If renovations makean apartment feel unsafe, can I get out of my lease?

Apartment management rebuilt the stairs leading to my second floor apartment, and I feel that the new stairs pose a safety hazard, and will make it next to impossible to remove my furniture from the unit. I would not have signed a lease if these stairs had been in place when I moved in. Do I have a right to force the landlord get a building code inspection (I don’t want to have to pay for it)? And since I did not/would not sign a lease on an apartment with these stairs, can I get out of my lease whether or not it passes inspection?

Asked on July 25, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Generally, if you believe that there is a violation of the building code that exists in your apartment or apartment building or complex. you can report the condition to the department of buildings in your area and they will send out an inspector to investigate the allegation.  You do not have to pay for it yourself.  Inspectors are the employees of the County/State and are not paid for by private individuals in this capacity.  The county or state have a legal obligation to make sure buildings within their jurisdictions are up to code and do not create a hazard in any way. 

As for getting out of your lease because of the violation, well, I am not sure that that would be possible.  The landlord will have to bring the stairs "up to code" and pass inspection.  The lease is a contract.  If, possibly, this were considered to have been a material part of the negotiation of the contract and "but for" you would not have taken the apartment, possibly.  But it actually had to be discussed and not just something that you considered.  How else could the landlord have been held to have breached a term if they were not aware of the term?  Seek consultation in your area.  


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