75% Rent Abatement Awarded for ‘Constructive Eviction' Due to Dry Cleaner Fumes
LVT Number: 12429
Facts: Landlord sued to evict tenants of two second-floor apartments for nonpayment of rent. Tenants claimed breach of the warranty of habitability and ''constructive eviction.'' They lived above a ground-floor dry-cleaning establishment and claimed that perchlocoethylene (''perc''), a cleaning solvent used by dry cleaners, released toxic fumes into their apartments. Tenants, who had young children, claimed that the fumes made them sick and at times forced them to move out temporarily. Court:Tenants win. It's well documented that perc can cause symptoms such as dizziness, headache, sleepiness, nausea, and even unconsciousness or death. While perc isn't banned, New York City has imposed strict regulations for emissions control. Tenants proved through expert testimony and other witnesses that the level of perc fumes in their apartments was well above safe levels, even several months after the dry cleaner was closed. Tenants had put landlord on notice of the condition long before it was corrected. The frequent and dangerous presence of perc in tenants' apartments resulted in their constructive eviction. The court gave each tenant a 75 percent rent abatement. One of the tenants received the rent cut for a three-year period.
Goldman v. Sears-Robbins/Robbins: NYLJ, p. 30, col. 3 (6/15/98) (Civ. Ct. NY; Strauss, J)