Can I get out of a lease because I feel the property in uninhabitable?

UPDATED: Sep 2, 2011

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Can I get out of a lease because I feel the property in uninhabitable?

My apartment building was flooded during hurricane Irene. The basement completely filled with water and even though the water is gone, my apartment stinks like mold and sewage. The insurance adjuster has not been to see the building yet, and is not scheduled to be there until next friday. we cannot live there and have no idea if or when we can go back. Do I have a legal right to break my lease and get my security deposit back?

Asked on September 2, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

All leases come with an implied warranty of habitability, which is term implicitly added to the lease that the rental premises must be fit for its intended purpose--e.g. inhabitable as a residence. If it's not safe to leave there, you may be justified in breaking the lease and moving out--though when the problem is one which the landlord is not "at fault" for and is trying to remediate or fix, reasonably doing what it can, and which should be fixed fairly soon, it may be that instead of terminating the lease entirely, the proper response is that either the landlord pays your cost to stay elsewhere during the fix, or abates the rent so you don't pay rent while you can't live there. n other words, it depends on the circumstances whether terminating the lease or some lesser remedy is appropriate. Since breaking your lease when you are not entitled to, or doing so the wrong way, can result in you being liable to the landlord, you should consult with a landlord-tenant attorney about your situation in detail before doing anything.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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