Can I get out of my lease ifmy landlord is not making repairs?

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Can I get out of my lease ifmy landlord is not making repairs?

We have lived here about 2 weeks and started noticing problems. There are big cracks in the walls and ceilings; sewer issues; we still have no bedroom doors. The repairs should have been taken care of but nothing has gotten fixed yet. I’m afraid that we’re were stuck in a 2 year lease and our landlord just walks in whenever, instead of calling ahead. We are getting very concerned.

Asked on December 14, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Arkansas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) Every lease contains what's known as an implied warranty of habitability, which is a lease term that the premises must be fit for its purpose. For a residence, that's to be inhabited safely. Violations of the implied warranty of habitabilty could give the tenants grounds to sue for monetary compensation or a reduction ("abatement") in rent; to force the landlord to make repairs; to make repairs themselves and deduct the cost from rent; or potentially to terminate the lease and leave. What exactly they can do depends on two things--

a) The circumstances--how bad is the problem? Only the most severe problems generally support terminating the lease entirely; others one call out to be fixed or for compensation.

b) Have the tenants given the landlord written notice to fix the problem? If not, they need to do so before taking other action--the landlord needs to have an opportunity to fix the problem.

2) The implied warranty of habitability ONLY applies to issues afffecting habitability--so of what you write, it could easily be implicated by sewage issues; could be involved in some cracks, such as in the roof, windows, or exterior walls, but probably not interior wall cracks; and is not impacted by a lack of bedroom doors.

3) Landlords can't just walk whenever they like, unless the lease gives them that right explicitly. Otherwise, while the landlord owns the premises, you have possession and determine who enters when. Landlords' right of entry to inspect, repair, etc. depends on giving adequate notice.

4) It sounds like you should discuss matters with an attorney who can evaluate the specifics of your situation and guide you in how to act. Note that acting precipitously or incorrectly, such as by terminating a lease when you shouldn't have, can result in you being liable to the landlord.


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