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What’s a constructive eviction?

As a landlord, you know that evictions are sometimes necessary to reclaim your property from an uncooperative tenant. But what happens when your tenant claims that you violated the law by performing an illegal “constructive” eviction?

Landlords can be accused of constructive eviction both for the actions they take and the actions they don’t — which sometimes makes the issue confusing. Essentially, your tenant (or former tenant) claims that you forced him or her out through some intolerable act.

What does a constructive eviction look like? Some of the most common issues that lead to constructive eviction claims include:

  • Turning the heat off to the building in the middle of winter
  • Refusing to make repairs to broken windows or doors that make the property unsafe
  • Shutting off the water or otherwise failing to make potable water available
  • Not responding to complaints regarding intolerable noise, odors or unsafe conditions
  • Refusing to perform mold remediation or address other environmental hazards
  • Allowing the plumbing to fall into disrepair or letting sewage back up into the building’s basement
  • Not addressing valid security concerns that could put the tenant in danger
  • Threatening the tenant with physical harm
  • Constantly invading the tenant’s privacy
  • Harassing the tenant with nuisance complaints
  • Blocking access to the building in some way

Constructive evictions can pose a significant legal problem for most commercial landlords, so it’s generally wiser to try to work with your tenant — as long as their requests are reasonable. If your tenant wins the case, he or she could walk away without owing you a dime for the remainder of the lease.

Don’t wait until a situation with a tenant reaches a crisis point; Find out how a commercial real estate attorney can help you.