Can you legally break your lease early if the landlord fails to fix a serious electrical problem with the house?

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Can you legally break your lease early if the landlord fails to fix a serious electrical problem with the house?

I entered into a one year lease with a rent house. The landlord knew about, and failed to tell me, that it had electrical problems. It would constantly trip breakers. I feel that is a severe safety issue; circuit breakers are there because a circuit can catch on fire without it. I wanted out of that house and after a good half dozen attempts by the landlord to fix the issue, I moved out. She won’t pro-rate me back the rent for November because she says I broke the lease, and I say had I known this house had so many problems, I’d have never entered into the lease in the first place. Who’s right?

Asked on November 14, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Louisiana

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Well, both of you on some level but who will be victorious in the end will depend on many things.  First, it was the right thing for you to do to request repair of the matter.  But self help - by breaking your lease - is not really looked upon favorably by the courts.  Just so you know for next time you should have gone to court and ask to pay your rent in to court until the matter was fixed and for a rent abatement (reduction).  This way it would have bee fixed properly or if it could not be fixed, the court may have let you out of your lease without liability (it is a contract and she can still sue you on it).  I might consider asking an attorney in your area if you can now bring an action to render the home uninhabitable and unsafe and ask for the lease to be voided and the return of funds.  Otherwise, she can still sue you for the remainder of the lease.  Good luck.


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