Can a landlord charge us a lease termination fee if we’re breaking the lease over a non-disclosed cockroach infestation?

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Can a landlord charge us a lease termination fee if we’re breaking the lease over a non-disclosed cockroach infestation?

We have cockroaches in our new apartment. This was not disclosed to us prior to moving in. The landlords admitted to “bombing” the apartment prior to our move-in, however we’re still finding them and their bodies in the place. We have somewhere to move, but they’re trying to charge us half the lease termination fee, but we don’t feel that we should have to pay the termination fee when they failed to disclose the infestation and bombing to us. Do we have a leg to stand on?

Asked on July 3, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If the infestation is so bad as to render the property not fit for its intended purpose (e.g. residence) and the landlord refuses to (or cannot) correct the situation after written notice to fix it and reasonable opportunity to do so, then the infestation may breach the "implied warranty of habitability" and provide grounds to terminate the lease without penalty. Therefore, the situation could provide a legal basis for escaping the termination fee, but it depends on how severe the problem is, whether you provided the landlord notice of it, and whether he has failed to act after some reasonable oppotunity to do so following the notice.


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