If my rental was not ready on move-in day, what are my rights?

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If my rental was not ready on move-in day, what are my rights?

I just signed a 1 year contract on a rental property that I was told would be completed on friday. It is saturday and workers are still in the home working. I also was told that I need to come back in the office to sign another form. I now have decided to opt out the contract but was told that I couldnt by the landlord. Is this contract legally binding?

Asked on October 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If the landlord does not have the rental ready for you to move in by the agreed upon date and it does not appear that he or she will be able to allow the move in any time soon, then under the laws of all states there has been  a material breach of the contract and you can end your lease without recourse.

I suggest that you consult with a landlord tenant attorney to review your written lease and discuss what your legal options are with respect to the matter that you have written about. I would not sign any new document presented you by the landlord until a landlord tenant attorney has reviewed it first and discussed it with you at length.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

There is no easy answer: a contract may be terminated by party A when party B breaches it in a material way. A "material" breach is a significant breach of an important term. Clearly, the move-in day is an important term of a lease: however, whether the breach is significant depends on the following:

1) Can you move in, even if some work is still being done? If so, then the breach is almost certainly not significant enough to allow you to terminate the contract.

2) If you can't move in on the move in day, what is the delay? While there's no hard-and-fast rule, a delay of a day or two probably does not allow termination; a delay of over a week probably would.

Note that even if you cannot terminate the contract, you may be entitled to compensation from the landlord. For example: say the property will be move-in ready Monday, not the previous Friday. You incur two days of storage costs for your belongings and have to pay for a motel for two nights--the landlord should compensate you for those costs.


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