Do medical reasons justify breaking a lease?

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Do medical reasons justify breaking a lease?

My wife has just been diagnosed with COPD. We live on the second floor and she is very short of breath after climbing the stairs.

Asked on November 18, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you have not done so, first of all check the terms of your lease. See what, if any, mention is made of an early lease termination due to a medical condition (frankly, there probably is none). If not, then you will then need to check the laws of your state and locality. They vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but in most places it is not legal to break a lease for medical reasons.
 
That having been said, there may be a general provision for ending a lease early with a stated period of notice to the landlord (e.g. 60 days). Finally, you can explain this situation to your landlord and see what, if any, arrangements regarding your termination they are willing to make.
 
Otherwise, unfortunately a lease is a contract and if you break it you are responsible for the rent remaining lease term (plus fees, if any). You should be aware, however, that landlords have a duty to "mitigate" damages"; that is to minimize damages by re-letting the unit as soon as possible. So in your case, this means that if you break the lease, your landlord has to advertise your vacant apartment and try to find a new tenant. If they do, they have to let you out of the remainder of the term. While this will in all likelihood result in your paying for at least a few months more, it may at least give you some financial relief.

Possibly, you can assist your landlord in finding a replacement tenant (maybe a friend or someone from work, etc). Additionally, if your lease allows or the landlord will permit, you can try to sublet. Accordingly, even as you are paying the landlord rent, someone else (i.e. your subtenant) is paying you. A sublet can more easily be accomplished by subletting to your sub-tenant for less than what you pay. You then will make up this difference out of your own pocket. Granted, it's not the perfect solution but getting something from a subtenant is better than getting nothing at all.


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