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My lease ends on August 31 I want to know if I can break my lease due to the fact that I have not had cold running water for over a month. I want to leave my apartment by the end of this month as I can’t take one more moth without cold water.
Asked on July 20, 2017 under Real Estate Law, California
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 4 years ago | Contributor
You can potentially break the lease early, but doing so is not risk- or headache-free.
All rentals come with an "implied warranty of habitability": an obligation, imposed by law on the landlord, that he or she provide fully habitable space. A lack of running cold water is a significant impairment of habitability, so the landlord is breaching this obligation. A continued failure to correct the problem after receipt of some written notice(s) (e.g. emails) from the tenant can provide a basis for the tenant to terminate the lease early. So in theory, you can break the lease early.
1) The risk is that if you end up in court (either being sued by the landlord for the extra month rent, or if you are suing the landlordt to recover your security deposit if wrongfully withheld), a judge *could* consider that the condition was not severe enough to warrant terminating the lease. Based on my experience as a landlord-tenant attorney in NJ, I would *not* expect a judge to conclude that; a lack of running cold water is the sort of thing that most judges would agree was a significant impairment of habitability. But I have occasionally seen judges do very odd things, so there is no 100% guaranty that if this goes to court that you'd win--the odds appear strongly in your favor, but it's never a guaranty.
2) The headache is that if the landlord withholds the security deposit for the extra month of rent which it feels you should have paid, you will have to sue the landlord to get it back. While the odds are good (not definite, but good; see above) that you'd win, this would force you to go to the effort and trouble of a lawsuit.
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