Can you get out of the lease without penalty due to safety concerns?

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Can you get out of the lease without penalty due to safety concerns?

My girlfriend is in an apartment lease floor another 11 months. A mile from where she lives there has been 2 incidents where a women has been forced into her apartment by a man and she is robbed and sexually assaulted. My girlfriend has called her apartment office several times about parking lot lights that are burned out and it has been weeks; they are still not replaced. It is very dangerous and she does not want to live there anymore. Can she break her lease for these reasons and not be held accountable for any other costs?

Asked on January 10, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, unfortunately she probably cannot break her lease without penalty. First, and most importantly, a landlord is not responsible for the criminal acts of others or the general rate of crime in the area; that is, since it is not the landlord committing the crime, there are no grounds for terminating the lease--leases can generally only be terminated due to the landlord's bad act or breach. (Look at it this way: when it's not the landlord committing the crime, why should he be penalized by having the lease broken and losing the rent? That's how the law looks at it.)

The lack of parking lot lights is a problem, and your girlfriend may be able to bring a legal action, if she needs to, to force the landlord to correct the situation. Also, if someone were to be injured, assaulted, etc. due to the lack of lights, the landlord might be financially liable, since he's had warning. But to break the lease due to a condition or problem, the condition must be such that it renders the premises essentially uninhabitable; and a lack of lights, while posing a safety issue, would not generally be considered to rise to that level of uninhabitability.


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