Can we break our lease early if our landlord is not abiding by the lease?

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Can we break our lease early if our landlord is not abiding by the lease?

We need help with a problem with our landlord. We moved in over 4 months ago and our lease listed us as having “2 parking spots” included in our rent. We found out a day before we moved in that in fact we only had 1 spot. Our landlord agreed to decrease our rent by $100 per month, however the lease was never corrected. so we now find ourselves in a situation where we absolutetly need the second parking spot and need to move to an apartment with 2 spots. The $100 a month is not nearly enough to cover the cost of a second parking spot in our neighborhood. Are we legally able to break our lease early?

Asked on May 8, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It is not clear that you could terminate your lease under this situation.

1) A lease may only be terminated for  a "material" breach of the lease by the landlord; lesser breaches or violations could certainly entitle the tenant to monetary compensation (e.g. a reduction in rent), but would not justify termination. A material breach is one going to the heart of the agreement, which is renting a home. It is not clear that lacking a parking spot would be considered (such as by a court, if you tried to break the lease and the landlord sued you) to be sufficiently material as to justify termination.

2) Even more significantly, you write that the landlord offered to decrease the rent by $100 to compensate for the lack of a spot. If you accepted that offer--that is, if instead of rejecting it and taking legal action or attempting to break the lease on the spot, you took the rent reduction and remained there for some time before discovering that you absolutely needed the extra spot--your acceptance of that offer will be taken to have formed an enforceable amendment to the lease. That is, by accepting the $100 a month, you in essence agreed to a new lease, with one parking spot, for $100 less per month, and you can be held to that agreement by the landlord.


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