When is it legal to brake a lease?

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When is it legal to brake a lease?

After we signed a contract with him we found big gaps in between walls. That wasn’t a problem in the summertime but now, since it’s getting colder and colder every day, we started noticing insects and small rodents in our house. A week ago, a mouse died somewhere underneath the floor and it smells horrible now. The landlord applied some chemicals on it and said it’s going to take “just a few weeks” until the odor is gone. Now wind blows from the gaps and the temperature is close to outside temperature at the corners of the house. We want to terminate the lease but the landlord is not willing to do so and says that we will have to pay a penalty for terminating the lease. Are this conditions enough to brake it?

Asked on November 24, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The conditions you describe *may* be bad enough to terminate the lease withhout penalty. All rentals come with what is known as the "implied warranty of habitability," or the obligation to provide a rental which is habitable and fit for its intended purpose, such as residence. A significant rodent or other pest infestation can violate this warranty, though generally, if the landlord is taking reasonable steps (laying out traps, putting out poison, hiring an extirminator, etc.), that fulfills his or her obligations and breaking the lease is not warranted.

A significant problem with heat/temperature can also justify terminating the lease, but usually only if it's through most of the home--not just "at the corners" of the house.

Therefore, since the landlord seems to be addressing the mouse problem and the temperature problem is only in limited areas, it may or may not be bad enough to justify terminating the lease; there is no way to tell for certain from what you write. (For a more definitive opinion, consult in person with a landlord-tenant attorney.)


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