If our leasing office has failed to take care of our noise complaints, can we break our lease without penalty?

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If our leasing office has failed to take care of our noise complaints, can we break our lease without penalty?

We have been complaining about our upstairs neighbors for 4 months when they moved in. We had to call the police this week because they were fighting so loud. They are always banging on the floor in the middle of the night. Our leasing office did not properly go through the complaint steps. They gave them about 3 different “verbal” warnings and just now posted a “legal notice” on their door giving them 7 more days to fix the problem. Our lease ends in 2 months and we told them we are willing to relocate if they will allow us to break our lease 1 month early. They said no. Is there anything that we can do?

Asked on August 16, 2011 Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As a practical matter, there probably isn't anything you can do. It *is* possible to terminate a lease early if your "quiet enjoyment"--or ability to get the benefit of your rental--is sufficiently impaired by either something the landlord does or by the actions of fellow tenants, if the landlord does not take steps to stop them. However, a very high bar is set for this--most noise complaints, unless almost constant (at least at night) and also of such a high degree that it goes well beyond the normal noise or inconvenience expected when one lives in a muliti-unit dwelling, will not be judged to sufficiently impair your quiet enjoyment. Furthermore, the landlord's obligation is to act reasonably, not perfectly; since the landlord *is* taking action (and *must* comply with the law about what actions he can take, which, among other things, means giving notice), it may be that even if the noise were bad enough, that the landlord is taking all the steps expected of him or her, precluding you from breaking the lease. If you are only talking about possibly getting out one month early, it's doubtful that legal action (which is what it would take, if you and the landlord can't agree) would be worthwhile, given that winning is far from certain.


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