Can I terminate my lease early and get my money back due to the landlord not repairing problems?

Since the middle of May I have had a leaking roof. It took 1 1/2 months for them to even get a roofer to “patch” a spot on the roof. The roof leaked after so they got the roofer to come back out and do it again. The roof still leaks and now there are new leaks forming around the house. The last time I talked to the property manager was over almost 2 months ago and I sent her an e-mail 2 weeks ago about a new leak. Still no word from her and no roofer. I’m tired of this and want to break my lease but I want my money back.

Asked on September 30, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) You *may* be able to terminate your lease without penalty. Every lease has what's known as the "implied warranty of habitability," even when the lease does not contain that as an explicit clause. The implied warranty means that the premises must be fit for its intended purpose--i.e. residence. Conditions which make it substantially unfit--e.g. unable to be safely used--for that purpose will violate the warranty and may give the tenant grounds to either i) terminate the lease; (ii) make repairs him/herself and take the cost out of rent; and/or (iii) seek monetary compensation. Leaks may rise to the level of violating this warranty--it depends on their size, seriousness, location, and consequences. Since so much depends on the specific facts--and since attempting to terminate your lease improperly can leave you liable to the landlord--you should consult with an attorney before doing anything.

2) You almost certainly cannot get all your money back; but you may be entitled to get partial abatement (some of the rent back) for the period of time there were leaks. (You have been living there, so you've gotten some value for your rent--that's why you can't get it all back.)


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