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What is a Constructive Eviction?

What is a Constructive Eviction?

What is a Constructive Eviction?


What is a Constructive Eviction?

Every tenant in San Francisco has the right to live peacefully in their rental unit, also known as the right to quiet enjoyment. Tenants are also entitled to basic health and safety standards, known as the implied warranty of habitability.

If your landlord is interfering with your ability to use and enjoy your home refusing to fix poor living conditions such that you are forced to move out of your home, you may have claims for a lawsuit known as a constructive eviction.

If your landlord is undermining your safety and comfort, reach out to a tenant rights attorney at Wolford Wayne LLP for guidance on your options.

Characteristics of a Constructive Eviction

To legally evict a tenant, a landlord must show evidence of one of sixteen just causes recognized by San Francisco law, as well as follow all required procedures. A “constructive eviction” occurs when a tenant is effectively forced to move out of their home as a result of a landlord’s substantial interference with a tenant’s ability to use and enjoy their home.

A constructive eviction happens when a landlord breaches a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment or otherwise causes a tenant to move out of the rental property through their actions or inactions.  For a tenant to claim a constructive eviction, the tenant must be able to show: 

  • That a severe problem existed;
  • That the landlord had actual or constructive notice of the problem;
  • That the landlord failed to meet the standard of care in failing to properly address the problem in a timely manner;
  • That the harm was such that a reasonable tenant under the circumstances would be forced to move out; and,
  • That the tenant moved out of the premises as a result of the actions or inactions of the landlord.

Examples of situations that may lead to a constructive eviction include, but are not limited to: 

  •   Failing to make necessary or agreed upon repairs;
  •   Failing to provide basic services such as heat, or working plumbing;
  •   Failing to address mold, bedbugs, mice or other infestations;
  •   Failing to evict or curb the behavior of threatening or dangerous neighbors;
  •   Undertaking construction work in a dangerous/ unsafe manner at the property;
  •   Failing to relocate a tenant during substantial construction projects;
  •   Illegally raising a tenant’s rent such that they are forced to move out;
  •   Threatening a tenant by word or gesture;

Tenants who have been forced out of their rent controlled homes by constructive eviction may be entitled to substantial financial compensation. In these circumstances having a written record of the problems and notice to the landlord is critical.  Tenants may also be able to seek damages for the suffering caused by the constructive eviction.

Who Can Claim a Constructive Eviction?

To bring a case for constructive eviction a tenant must be able to prove that they lived in the unit in question, that there were serious problems under the control of the landlord, and that they moved out because of the problems. While tenants do not have to be living in a rent controlled apartment or house to bring a constructive eviction lawsuit, the damages available to a tenant are typically much higher for long-term tenants in rent controlled units. This is because tenants that are constructively evicted are entitled to “loss of use” damages based on the difference between the rent they were paying at move out and the market rate for their unit for however long they would have stayed but for the landlord’s actions/inactions.

For example, if a tenant was paying $1,000 per month in rent at the time they were forced out due to a severe mold infestation, and market rate was $3,000, they can assert damages in the amount of $2,000 per month for however long they would have stayed.  Do note that just because a tenant may have claims for substantial damages does not guarantee that they will get the money, as every case is different.

Speak to an Attorney Right Away

A constructive eviction may make the future feel uncertain, but it is often possible to seek compensation with the guidance of a skilled legal advocate. If you believe you have been subject to constructive eviction in San Francisco, contact Wolford Wayne LLP for a consultation.

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For more information or to discuss your legal situation, call us today at (415) 649-6203 for a phone consultation or submit an inquiry below. Please note our firm can only assist tenants residing in San Francisco, Oakland & Berkeley.

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