Can I break my lease if the landlord misrepresented the apartment and won’t make repairs?

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Can I break my lease if the landlord misrepresented the apartment and won’t make repairs?

I just moved into a basement apartment less than 1 month ago; I signed a 1 year lease. I already want to leave. There are broken locks (safety issue), spiders, the apartment flooded, and the landlord is unresponsive – he doesn’t want to make repairs or even answer the phone and he even said he won’t talk to me if he doesn’t feel like it. I think he totally misrepresented the condition of the place, either knowingly or because he just doesn’t care. I want to know if there are options for breaking my lease, without paying a penalty or forfeiting my security deposit.

Asked on August 20, 2011 District of Columbia

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Geesh. Honestly it sounds as if the apartment is illegal.  If it is flooding and in the basement it may not really have been an apartment at some point in time but a real basement of a house.  If the apartment is illegal then the lease is void.  You can check out the records in the local building department and see what they say with regard to the occupancy (one family; two family, etc.).  Now, besides doing that you can go down to court and ask to start an action against your landlord for breach of habitability and to ask to pay your rent in to court until such times as the conditions in the apartment are corrected. Ask for an abatement (reduction) of the rent for the time that you have had to live there as well.  That will get the landlord to respond.  If ther is no way to correct the problems (flooding is a big problem) then ask the court to render the lease void and to order the return of the security deposit.  If the apartment is illegal they will know as well.  Good luck to you.


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