Constructive evictions occur when a landlord does not physically or legally evict a tenant but takes actions that interfere with the tenant's use and enjoyment of the premises significantly enough to constitute “eviction in fact.” The doctrine of constructive eviction is based on a breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.
Constructive eviction can occur as a result of the landlord's breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment if:
- The landlord substantially interferes with the tenant's use and enjoyment of the premises by their actions or failure to act to resolve a problem;
- The tenant gives the landlord notice of the problem and the landlord fails to respond and resolve the problem; and
- The tenant vacates the premises in a reasonable amount of time after the landlord fails to resolve the problem.
Although a party must vacate the premises to claim constructive eviction, they need not vacate it entirely. As seen in the case of Johnson v. Cabrera, when a frozen pipe prevented use of a rented building for the winter months, a partial constructive eviction occurs when a party vacates only the affected part of their premises or vacates for a limited period of time.
A party who has been constructively evicted is absolved of the duty to pay rent, and successfully raising constructive eviction serves as a defense against a landlord’s action to recover rent. Examples of conduct sufficient to constitute constructive eviction include severe insect infestations, preventing tenants from obtaining electricity, and failure to provide heating.
[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]