How to go about legally breaking our lease if our unit is not safe and sanitary?

We have been in our apartment for 6 months; our lease ends in 8 months. Since living here, we have discovered a mold problem in the bathroom, ants in our kitchen, radiators that clank noisily every hour and it’s impossible to get a full night’s sleep. We’ve addressed our concerns with the landlord only to be ignored. They have not bothered to even simply return a phone call. We would like to move ASAP.

Asked on November 28, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Every residential lease contains what is known as an "implied warranty of habitability". This means that as a tenant, you are guaranteed to be given a safe and sanitary place in which to live. Mold can be a serious problem as well as a pest infestation. Additionlay, there is another implied covenant, that of "quiet enjoyment". This means that you should be able to occupy a peaceful premises. The clanging noise from the radiator may be a breach of this warranty.

For breaches of a lease, a tenant can: repair the problem and deduct the cost from their rent; withhold their rent until the landlord repairs the problem; or, in certain circumstances, they can break their lease.

So if you want to break your lease under the circumstances you may be able to. However, you cannot simply move out. That would leave you in breach without establishing your right to do so and open you up to monetary penalties. What you'll need to do is to go down to housing court or landlord-tenant court (it's called different things in different places) and ask to start an action based upon the breach of the warranties of habitability and quiet enjoyment. The court may allow you to pay you rent into an escrow fund. The court will allow the landlord to take care of the problem or try to at least fix it and you may be relocated for the time it takes them to do so. If they cannot, then you can ask that the court that the lease be voided.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.