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Do I have grounds for a constructive eviction?

Bothell, WA |

I moved out of my store 16 months into a 5 year commercial lease.
I excercised the "constructive eviction" as a means of escaping the ongoing situation with the lanlord and the ELECTRICAL problems. The store rented to us contained 2 "not up to code" panel boxes that caused our lights and machinery to shut off during working hours.The building was citied 2 times by Labor and Industries and we had to pay for electrical issues related to getting our electrical sign to work .The lanlord is standing by the lease clause stating"The lanlord is not responsible for upgrades and structual improvements and its" me" who must be compliant to "state laws" and bring then entire building "up to code"The lanlord also has a clause stating that "the landlord is responsible for all concealed electric.

We eagerly tried to get out of the lease 4 months later.The landlord was only going to let us out if we moved our business right away not giving us time to relocate.After 15 months,Lights still turning off.The landlord said we could leave for $3500.00.With new moving expenses and a new store with higher rent-we offered $1200.00. The landlord said NO.We could not meet on terms.We sent a certified letter that we are moving out. We got a 3 day pay or vacate notice. The landlord is now keeping my entire security deposit.The landlord also called the new landlord accross the street and told him "I am banned from getting my mail from the mail boxes on her driveway that everyone shares" I was forced to get a PO Box and change all of my reciept books and business cards. I am going to small claims court and the landlord made a motion to have the case heard in civil court due to damages I am facing.

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Attorney answers 2


Having the building meet basic building code requirements is not an "upgrade" or "structural improvement". I am curious how the building ever got a final Certificate of Occupancy if it had such electrical issues. You might touch base with the Building Inspector's office of the city in which the building is located to see if in fact they ever did get a final CO. If the panels were never sufficient to satisfy your basic needs and were not up to code, then that would generally constitute a constructive eviction, and you could move out, and even seek the cost of relocation for your business.


In Washington, commercial rental agreements are purely creatures of contract. There is no applicable consumer protection statute or anything analogous to the residential landlord tenant act. The Court presumes that you contracted for exactly what you wanted, and had your own attorney to assist you with drafting the contract so you would get exactly what you bargained for.

So getting out of a commercial lease on grounds that you have been constructively evicted would be quite an amazing feat. But no one offering thoughts here has seen your contract; that makes it tough to know what the entire contract provides and whether there would be any other reason that would help you avoid liability for breaching the lease.

I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but there it is. Elizabeth Powell

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