Can I break my lease due to safety issues?

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Can I break my lease due to safety issues?

My girlfriend and I moved into our apartment complex because it’s small, gated and cost a bit more than others in the area. Our apartment was broken into last year and we lost about $5000 worth of our belongings. Our neighbor’s apartment got broken into a few months ago. My girlfriend’s car got keyed a few months ago, as well. I came home today and someone had tried to pry open my patio door. I need to break my lease but the apartment complex won’t budge. They are saying it will be about $9000 to get out of the lease. I have found some exceptions in the “quiet enjoyment clause”.

Asked on November 15, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

While all leases do have a covenant of quiet enjoyment and also an implied warranty of habitability (even when not specifically stated in the lease, the law adds these to them), which can provide a basis for terminating the lease for significant safety issues, there must be landlord fault in some way, and a refusal by the landlord to address that issue. That is, for example, say that the complex is supposed to be gated, but there is in fact no working gate; or the front door to the buildings are not locked; or there are other tenants who are known to commit crimes, but the landlord does not take action; etc.--in those cases, the landlord's failure to correct a security flaw is what could give rise to grounds to terminate the lease. But if the landlord is providing reasonable security (e.g. doing what like landlords, in like buildings in that or similar areas do) and it's just that the neighborhood is very high crime or some criminals are targeting the building, then you cannot terminate the lease. If the landlord is blameless, you can be held to the lease; the actions of third-party criminals, without landlord fault, does not provide a reason to terminate the lease or get out of your contractual obligations to the landlord.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

While all leases do have a covenant of quiet enjoyment and also an implied warranty of habitability (even when not specifically stated in the lease, the law adds these to them), which can provide a basis for terminating the lease for significant safety issues, there must be landlord fault in some way, and a refusal by the landlord to address that issue. That is, for example, say that the complex is supposed to be gated, but there is in fact no working gate; or the front door to the buildings are not locked; or there are other tenants who are known to commit crimes, but the landlord does not take action; etc.--in those cases, the landlord's failure to correct a security flaw is what could give rise to grounds to terminate the lease. But if the landlord is providing reasonable security (e.g. doing what like landlords, in like buildings in that or similar areas do) and it's just that the neighborhood is very high crime or some criminals are targeting the building, then you cannot terminate the lease. If the landlord is blameless, you can be held to the lease; the actions of third-party criminals, without landlord fault, does not provide a reason to terminate the lease or get out of your contractual obligations to the landlord.


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