What to do if a landlord will not give me a key and the unit is inhabitable?

About 3 days ago I paid a landlord a deposit and first month rent to move into a unit. It’s been 3 days and he has not given me keys nor has he returned my phone calls, text messages, or emails. Furthermore after visiting the unit (it is left unlocked) the unit is infested with cockroaches, a window will not close, the floors are partially done, there isn’t heat in the unit, the refrigerator doesn’t work and I think the cockroaches are coming from it, I was electrocuted by live wires sticking out of the wall, and the shower/bath doesn’t have water.

Asked on March 13, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

it seems as if you have grounds to both terminate the lease without penalty and also seek compensation from the landlord, such as for the cost to rent a motel to live in, to more or store belongings, the cost differential if  you have to rent a more expensive place, etc.

1) The landlord violated the lease (whether written or oral) in a material (or important) way by not providing you possession of the unit--i.e. not provding a key so you can exert control and possession over it.

2) The landlord has also violated the implied warranty of habitability (the requirement, added to every lease, that the lease premises be fit for their intended purpose--e.g. residence and inhabitation) owing to the many serious conditions you describe.

You definitely have rights in this situation. You should consult with a landlord-tenant attorney about how best to vindicate or enforce them.

Hong Shen / Roberts Law Group

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

What else do you want to do? Cancel the lease and get your deposit back. Send the landlord a written notice with a certified mail to demand return of your deposit.

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