Can we sue our ex-landlord for our security deposit if we broke our 3 year lease because of noisy neighbors?

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Can we sue our ex-landlord for our security deposit if we broke our 3 year lease because of noisy neighbors?

We do not have police records of several calls that we made but we can prove we did call and the landlord did not do enough to remedy the problem. She was well aware of the problem but she was more worried about her rent check than anything else.

Asked on May 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It is far from clear that you could legally break your lease in this case. While it is true that you have an "implied covenant of quiet enjoyment," or the right to use and enjoy your rental premises free from disruption or harassment by the landlord or by parties under the landlord's control--

1) It is likely the case that "several" noice complaints to the police is not a severe enough or common/pervasive enough problem to warrant terminating a lease without penalty; and also

2) A landlord does not have unfettered ability to control or evict tenants--if what your neighbors were doing was not severe enough to warrant eviction (which may well not have been the case), then the landlord could not do anything about them, which in turn means the landlord did nothing wrong and did not fail in any duty or obligation in not remedying the situation. That in turn would mean that the landlord's alleged failure to remedy the problem would not justify breaking your lease.

From what you write, it is likely therefore that you did not have grounds to terminate your lease without penalty, and your landlord would be entitled to keep your security deposit. That does not mean you cannot try to recover it, such as by bringing a suit in small claims court--but you need to be prepared for the fact it may be that you would be held to have not been justified in what you did.


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