I rent an office in a commercial building and another tenant has been bringing his dog to the office. The dog is constantly barking and sometimes the dog's owner lets the dog run around in the hallways. I'm embarrassed to have clients in office because it is entirely unprofessional to have animals barking / running around an office. I've brought this to the landlord's attention but nothing has been resolved. If this continues, do I have the right to withhold rent?
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
Dear Waterville Commercial tenant:
A commercial tenant does not have the right to withhold rent as would a residential tenant in a similar circumstance.
All your rights as a tenant to a useful work place in the building is limited to the terms and conditions of the lease. Your lease may provide that a tenant may not commit a nuisance on the premises or engage in conduct that is objectionable or conduct that interferes with the use by another tenant of its space, and so, likely the offending tenant has a similar provision in its lease.
New York law is harsh to commercial tenants. A lease may provide that the default by the tenant in paying rent is a default under the lease subject to a notice of default and then if notice of default is provided by the landlord due to the rent withholding, the tenant must obtain an injunction in State Supreme Court to stop the clock running on the landlord's notice so that the tenant can prove that the landlord's breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment caused by not going after the nuisance tenant is a proper basis to not pay rent until the landlord deals with this.
But whatever rights you may have rent withholding does not work well with commercial tenancies.
Look to have a consultation with a local lawyer. An attorney letter to the landlord addressing your rights of tenancy as provided in the lease and the landlord's failure to hold up its end of the bargain, and go after the objectionable tenant, may get the landlord going.
The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.
4 lawyers agree
Criminal Defense Attorney
Adding to Mr. Smollens, you might try filing a complaint with the municipality concerning what ordinances may be being violated by the dog owner.
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You could sue the landlord for a declaration that the landlord is in breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment implied in every lease - it doesn't have to state it in the lease - on the grounds that the dog's mere presence, let alone its actions, breach the covenant by interfering with your business operations. I would also include that you have complained to him on numerous occasions (using any letters to the LL that you may have written), and that the LL has refused to do anything to abate the action.
Ask the court to issue an injunction requiring the LL to get rid of the dog, and if he doesn't, requiring your rent be paid into court, so the landlord won't get it unless and until he complies.
I am an attorney admitted solely in NY. None of the answers I submit on this forum constitutes legal advice, even to questioners in NY, and no attorney-client relationship is hereby created.
I agree with the other attorneys that withholding rent is not the way to accomplish your goal. Your lease likely has a provision that you cannot withhold rent for any reason – even in the event of Landlord’s alleged breach. Even if the Landlord is in breach, by withholding rent, you would also be in breach, which could lead to your lease being terminated. Your remedy must follow the letter of the Lease. Provide written notice to the Landlord telling the Landlord of the violation of your quiet enjoyment. You’ll have to look at the notice provision in your lease to see what methods of notice are acceptable – it probably has to be in writing, and may have to be sent via certified mail (notice by telephone, fax and email is generally not permitted). Only once you have provided proper notice to the Landlord and given the Landlord the opportunity to cure (make the problem go away), can you pursue other remedies like suing the Landlord.
I hope this is helpful. Good luck.
This response does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to provide legal advice for your specific situation