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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 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.


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