I would like to know if I can break my lease and/or sue if my apartment building has rodents and pests and my child was injured as a result?

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I would like to know if I can break my lease and/or sue if my apartment building has rodents and pests and my child was injured as a result?

I had moved into the perfect apartment 5 months ago. The whole time I always heard animals which I thought were birds in the gutter but ended up being bats inside my air ducts. There is a hole in the air conditioning unit from the back that the bats got into and started nesting. My 3year old was trying to go to sleep and a bat flew in and bit him on his neck. From that I received a $5,000 hospital bill for a precautionary rabies vaccination. The landlord acted quickly and moved me into another apartment the next week. That apartment turned out to be flea infested.

Asked on July 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In every lease, there is an implied warranty of habitability which means the landlord must maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant notifies the landlord within a reasonable time and the landlord has a reasonable time to respond and remedy the problem.  Your landlord responded within a reasonable time and moved you to another apartment after your son was bitten by the bat.  Since the second apartment is infested with fleas, if the landlord has been notified and has not remedied the problem within a reasonable time, the flea infestation would constitute a breach of the implied warranty of habitability as this is a health and safety issue.

When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent (in this case hiring a pest control service to eradicate the fleas) or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant decides to stay, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  You can select one of these options regarding the flea-infested apartment.

Your son being bitten by the bat is a separate issue.  The landlord is liable for negligence and the hospital bill.  In addition to obtaining the medical bill which you already have, you should obtain the medical report which will document the nature and extent of your son's injury.  Compensation for the medical bill is straight reimbursement.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bill. The medical report will determine the amount of compensation your son receives for pain and suffering. You should file your son's personal injury claim with the landlord's insurance carrier.  The claim you file should include the medical bill and medical report.  If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the insurance carrier, you can reject the settlement offers and file a lawsuit for negligence against the landlord.  You will need to be appointed guardian ad litem to sue on behalf of your son since he is a minor.  If the case is settled, no lawsuit is filed.  If the case is NOT settled, you will need to file the lawsuit for negligence against the landlord prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.


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