What exactly constitutes constructive eviction?

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What exactly constitutes constructive eviction?

I have a roach infestation in my
apartment that has been an issue for a
month now. I contacted the landlord and
their response was immediate. Pest
control has now come three times, twice
with serious intervention, but the
problem is still severe. Do I still
have the right to break my lease even
if the apartment is attempting to fix
the issue?

Asked on August 30, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

"Constructive eviction" is when the tenant is effectively evicted by uninhabitable conditions; if a tenant is considered by the courts to be constructively evicted, he or she may terminate (break) the lease without penalty.  The issue is, the rental unit must be *uninhabitable* by a reasonable person; conditions that degrade or reduce habitability, but which are not that intolerable, will not justify terminating the lease, though they may justify a rent abatement or credit during the period the tenant is exposed to the undesirable condition.
A pest infestation could result in constructive eviction, but it is not at all a given that they would--especially roaches, which are highly unpleasant but which do not bite or attack people (e.g. they are not stinging or biting insects or rats). If reasonable person could live there, even if they find the roaches unpleasant, it is not constructive eviction. In my experience in NJ landlord-lord tenant law, in 7 years of practicing this type of law full time, I have not seen a single case of constructive eviction due to roaches--or due to any pests other than rats/rodents or a bad bedbug infestation.
If you move out and the landlord sues you for the rent, and a court finds that you were *not* constructively evicted, you could be liable for all remaining rent due for the balance of the lease term. Before taking action, you should consult with a local landlord-tenant attorney, bringing photographs, possibly video, any exterminator reports, etc.--you need an attorney to evaluate how bad *this * particular infestation is so as to advise you on your options.


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