Our partner, Glenn H. Spiegel, was in Sunday's New York Times responding to a reader's question on bedbugs.
Tenant Forced Out by Bedbugs
Q I have had to move out of my rent-stabilized apartment because it is overrun with bedbugs coming from another tenant’s apartment. Resolving the problem in the other apartment is proving to be a long process. At what point can I break my lease?
A Glenn H. Spiegel, a Manhattan real estate lawyer, said that under the state’s “Warranty of Habitability,” a landlord of a residential building is required to ensure that all apartments are free of dangerous or unsafe conditions. “That would include a bedbug infestation,” Mr. Spiegel said. In addition to receiving a rent reduction or “abatement” for as long as the condition remains uncorrected, he said, a tenant forced to leave by the severity of the infestation could claim that he had been “constructively evicted.” If a judge agreed, that would effectively terminate the tenancy and release the tenant from any continuing obligation to pay the rent. Practically speaking, Mr. Spiegel said, if a landlord could get a higher rent from a new tenant — as a result of individual apartment improvements and vacancy increases permitted by law — it would be unlikely that the landlord would object to the writer’s desire to break the lease.