How to break my lease 1 month early without penalty due to builiding code violations?

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How to break my lease 1 month early without penalty due to builiding code violations?

Another house is available but not for long. Current house had a leak in roof for 5 months. They didn’t fix the leak however 2 weeks ago did put a new roof on. The roofers ripped out chimney. The owners were aware but sent no one in to close off 2 fireplaces. House was covered in ash. I was at work, wasn’t notified that roofers were there. I’ve never used the fireplaces; doubtful they’ve been cleaned. My mom and I cleaned all the stone, ash, and mortar without help. I am told owners frequently take tenants to court. I can’t afford to pay last month rent + new place or attorney/court cost. How do I proceed?

Asked on June 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, if the problems have already been resolved, as they seem to be based on what you write, they would not provide any basis for terminating your lease early without penalty; only current conditions materially (or in some signficant way) affecting habitability might provide grounds to terminate the lease.

However, you may be able to sue you landlord for monetary compensation for the time you lived with conditions impacting habitability, if they were severe enough (made the house at least partly, if not wholly, uninhabitable, for at least some period of time). Such conditions would be a violation of the implied warranty of habitability, or the obligation on landlords to provide habitable space, and can potentially provide a basis for monetary compensation in the form of a pro rata retroactive rent reduction (rent abatement) for the time you lived with the condition.

All that said, no lawsuit is ever a given, and your landlord will presumably fight any attempt to impose liability; you would have to factor in a chance of losing, as well as the costs and delays attendent upon a lawsuit.


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