Can I break the lease?
UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022
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Can I break the lease?
My property management company is continuously cutting corners on any repairs to my apartment. The newest is not having hot water in my shower for the past 6 days. I do have hot water in the sinks. They offered my a week’s worth of rent back when the issue first presented itself, but because they have continuously stated it was fixed when it is not, can I request to break the lease instead of
receiving the break on rent? This will be the 4th time I’ve had to tell them the water is still not hot in the past week. All of the other repairs in the past they have cut corners on haven’t been because the place is
Asked on January 10, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 4 years ago | Contributor
If, after written notice of a problem which materially (in a significant way) impacts habitability (like no key, which impacts security; or no hot water in the show, affecting hygiene) the landlord refuses to correct the problem in a reasonable time, you could terminate the lease due to "constructive eviction" (being forced out by a lack of habitability) and leave without penalty--at least in theory. There are a number of issues, however:
1) If the repair IS made before you go, it may be impossible to do this--you are only constructively evicted if the lack of habitability persists.
2) If the landlord refuses to accept you action and tries to sue you for the rent for the remainder of the lease--
a) At a minimum, you will have to go to the trouble, time, and (if you hire a lawyer) cost of defending yourself in court;
b) Since there is no hard and fast rules about how long is "reasonable" to fix a problem, or what problems do render a unit effectively uninhabitable, this ultimately comes down (if you are sued) to judicial discretion--will the judge agree that the problem was so bad and the landlord so delayed fixing it that it justified terminating the lease? Some judges will say yes; but some may say no. Therefore, you could potentially lose and be held liable, even if you believe the conditions are intolerable.
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