In May 1963 tenant entered into a lease with landlord for a particular apartment 18E (which had a terrace) and agreed to pay rent from December 1963 to November of 1966. In April 1966, the now Plaintiff became the owner of the property. In July, 1966 the tenant vacated the apartment and refused to pay rent for the final four months of the lease. Plaintiff owner then sued tenant for the four month’s rent, the value of legal services, and for specific damages caused by the tenant. The tenant claimed that he was “constructively evicted” (the premises were so awful, he had to leave and therefore did not owe rent) due to the landlord’s misconduct and neglect. The court found that the air conditioner emitted green fluid that spilled on the terrace and the incinerator emitted ash on the terrace. The court found that the terrace was unusable as a result.
“Whether or not the doctrine of constructive eviction is available to a residential tenant when a landlord is responsible for conditions that render part of the premises uninhabitable, and the tenant abandons that part but continues to reside in the rest of the premises.”
Yes, the landlord is owed rent with interest from July, 1966. “…the concept of partial constructive eviction is sound in principle, is supported by compelling considerations of social policy and fairness, and is in no way precluded by controlling precedent.” The terrace became uninhabitable in the spring of 1965; and the law makes it clear that abandonment needs to occur within reasonable promptness after the conditions have developed. The tenant did not seek out other places to live in this period either. However, the terrace was abandoned. So, a “partial” constructive eviction is justified in this case.
The current rule is unfair because it requires tenants to move out of the entire premises in order to seek justice for a partial constructive eviction. “It makes no sense at all to say that if part of an apartment has been rendered uninhabitable, a family must move from the entire dwelling before it can seek justice and fair dealing.” There is a major shortage of housing at this time and landlords have far greater bargaining power than tenants.