If I’m an independent contractor (hairstylist) and my landlord has locked me out of one of my work cabinets that I’ve occupied for over 3 years, what can I do?

She threw my products all over the place. She is yelling at me in front of my clients in retaliation for me not paying her the rent 4 days earlier than the lease states. Is this a constructive eviction that would allow me to leave before she costs me more business?

Asked on December 2, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It's impossible to say for certain, since whether you have been constructively evicted is a subjective decision--i.e. unlike say, whether rent has been paid, which can be determined objectively (i.e. look at a rent ledger, cancelled checks, bank statement, etc.), there is no hard-and-fast bright line as to what is, and is not contructive eviction.
That said, in my experience as a landlord-tenant attorney, the situation you describe would present a strong case for constructive eviction, since the landlord is wrongfully denying you the quiet enjoyment of your premises. You do just need to be prepared, given the subjectivity of this area, that if you act on the assumption that this is constructive eviction and the landlord takes you to court, there is a risk that a judge would disagree and find you still liable for rent. You may also have a claim against her, if she has cost you clients, for tortious interference with economic advantage--people are not allowed to act in an improper way (like harassing you and your clients without good cause) that costs you businss or money.


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