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What is constructive eviction?

An actual eviction occurs when a commercial landlord brings legal action seeking possession of leased premises from a commercial tenant, is awarded possession in Court, schedules an eviction of the tenant with the sheriff’s office, and the eviction is carried out by the sheriff.

A constructive eviction occurs when a commercial landlord does not physically or legally evict a commercial tenant, but rather acts, or fails to act, in a manner that interferes with a tenant’s use and enjoyment of the leased premises significantly enough to constitute an eviction in fact. For there to be a “constructive eviction,” a commercial tenant must be deprived of possession or beneficial use of the leased premises, which results in the tenant’s abandonment of the premises within a reasonable time.


To establish that there has been a constructive eviction in a commercial tenancy, a commercial tenant must prove that:

  1. The commercial landlord acted, or failed to act, in a way that substantially interfered with the tenant’s use and enjoyment of the leased premises;
  2. The landlord’s actions or inactions cause the leased premises to be unusable for the purpose it was rented;
  3. The commercial tenant gave the commercial landlord notice of the problem that led to the interference with the tenant’s use of the premises, and the landlords failed to respond and/or resolve the problem; and
  4. The tenant vacated the premises in a reasonable amount of time after the landlord failed to resolve the problem.


What are examples of circumstances that may constitute constructive eviction in a commercial lease?

The scope or magnitude of the landlord’s interference necessary to constitute a constructive eviction must go to the essence of what the landlord is to provide. There must be evidence that the landlord substantially interfered with the tenant’s use of the premises. While there are many acts or situations that would constitute a breach, common ones include:

  • Eliminating a significant number of parking spots.
  • Permitting persistent, loud construction (except if for necessary repairs).
  • Routinely playing loud, intrusive music in common areas.
  • Failure to provide electricity.
  • Failure to provide operable elevator service.
  • Failure to furnish adequate heat or air conditioning.
  • Failure to furnish sanitary restroom facilities.
  • Structural defects, such as persistent leakage of water through the roof, ceiling, or walls because of landlord’s fault.
  • Serious defects in the sewer, plumbing, or drainage.
  • Actions that deny customers access to the premises.


Notably, there are times when disturbances to quiet enjoyment are out of the landlord’s control, or permitted by the commercial lease, which would not constitute a constructive eviction, such as:

  • Construction conducted by the city in which the building is located.
  • Aesthetic issues inside the building and/or premises, such as the need to repaint or replace carpet.
  • Aesthetic issues outside the building, such as the need to clean windows, power wash the building, or maintain decorative landscaping.
  • Neighboring businesses that create unnecessary noise.
  • Major renovations to the building and/or premises.

When would a commercial tenant claim that a constructive eviction has occurred?

When a commercial tenant is unable to use its leased premises in the manner for which it was leased, the tenant does not receive the benefit of its bargain. In those circumstances, if a commercial tenant believes there has been a constructive eviction, the commercial tenant must vacate the premises in a reasonable amount of time, as the failure to do so results in a waiver of any potential constructive eviction claim.  After vacating, a commercial tenant may argue that the landlord has constructively evicted them and then may withhold rent and vacate the leased premises. If a commercial landlord seeks the rent owed under the commercial lease from the tenant, the commercial tenant may raise a constructive eviction as a defense to the rent owed. If the facts justify a legal finding of a constructive eviction, a commercial tenant will be released from liability under the lease.


If you have questions regarding constructive eviction or would like assistance in reviewing a commercial lease, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or email:


Avery Barton Strachan, Esq.

(410) 385-9113


Kerri L. Smith, Esq.

(410) 385-9106


Erin Donohue Brooks, Esq.

(410) 385-9101


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