Can I get out of lease due to unsanitary debris found on my terrace from other tenants?

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Can I get out of lease due to unsanitary debris found on my terrace from other tenants?

I live in a sky rise. I have a very large terrace below a bunch of other tenants’ balconies. There are about 30 stories above me. I have found tons of cigarettes, coal briquettes, used condoms, dead gold fish, plant debris, silly string, and trash. I’ve complained to the management multiple times and they’ve said they can’t take action unless I know who it is. They also promised to clean the terrace weekly but only did so once. Is this in any way a violation of my lease or grounds to break the lease?

Asked on January 5, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It's not a violation of the lease--unless your lease has some term(s) relating to cleaning, hygiene, sanitary conditions, etc.; you should double check what your lease may say on these subjects--but it may be a violation of the implied warranty of habitability. That warranty is added by law to all leases; it requires landlords to maintain leased premises in a way fit for their intended purpose--i.e. residence. Potentially disease-causing trash could violate this warranty. This may also be a violation of your right to quiet enjoyment, since the rain of unhygienic debris may violate your right to use part of your premises, your terrace, free from disruption.

Violation of either warranty/right could allow you to terminate your lease; alternately, they could provide the basis to sue for a court order forcing the landlord to take action and/or to seek compensation. However, if you terminate your lease when the situation doesn't quite warrant it, you could find yourself liable to your landlord. You should therefore consult with an attorney in detail before doing anything, and follow his/her advice as to your recourse and best way to vindicate your rights.


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