Can I break a lease if my landlord fails to pay utilites and take care of the property?

UPDATED: Aug 10, 2011

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Can I break a lease if my landlord fails to pay utilites and take care of the property?

We have a lease agreement stating the landlord is responsible for utilities. The mortgage company came by the other day and stated the house payment is 3 months behind. The city came by with a disconnect notice for the water. The electric bill is past due. Our stairs are plywood and starting to sink through due to water damage, the attic is unsealed and has birds and wasps living in it. We had a verbal agreement the house siding (mostly ply wood) would be re-done. It never happened. Yard work is the responsibility of the landlord and our grass is dead and the weeds are 4 feet high.

Asked on August 10, 2011 Utah

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In every lease there is an implied warranty of habitability which means the landlord is required to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes.  When the landlord fails to make repairs within a reasonable time after being notified by the tenant, the tenant has the following remedies for a breach of the implied warranty of habitability: the tenant can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant decides to stay on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.

The water being shut off, the electricity possibly being shut off, the stairs sinking from water damage, and the condition of the attic constitute breaches of the implied warranty of habitability.

As mentioned above, one of the tenant's remedies for a breach of the implied warranty of habitability is to move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease.


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