September 5, 2007 1:19 PM   Subscribe

LandlordFilter: What can you tell me about constructive eviction?

My roommate and I decided a few months ago that we wanted to move, but we had seven months left on our lease. We spoke with the property manager, and she agreed that if we found new tenants on our own, and had them added and ourselves removed from the lease, we would not be responsible for the property from that point forward.

Flash forward to three weeks ago: the ceiling above the front door in our hall fell through due to a leak. A maintenance guy came out to look at it, but did no repairs and actually wound up breaking the molding around the bathtub and the tub knobs in our bathroom to the point where we have to struggle to get the hot water to turn on. He never told us that he did this, we discovered it on our own, and he never returned to actually fix anything. The property manager has a bad habit of not returning our calls or acknowledging letters sent to her office.

In the meantime, we're trying to show the house to find new tenants, but naturally, a wet hole in the ceiling (and now, the mold problem that causes a smell through the whole of the apartment) is a turn-off for any prospective renter. Additionally, with a child in the house we're getting worried about the mold. We no longer use the front door for fear of chunks of ceiling and disgusting water falling on us. We haven't been able to find a new renter, and the both of us already have agreements to live elsewhere by mid-October.

I've heard of, and done a bit of research on constructive eviction, but I'd like to know more about it. Does it apply to our situation? Any first-hand experiences with this are welcome too. FWIW, this is in Virginia.
posted by sephira to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Forget the "find new tenants" thing -- it's moot now. Now what you've got is an uninhabitable apartment -- you should be able to get out of your lease under normal landlord-tenant law. Chunks of the ceiling falling on you or your child = unstable, too dangerous, and so forth.
posted by desuetude at 1:40 PM on September 5, 2007

Call the health department. Follow up on their visit.
posted by electroboy at 1:51 PM on September 5, 2007

The Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs has this to say about landlords that fail to make repairs generally:

Q: My landlord refuses to repair anything. What can I do to get things repaired?
Serious repair issues, such as faulty electrical wiring, gas leaks, and structural damage may be violations of the local building code which should be brought to the attention of the Building Inspection office for your city or county. The Building Inspector may inspect your building, and if warranted, issue a citation to the landlord for any violations that require repairs. Section 55-248.13 of the Act outlines the duties and responsibilities of the landlord to maintain the rental property. For issues not involving safety, you should advise the landlord in writing of the specific items needing repair. The letter should state that the landlord has a reasonable amount of time not to exceed thirty days, from the date of receipt to make the repairs. You should consider sending the letter via certified mail so the delivery date is noted. If repairs are still not made, the tenant may place the rent in an escrow account with the General District Court having jurisdiction in that locality. This action is detailed in Section 55-248.27 of the Act.
The contact information for the appropriate General District Court in your locality is available from the Virginia Supreme Court Web site. You may also wish to check your local telephone directory.

I don't know anything about constructive eviction in Virginia and I couldn't find anything really helpful in a quick search, but I will say that the standard for constructive eviction in my state is way higher than the type of thing that you describe. You may want to call an organization like this for your County, because the OCA appears to be pretty toothless. Constructive eviction is kind of on the other side of the ask people on the internet about/find a lawyer in your area that specializes in landlord/tenant law line.
posted by ND¢ at 2:05 PM on September 5, 2007

Here is the code section that the OCA makes reference to.
posted by ND¢ at 2:07 PM on September 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far.

Our issue now is if we give them 30 days to make the repairs as the section ND¢ cites, and they actually make the repairs - we still have no new tenants, and we're living elsewhere. We'd still be bound by the lease, and since they made the repairs, we couldn't use that as reason to break the lease. And I can't afford to pay rent on two places.
posted by sephira at 2:16 PM on September 5, 2007

posted by ND¢ at 2:28 PM on September 5, 2007

Contact a local tenant's rights org. Not only will they know the law, but better, they will know what is the norm in your locale.
posted by caddis at 2:52 PM on September 5, 2007

« Older How do I park a moving truck in Chicago?   |   Timing belt in 2003 Hyundai Accent Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.