Can I break my lease early in regards to the habitability laws?

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Can I break my lease early in regards to the habitability laws?

My neighbor and I have had our issues. Complaints back and forth. He then started to harass me one night and i had to call the police and file a report. Directly following that I was on my way to school one morning and my car broke down in the middle of the highway. Apparently it was filled with water while parked overnight in my apartments lot (I believe it was my neighbor but have no proof). Also, my lease agreement says the landlord is not required to provide any type of safety or security isn’t this directly against the habitability laws and thus a flaw within the lease?

Asked on March 25, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There  is no such thing as a "habitability law" as you describe it. What there is what's commonly called the "implied warranty of habitability," which requires that the rental premises be fit for their intended purpose. In terms of safety, this usually means providing the same security measures as other landlords provide like rental units in similar neighborhoods--for example, making sure that the building's front door and your unit's front door have working locks, providing adequate lighting in common areas. As long as the landlord provides the level/type of security that a similarly situated reasonable (average) landlord would, he/she has fulfilled his or her responsibilities and there would be no grounds to terminate the lease for security reasons. Also, as a general matter, a landlord is not liable or  responsible for the criminal acts of unrelated third parties.

If the problem is with another tenant, while you can ask the landlord to evict that person for breach of your covenant of quiet enjoyment (right to use the premises without interference), it's not clear the landlord would have to do this, especially if there is no strong evidence for the landlord of this tenant's actions. Your proper recourse might be against this other tenant: suing him for damage to your car; getting a protective order; etc.


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