528 N.Y.S.2d 554 (App. Div. 1988)
The tenants occupied a loft pursuant to a commercial lease. The counterclaims comprised claims of a breach of the warranty of habitability and constructive eviction related to certain dangerous construction work and other conduct interfering with the tenants' ability to use and enjoy possession of their loft. The appellate court had found that the doctrine of constructive eviction did not provide a defense for the nonpayment of rent because the tenants had not abandoned the premises.
- The court held that:
- (1) the tenants were allowed to assert the doctrine of constructive eviction as a defense to the nonpayment of rent when the abandoned a portion of the demised premises due the landlord's improper acts;
- (2) the record supported an award of punitive damages for the landlord's breach of the warranty of habitability;
- (3) the jury's award of an abatement of rent was improper as to the months in which the tenants had paid rent when the constructive eviction claim was asserted as a defense to the nonpayment of rent and the tenants did not request an abatement for any months other than those in which they did not pay rent; and
- (4) the award of attorney's fees under § 234 was proper.
The reinstatement of the trial court's judgment was ordered, except that the award of rent abatement for the months in which the tenants had paid rent was eliminated.
-“health spa” After Ds withheld their rent due to the condition of the loft space they were leasing, P (landlord) brought suit for non-payment, and Ds counterclaimed for breach of warranty of habitability. App. Ct held that the doct. of constructive eviction could not provide a defense to the non-payment b/c Ds had not abandoned possession of the demised premises.
RULE: A tenant may assert the defense of constructive eviction for the nonpayment of rent, even if he or she has abandoned only a portion of the demised premises due to the LL’s acts.