Can I get out my lease for a lack of plumbing repairs?

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Can I get out my lease for a lack of plumbing repairs?

I just recently moved into a rental. One week into the lease we reported issues with the plumbing in the bathroom. A week later it was unbelievable. Long story short, there were tree roots in our plumbing causing sewage to come up through the sink, the toilet and the bathtub. They sent out a plumber (how we discovered the roots) and a cleaning lady to clean the debris, but the toilet still leaks and this isn’t a fix to the plumbing. We only have one bathroom. It is not sanitary and basically unsafe to live in. What are our rights as tenants?

Asked on August 22, 2011 Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You may be able to break your lease. You also have other potential rights. The fact is that every residential lease contains an "implied warranty of habitability". This is basically a guarantee that the tenant will have a clean and safe (i.e. habitable) premises to live in. If a rental is not habitable the a tenant can:  

  • Repair and deduct (fix the problem and deduct the cost from their rent or have the landlord reimburse them);
  • Withhold rent payments (don't pay rent until the repairs are made); or
  • Terminate their lease (and additionally hold the landlord liable for reimbursement of expenses incurred as a result of any move). 

You should be aware however, before attempting any of these self-help measures you need to speak directly with an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant matters. You can also speak with a tenants rights group for help. If you fail to follow proper procedure for implementing any of the above mentioned remedies, you could find yourself in legal trouble.


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