If Ilive in a building that is not up to code, can I break my lease and move?

It’s been almost 6 months since I moved in and there are still issues. There is no fire escape (only one exit out of my apartment), the wall in the bathroom has not been fixed (constantly falls out), and they left a mess of parts in my bedroom when they put a heating unit in June (had no heat since we moved in in February). Code enforcement is letting the building remain open. There are other building violations as well.

Asked on July 15, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You need to speak with an attorney for a definitive answer--a lawyer needs to review your specific situation.

As a general matter: breaches of a lease, including (1) not getting what you're paying for (includingg not getting a legal apartment, due to code violations) (2) breaches of the "implied warranty" of habitability (i.e. the place is essentially not inhabitable), or (3) breaches of the "covenant of quiet enjoyment" (not being able to "enjoy" or use w/out disturbance your premises) will typically result in monetary damages and may also allow you to seek a court order (e.g. injunction) forcing the landlord to fix the condition.

Certain material, or important, violations may provide grounds to break the lease. The heating problem might (though the urgency is lessened by summer) and the lack of a fire escape (safety) might also; a damaged wall and a mess of parts typically would not. However, if you break the lease improperly, which means, among other things, not giving the landlord a proper opportunity to cure, or repair, the problems, can result in your own liability. That's why, while you may have grounds to get out of the lease, you should consult with an attorney first who can evaluate your own unique situation. Good luck.


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