Real Estate

Constructive Eviction


Landlord/tenant relationships are usually tricky at best. Landlords generally want to protect their investments and some are even emotionally tied to their properties. Tenants want to feel safe, secure and at home. However, sometimes the greatest of accords turn sour and promote ill feelings. What then?

If a tenant in New York State doesn’t pay their rent or violates their lease, the landlord has certain rights under RPAPL 5713 to evict the tenant. Although self-help (taking matters into one’s own hands) is neither advisable nor a viable solution, the landlord does have a legal remedy. He can take the tenant to court and ultimately obtain a warrant of eviction and a judgment for unpaid rents. These laws are meant to protect landlords from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous tenants or, in most cases, tenants who are simply down on their luck.

What happens if the shoe is on the other foot and the landlord does not live up to his or her end of the bargain? For instance, suppose the landlord is not supplying tenants with basic services such as heat, hot water or working plumbing. What can the tenants do if sewage constantly backs up into their apartment or the roof leaks every time it rains and the landlord refuses to make the proper repairs?

Sign Up for E-News

In these cases, the tenants can go to the local building department and file a complaint against their landlord. The building inspectors can then force the landlords to make repairs by imposing heavy fines or taking them to court.

Yet, not all landlords comply with this type of enforcement and may continue to provide poor services to the tenant, giving credence to the term “slumlord.” Some landlords have been known to harass their tenants by creating noisy or noxious environments, or even entering the apartment without notice and for no apparent reason. I have even heard stories of landlords entering tenants’ apartments and helping themselves to food in the refrigerator or letting the tenants’ dog out without their permission!

In cases where the landlord is not providing basic services or is harassing the tenant with bizarre behavior, a Constructive Eviction may be the answer. In a situation in which a landlord’s actions or inactions cause a tenant’s possession and use of the premises to be so unpleasant or inconvenient that the tenant is forced to leave the premises, they can essentially evict themselves through constructive eviction.

This is a legal remedy which essentially severs the lease or rental agreement, and allows the tenant to move out without any further obligations to the landlord. Although this type of relief cannot be used as a ploy to simply not pay rent, it can be used as a defense to an eviction proceeding. If a tenant decides to withhold the rent due to the horrible living conditions or unorthodox behavior of the landlord, it is recommended that the rental moneys be put aside in case the judge orders it to be paid or partially paid.

In order to succeed with a constructive eviction action, a tenant must file a court action or counter claim in an eviction action and prove that the landlord either does something or fails to do something which he has a legal duty to provide, thereby rendering the property uninhabitable.  If the tenant succeeds, he or she will be granted a court order allowing him or her to immediately move out of the apartment with no further responsibility to the landlord.

As with all legal matters, this type of resolution may be considered drastic for the tenant, and can be costly if an attorney is utilized. However, when all other solutions fail, a constructive eviction action may be the answer in order to get out of a toxic living situation without any further responsibility.

Rick S. Cowle is an attorney admitted to practice law in New York, Connecticut, the District of Columbia and the United States Supreme Court. He is president of The Law Office of Rick S. Cowle, P.C., a general practice law firm located at 18 Fair St., Carmel. He can be reached at 845-225-3026 or For more information, visit This article is meant for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to give legal advice.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Cuomo Shores Up His Left Flank (at Our Expense)

We keep hearing how the Republicans are bought and paid for by the NRA. I recently explained to you the truth about this myth. The reality is the Democrats are the ones who are bought and paid for. Not by the NRA, but the environmentalists.

You thought I was going to say public sector unions, didn’t you? Well, they own both parties in New York. However, the environmentalists pull the ...

Appreciating Two Amazing Role Models

As difficult as this winter has been with the power outages and stormy weather, it pales in comparison to my overwhelming sense of dread as I prepared for the 20th anniversary of my mother’s passing on March 20. On that day, I know my mind will inevitably flash back to her last painful hours, when she valiantly struggled just to stay alive. Yet, I’m equally certain I will remember the ...

To Harrison, L'Chaim!

At long last, the smile of spring approaches, as an angry winter recedes into good riddance. Our spirit is ready to be re-charged. Damn the power outages, full speed ahead!

For my wife, Elyse, daughter, Elissa, and me, this otherwise exuberant time of year brings a confusion of mixed emotions. In 2003, on the opening day of spring, March 20, which happens to be my birthday, our 15-year-old son ...

Storm Aftermath and Update

March 22, 2018

During my travels throughout the storm and its aftermath, I had the opportunity of seeing firsthand how hard our town employees worked on behalf of the residents of Yorktown, whether riding with the Highway Department while they were plowing the roads, assisting at the YCCC warming facility, working with the staff at the Town Emergency Operations Center, bringing food to residents at Beaver Ridge ...

A Half-Baked Column

“I think it’s time we retired this oven,” I said to my husband as I displayed a sheet of blackened sweet potato fries. “Even the dog won’t eat these.”

“Sure he will,” he said, tossing some fries on the floor. The dog immediately sucked them down.

“Not my point,” I said.

We had known that our oven was on its last burners for ...

Read Across America With Dr. Seuss

Dear Dr. Linda,

I’m a school librarian and I wanted to remind your readers that March 2 was “Read Across America Day.”  Teachers, librarians and others who read with children encourage schools, libraries and parents to celebrate this day with their children. This special date was chosen because it is the birthday of Dr. Seuss, the adored children’s author. That ...

Thanks for All You Do

March 22, 2018

To the editor,

I am writing to tell you how much we enjoy receiving the weekly Yorktown News. It is a consistent source of local news, new business, opinions and sports.

We recently had no power for seven days due to the storms, and regularly monitored Yorktown News’ Twitter page for town updates. Your team demonstrated its dedication by issuing an edition despite the lack of power ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM

Jefferson Valley Mall , Yorktown Heights

Yorktown Indoor Farmers Market

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

Sat, March 24, 12:00 PM

Club Fit, Jefferson Valley

Yoga for Women with Cancer

Health & Wellness

Sat, March 24, 7:00 PM

Vittoria’Z, Jefferson Valley

Totally Awesome ’80s Night


Seton Holds First Social Fundraiser

March 14, 2018

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton school, 1375 East Main St., Shrub Oak will be hosting it's first ever Social Fundraiser on Friday, May 4th, 2018 in the Seton school gym.  Seton extends it's invitation to all to join in a night of food, fun, and dozens of raffles and silent auctions.  Entry tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets purchased by April 6th will be $35 per person; ...