), and refusing to clean up health or environmental hazards. Additionally, constructive eviction can occur if the landlord causes or fails to stop extreme, dangerous, or illegal nuisances—for example, excessive noise, smoke, or odor; dangerous safety threats; or permitting illegal drugs or weapons on the property.

Typically, three elements must be met:

  • The landlord must have committed a wrongful act or omission constituting a substantial interference with the tenant's occupancy.
  • The tenant must notify the landlord of the problem and the landlord must fail to take steps to remedy the problem.
  • The tenant must actually leave and cease occupying the property.

Although they are not caused by landlords, natural disasters, such as earthquakes, flooding, and fires, may amount to constructive eviction if they render the unit uninhabitable and the landlord is unable to fix the damage in a reasonable time frame.

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