What to do if my landlord wants to sue me for breaking my lease early even though I have logical reason for breaking it?

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What to do if my landlord wants to sue me for breaking my lease early even though I have logical reason for breaking it?

My landlord is charging me for “late fees” for 2 months rate as well as another tenant’s inability to pay rent. I have chosen to leave the house due to her harassment, the electricity being shut off, and 2 break-ins. She is threatening to sue me for breaking my lease early. What should I do?

Asked on May 11, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You should speak with a landlord-tenant attorney. It is possible that the shut-off of the electricity (which would violate the implied warranty of habitability), the break ins (which may also violate the implied warranty of habitability, IF the landlord has not provided reasonable security for this type of dwelling in this location--for example, locks are broken and have not been fixed), and/or the landlord's harassment, if severe enough and not warranted by your actions (which might violate the covenant of quiet enjoyment) could provide a basis for early lease termination without penalty.

The specific facts or situation are critica. For example--

1) The landlord is not responsible for the break ins, and you cannot terminate your lease due to them, if the landlord provide reasonable security.

2) An electricity shut off may not provide grounds to terminate the lease if it was due to your actions, such as you not paying the electric bill if the account is in your name.

3) The landlord's "harassment" may not actionable, if it is actually reasonable, like attempts to get you to pay fees or rent which you lawfully owe.

Therefore, you need to consult in detail about the situation with experienced counsel to understand your rights.


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