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Legal Corner: Understanding Constructive Evictions

Greetings Real Estate Investors!

Today we are going to get a bit technical to explain a legal concept that many landlords do not fully understand…Constructive Eviction. It sounds like another reason for a tenant to be concerned but it is actually the opposite. That’s because Constructive Eviction actually allows a tenant to break a lease at any time if the landlord fails to do something that they have a legal duty to do. And since a home provides and does so many things that can actually be a very broad requirement. The other aspect that might be confusing is that while most leases clearly detail what the tenant must do they often are more general when it comes to landlord responsibilities. So lets start with the basics.

The Basics of Being Reasonable
So we can start with understanding the basic needs of protection and sustenance. The roof, the walls, doors and windows must all be in good working order. And the major appliances such as a water heater and air conditioner must also be working and then usually the stove and refrigerator are included in most leases. So if any of these are not working the landlord has a legal duty to correct the problem in a “reasonable” time frame. Now what constitutes “reasonable” is not usually specifically stated but is typically understood to mean that the landlord will begin the process of remedying the problem as soon as they are notified of it. Then after that it gets more complicated if, as often occurs, contractors do not work as agreed or on schedule.

But the bottom line is that even you hire a bad contractor it is still your responsibility to correct the problem…even if it means you have to pay another contractor to finish the job and then fight to get your deposit back from the first one. This is another area where it really pays to have a professional property manager who has cultivated relationships with the best contractors.

It Gets More Complicated
Beyond the basics things can get more complicated. There was a recent “Help Me Howard” segment on Channel 7 News in South Florida where a tenant was having altercations with a neighbor who allegedly was coming home drunk and playing loud music at all hours of the night. The situation escalated one night when the neighbor physically threatened the tenant. Obviously the tenant felt unsafe, but since no actual altercation occurred the police said they could not press any charges. The tenant wanted to break her lease but the landlord said he wouldn’t return her security deposit if she broke the lease. The attorney on the show (Howard) explained that this was an example of Constructive Eviction where the landlord has a responsibility to provide a safe environment and the judge would order the landlord to return the security deposit. So although it may seem as though it would not be the responsibility of the landlord to correct it actually would be their responsibility to allow the tenant out of the lease if such a situation were encountered.

We Can Help
Managing hundreds of properties gives us a range of experience with strange situations that would be hard for an individual investor to duplicate. We have seen it all. And even if it is something we have not seen we have the knowledge to handle any situation effectively. We will make sure to resolve any issues immediately and if they do require your attention we will advise you on the best course of action to avoid any legal issues and protect your bottom line. To schedule a free consultation contact us at 305-517-3900 and we will be happy to help you take the next step and turn you into a professional investor.

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