Informing Tenant Unsanitary Apartment Condition Is “Nuisance”
Q A tenant on the ground floor of my building keeps complaining about mice. I have had an exterminator visit every month, and he will continue to visit. However, she is the only tenant who complains of rodents, and the exterminator has told me, and her, that she has rodents because she does not keep her apartment clean. I am afraid her unsanitary apartment is going to keep attracting rodents as the winter approaches and possibly bring them into the rest of the building. What recourse do I have in this situation given that she is a rent-stabilized tenant?
A Rent-stabilized tenants may be terminated on the basis of nuisance or objectionable conduct. Your lease probably contains a provision permitting termination where a tenant is committing or permitting a “nuisance.” A nuisance is generally defined as tenant conduct that threatens the health, safety, or comfort of neighboring tenants or other building occupants.
To justify termination, the tenant's objectionable conduct must be continuous or persistent. A court has ruled that an accumulation of newspapers and debris in a tenant's apartment may constitute a nuisance where the condition is a health or fire hazard and the tenant fails or refuses to clean up the condition. You should consider obtaining affidavits from the exterminators describing any infestation posed by unsanitary conditions.
You should then send the tenant a notice to cure explaining the applicable clauses in the lease and how her action may justify terminating her tenancy. You can request that she fix the problem within a reasonable time.