If I was forced to move out due to restraining order but the landlord won’t let me out of the lease, what are my rights?

My boyfriend began using and selling meth. He became violent to the point that I was forced to get a restraining order and move out. My landlord allowed my ex to stay in the apartment even though he is not on the lease and is harassing me for rent, new paint and labor, new appliances and cleaning charges for every month since I signed the lease last year (even during the time I lived there), plus he wants rent to complete my lease, knowing that I will never be able to return to the apartment. What are my rights against this slumlord?

Asked on March 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, it is not likely the case that your restraining order, or your boyfriend's criminal activities or violence, entitles you to terminate your lease. The landlord is not responsible for the boyfriend's activities or your response to them; while this is a bit of an oversimplification, a person generally cannot terminate a contract (which is what a lease is) without penalty except if the other party to the contract (the landlord) has violated his or her obligations in some way. You cannot generally rely on the actions of some third party unrelated to the landlord, or someone on "your side" of the transaction (e.g. on the lease with you) to provide grounds for termination. The landlord may therefore be able to hold  you legally liable for rent for the remaining balance of the lease, as well as for other lawful, permitted charges thereunder. He can't necessarily make you buy him new appliances, repaint, etc., however, unless you caused damage requiring replacement or repainting; a tenant is not normally responsible for ordinary wear and tear or updating an apartment.

You should consult in detail with an attorney about this sitaution. You need to see is perhaps there is some fact or circumstance that might let you terminate the lease; you want to avoid landlord overcharging; and you should probably explore if you can sue your boyfriend for any costs or losses you incur due to his violent and criminal behavior.


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