If I live in a shared apartment but have not received a key to my room door, can I cancel my lease agreement?

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If I live in a shared apartment but have not received a key to my room door, can I cancel my lease agreement?

First, I live on the second floor with the entrance right in front of the stairs. There is no lighting in front of the main door so at night it is impossible to see. Second, I have never received the key to my room door. In my lease there is a stipulation that says if I don’t have “possession” within 7 days I can void the agreement. It has been 5 months since I have moved in and I have yet to receive a key. Since I am technically renting a room and not an apartment would that mean I could legally end my lease? I have notified them many times through various means, including in person, and they have yet to give me a key to my room or a key to the laundry room.

Asked on January 24, 2016 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Not receiving possession would have let you void the lease, and not receiving a key to your room could have constituted not receiving possession. But the law also has a concept called "waiver": if a person does not act on a breach in a timely or reasonable fashion, he or she may often be considered to have "waived," or given up, his or her right to take action or consider an agreement (like a lease) terminated due to breach. You write that you have been living there for 5 months despite not receiving the key, when the lease agreement stated that you could terminate the lease if you did not receive possession in 7 days. You therefore kept living there 4 3/4 months after the time period at which you could have terminated the lease. Under those circumstances--living there for almost half a year despite not receiving a key, and clearly and demonstrably receiving possession without a key (you "moved in," after all), a court would most likely consider that you have waived your right to treat the lease as terminated by living there for so long.


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