Rent it Right
When landlords fail to take care of business in ways that don't lead to valid claims of "inhabitability," the tenant can go to small claims court, asking that he be given a reduction in the rent to compensate him for the landlord's failure to deliver on a specific promise.
For example, your tenants might have sued for the difference between the rent that could be obtained for a property with a functioning sprinkler system and the rent of one without.
Your tenants' apparent misuse of the constructive eviction remedy leaves you free to hold them to the lease. But in many states, landlords must make reasonable efforts to rerent, even though the tenants have acted improperly by leaving early. Once the property has new tenants, the old tenants' responsibility for rent will end.
Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of "Every Landlord's Legal Guide" and "Every Tenant's Legal Guide." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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