Can I break a lease because of safety concerns, the building is changing ownership and the ceiling leaks with no resolve?

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Can I break a lease because of safety concerns, the building is changing ownership and the ceiling leaks with no resolve?

I recently signed a lease for another year at me current apartment. The day I signed and turned it in, I ended up helping the police investigate the apartment next to me on a break-in. I got my property manager involved and he notified me that the building was changing ownership and we would no longer have a property manager onsite. I literally had signed the lease that day and now feel like I am not safe in my apartment and have no one to call if there is an issue. Through out my lease this past year I have had issues with my ceiling leaking in my bathroom with no resolve to the issue.

Asked on August 21, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Minnesota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You probably cannot break the lease due to these issues, but it does depend somewhat on circumstances:

1) Normally you cannot break a lease due to crime--the landlord is not resonsible for other parties' criminal activity. However, if the landlord is not providing the reasonable security for a building of that type (e.g. front or back door to building does not lock; windows are not securable) and will not correct that situation after notice, that may be a violation of the implied warranty of habitability and give rise to grounds to break the lease. But if the building's security is comparable to that of similar buildings, then you would not be able to.

2) A change in ownership never provides grounds to terminate the lease. The new owner takes the building subject to all leases and becomes your new landlord under the same terms as the old landlord.

3) A lack of an onsite property manager would only provide grounds to terminate a lease if either a) the lack now makes the building demonstrably unsafe, in the eyes of the average reasonable person, which is unlikely; or b) before signing the lease, you had made the landlord aware that the presence of an onsite property manager was a crucial factor in  you deciding to rent there--and you'd have to be able to show or prove this.

4) A leak will only provide grounds to terminate a lease without penalty if the leak actually renders the premises uninhabitable in some way, and the landlord does not correct it after notice.


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