If my landlord does not have permission to rent the building and it isn’t up to code, would this invalidate my lease?

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If my landlord does not have permission to rent the building and it isn’t up to code, would this invalidate my lease?

My girlfriend and I moved into a duplex 3 months ago. A month before the landlord was told she couldn’t rent the building but she did anyway. Not only that but it has been taken from a duplex and separated into 4 units illegally. We found out information of this problem from the city recently and want out.

Asked on June 9, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Generally speaking, the purpose of the ordinance that requires a certificate of occupancy is to ensure safe living conditions.  Whether or not a lease is absolutely void or merely voidable really depends upon your state's case law and the facts of the case.  Now the facts as you have stated here indicate that the landlord was indeed violating some city order about renting the property and subsequently the premises was made in to illegal apartments.  But you can not make the determination yourself. You need to go to court and start an action to invalidate the lease for failure to have the Cof O and to pay your rent in to court.If the apartment is uninhabitable you should also indicate that as well.  Good luck.   

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Generally, speaking, an illegal contract is not enforceable, and that would include renting out premises which the landlord may not legally rent out. That said, before you do anything, you should consult with a local landlord-tenant attorney, who can evaluate the situation in detail with and for you. If you try to terminate the lease without good grounds, that can result in you being liable for all the rent due under it. It would be worthwhile to let an attorney review the lease and also the exact violations of which the landlord is allegedly guilty, to see precisely what your rights and recourse are. You may well have grounds to terminate the lease, but double check before you take actions that could result in liability.


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