How can I break my lease early and without penalty due to safety concerns?

I want to break my lease. It’s not up until for anoth6 months but my next door neighbor got burglarized. My daughter’s car was stolen in front of our unit last year and the leasing people did not do anything about it. I fear for my life in this place. Another incident that happened was a girl in a different building got raped. I spoke with the leasing manager about my fears and all she told me was that if I ended up breaking my lease I would have to pay 1 month rent additional. I currently have a security deposit of $1,365 and I’m afraid I won’t see any of my security deposit if I end up breaking my lease. What should I do?

Asked on September 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

In most states landlords do indeed have some degree of responsibility to keep a tenant safe.  Many times that can be seen in court cases where a judge will look at what actions the landlord has taken to insure that their tenants are safe: locks, camerals, doormen, etc.  If there has been frequent criminal activity of the same kind and nature in the building and it has not been addressed a court could see that has a breach of the landlord of their duty to keep you safe.  From what you have said here there seems to be a pattern of activity that may or may not have been able to be prevented: locks, security, etc.  What you can do is to start an action against the landlord for a breach of the warranty here and ask the court tolet you out of your lease.  Then make sure that you follow state law for getting back your security and take pictures of the apartment if the landlord will not do a walk through when you leave (and sign a paper stating that all was ok and nothing over and above "normal wera and tear").  Good luck.


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