Can we leave our rent to own home or will we be sued?

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Can we leave our rent to own home or will we be sued?

My disabled fiance and I were scammed into buying a home that was supposed to be up to date and have new electric, plumbing, furnace, etc. We were told that it was inspected and didn’t need one. We were told a lot of good things but after signing the papers and getting our life savings, we are now in a house that is sinking, has plumbing problems, no heat, old electrical. It is very unsafe and I think it’s making us sick. It is not only freezing but after the pipes fell apart on the new plumbing and flooded our middle floor and basement, we feel like we will get sick from the scam artist who pit in new tile over carpet which is now wet and probably molding. We have out every penny we could into this home and it’s beyond repair. The rent to own contract was signed and we would like to just take a loss and leave, however we were told that we will be sued for the remainder owed. My fiance is disabled and getting sicker by the day, I am constantly sick to. No one will help because we signed a contract. This man has scammed so many people and continues to and no one will do anything. We are literally freezing no heat and it’s 18 degrees in the house. We have a little space heater and can’t afford to run more because I feel there something wrong with the meter or utilities are outrageous. I feel we won’t last much longer here. What can we do? I’m my fiance’s caregiver and we live on his small disability check and eat rotten food from the food bank. We are sick and tired and cold. What are our options?

Asked on February 26, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Nebraska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you can show that the seller lied about or misrepresented critical facts (like lied about known problems or issues), then you can show he committed fraud: fraud is both grounds to void, or get out of the agreement and to sue the seller for compensation (such as to get back some or all of the money you paid).
Also, landlords--and if you are on a rent to own, until you own it, he is your landlord--have an obligation to provide habitable space. Issues that make a place unsafe or unhealthy to live in (like no heat; certain bad or dangerous plumbing or electrical problems; mold) violate that obligation (called the "implied warranty of habitability") and can provide grounds to terminate the contract and again to sue for compensation--such as part of your rent back, for having lived with such conditions.
You therefore seem to have good defenses to being liable under the contract and may have grounds to sue him as well. If you leave the home and stop paying and he sues you, you are strongly advised to retain an attorney to not only help defend you but to counterclaim against the seller, to recover compensation for you.


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