Can I break my lease over unfixed repairs causing mold in my bedroom?

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Can I break my lease over unfixed repairs causing mold in my bedroom?

Moved into an apartment about 3 1/2 months ago. Found a leaking window and upstairs neighbor’s tub leaking into my closet and soaking the drywall. The closet is now ompletely unusable. Still not repaired. Maintenance has been to my house 3 times to “check it out” and tear out a little drywall. I have some serious mold because the closet isn’t ventilated. I have a bowl catching the water from the upstairs neighbors tub leaking. I have photos and all correspondence has been through email. Can I break my lease at this point? My house stinks like mold and I’m tired of dumping the neighbors bathwater out.

Asked on September 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Louisiana

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

In a case such as this you can possibly proceed under 2 separate legal theories.

The first is "constructive eviction". If there is a mold condition that is causing you health issues to the point that you must move out, you may have a legal claim for any costs you incur (such a hotel; extra travel time; storing belongings; etc.). Additionally, there is the potential for you to recover your attorney's fees if any.  You may also be entitled to other remedies, depending upon specific state law. Any photos and other documentation that you may have (i.e. having the unit inspected by the a City health inspector, etc) will adds to the strength of your claim.  

The second theory as to do with a breach of the "warranty of habitability" which is a warranty that is implied in every residential lease. It provides that a tenant must be given a sanitary and safe premises in which to live. For such a breach you have several options. You can possibly terminate your lease, as well as withhold rent until the repair is made, or make the repair yourself and the deduct the cost from your rent. The presence of mold would qualify as such a breach. Again (as above) proof of your claim will be necessary.

At this point, consulting directly with an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant cases is best. At the very least you need to speak with a tenants right advocacy organization. If you attempt any of the above remedies you must be certain of your legal rights under applicable state law.  


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