Can I break my lease if my landlord broke a component of the lease first?

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Can I break my lease if my landlord broke a component of the lease first?

The lease says garbage is taken out by the property manager. The PM got ticked off at a tenant (not me) and then posted a sign saying tenants will take out garbage. I am discovering that this rental is really a problem (ex: PM didn’t prep house for hurricane and left town the day it was going to hit). So I figure the winter will be hell if PM doesn’t clear snow either. I’ll take no chances on this because I am disabled and I want out. Can I break the lease? The landlord essentially broke his end of it when he knowingly allowed the property manager to stop taking out the garbage.

Asked on September 4, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Rhode Island

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The landlord may or may not have actually knew or let him stop taking out the garbage but he is indeed "imputed" with that knowledge as the property manager is the agent of the landlord and is put in the place of acting on his behalf.  In order for you to breach your lease you want to say that he breached it first thereby rendering it null and void.  Although best asked to an attorney in Rhode Island, I am assuming that it has to be a material breach under the law or a breach of a right you have under the law:  habitability, safety, etc.  Is the garbage piling up?  Is it creating a health hazard?  What you need to know is that landlords are permitted to remedy problems.  So what you need to do is to send a letter to your landlord and the property manager indicating that they have breached the lease and that they need to remedy the issue immediately.  That if they do not that it will be considered null and void.  Indicate as well that you took the apartment based upon the amenities given because you are disabled.  That it was part of the "basis of the bargain".   There is something in the law known as "anticipatory breach" but it may not really apply here with the snow issue.  Good luck.


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