Do i have any grounds to terminate my lease without penalty?

UPDATED: May 31, 2012

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Do i have any grounds to terminate my lease without penalty?

I have been renting my current residence for approximately 11 months. During this time we have notified our landlord of several major maintenance related problems to include, but not limited to, faulty wiring that resulted in the local fire departments involvement. None of the repairs have been made nor any effort to make arrangements for them to be done. The major problems have been a badly leaking ceiling on both floors of the 2 story home, the outside roof being severly damaged by a storm and remaining exposed for about 6 months, a severly water damaged window frame that was improperly repaired and began to leak and create mold/mildew, and a dishwasher that does not drain. In addition, we never recieved a copy of the signed lease nor have we received keys to all of the doors.

Asked on May 31, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Virginia


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

In every lease there is an implied warranty of habitability which requires the landlord to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant notifies the landlord as you have done and the landlord is required to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs.  When the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time, the tenant has the following remedies:  The tenant can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant stays on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  Another alternative is to sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  You also might want to contact your local housing code inspector, who can bring an enforcement action against the landlord for the housing code violations.

Not all maintenance problems constitute a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  The problems you cited regarding the electrical wiring and the water leaks resulting in mold and mildew constitute breaches of the implied warranty of habitability because these are safety and health issues.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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