A tenant's right to claim constructive eviction will be lost if he does not vacate within a reasonable time after his right comes into existence. Courts must be sympathetic toward a tenant's plight. Vacating is a drastic course due to difficulties of finding suitable housing and the prospect of a suit for rent for the unexpired term.
In plaintiff lessor's action for rent, the trial court entered judgment for defendant lessee based on the doctrine of a constructive eviction. The appellate court reversed and held that the proof did not support a finding of constructive eviction and that even if there was a constructive eviction, defendant had waived it. On appeal, the court reversed.
Was tenant justified in leaving the premises due to the landlord's breach of covenant?
The court held that defendant did not accept the premises in their defective condition by signing a second lease in reliance on plaintiff's agent's promises to provide a remedy. Plaintiff was guilty of a breach of an express covenant of quiet enjoyment. The evidence was sufficient to support the trial court's finding of sufficient interference with the use and enjoyment of the leased premises to justify defendant's departure and to relieve her from the obligation to pay further rent. The interference was "permanent," even though the water receded because the flooding was recurrent and would have continued if not remedied. There was adequate evidence to support the trial court's conclusion that defendant vacated within a reasonable time and that the delay was not sufficient to establish a waiver of the constructive eviction.