Can I break a lease if the landlord fails to tell me about noisy pipes?

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Can I break a lease if the landlord fails to tell me about noisy pipes?

I have been in a lease for 17 months now. When I first moved in, the landlord failed to make us aware about banging pipes beneath the walls in our bedroom. Whenever an adjacent unit takes a shower, this causes pipes to bang, and wakes me up early every morning. Workers have come in to try and fix the issue but the pipes get loose agai, and continue to bang. Because the landlord failed to notify us of this, and I’m losing massive amounts of sleep, can this be a large enough cause to allow me to break the lease and move out?

Asked on December 13, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Whether or not the banging pipes in your rental unit warrant you to terminate the lease for cause depends upon whether or not what the presumed written lease that you signed states. As such, you need to carefully read your lease in that it controls the obligations owed to you by the landlord and vice versa in the absence of conflicting state law.

Most likely the banging pipes in and of itself do not warrant the termination of your lease. You have been in the unit for 17 months to date. If the pipe issue had been so bad, you would have been pressing the landlord much sooner. I suggest that you speak with the landlord about the subject and see what can be done for repairs or a discount on your monthly rental.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, this is probably not enough to let you break your lease:

1) It would not be considered fraud most likely, since it is probably not a "material," or important, enough consideration by common standards--many buildings, especially  older ones, have noisy pipes. Therefore, if it's not material enough, it's not fraud to not disclose it.

2) Similarly, the noisy pipes are very likely not enough of an impairment of habitability to allow terminating the lease on that ground. (For comparison, the things that would enable a tenant to terminate a lease are usually things like no heat in winter; massive roof leaks; major mold problems.)

As a general matter, it requires something more significant that noisy pipes--which again, are not uncommon in older buildings--to justify termination of a lease.

I know this isn't the sort of advice you were seeking, but have you considered noise canceling headphones/ear plugs of some kind? I know some people who are very light sleepers who have had very good luck with them, for blocking out noise.


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