CanI break a new lease if the apartment is infested with roaches?

I just signed a 1 year lease yesterday and found roaches crawling all over the place tonight. I can not/will not move into a place with bugs. What canIi do?

Asked on December 10, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In every lease there is an implied warranty of habitability, which means the landlord must maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes.  The roach infestation presents a health hazard and constitutes a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease.  If the tenant decides to stay on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.

If the landlord has been notified and is unwilling or unable to eradicate the roach infestation, there is clearly a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.

Since you do not want the apartment due to the roach infestation, your strongest argument to terminate your obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease is to claim a breach of the implied warranty of habitability and that the premises were not delivered to you in a habitable condition.


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