Can I break my lease contractif there is a rat problem in my rental?

We had a big rat in our apartment. We found the rat, rat poo, rat hair dish, and a big hole in bathroom.

Asked on March 16, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The answer is "maybe." You can definitely take legal action and you have enforceable rights; every lease incorporates what's called an "implied warranty of habitability," which is a requirement that the premises be safely habitable and usable for  the intended purpose--which in this case, is living there. (Even the implied warranty is not actually written into the lease, all leases are considered to include it.) This means that landlord *must* fix issues that affect health or safety--like rats. However, while this gives the tenant enforceable rights, so that he can seek a court order forcing the problem to be corrected, or sue for money damages, it doesn't give the tenant the right to terminate the lease until and unless the landlord has refused to correct the problem after being given written notice and a reasonable opportunity to fix the issue. Since breaking the lease prematurely can result in your being liable for the full remaining rent due under it, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney who can advise you as to how to safely enforce your rights and seek whatever compensation you are due.

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