If we had property stolen from our apartment and the neighbors are using illegal drugs so we feel unsafe, are there any legal grounds to end the lease early?

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If we had property stolen from our apartment and the neighbors are using illegal drugs so we feel unsafe, are there any legal grounds to end the lease early?

Asked on June 18, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Are the neighbors tenants of the same landlord as you?

If they are not, there are no grounds to terminate the lease early: the lease is a contract between you and the landlord, and it is not affected by the actions of 3rd parties to the lease over whom the landlord has no control.

If they are tenants of your landlord, IF their actions are disturbing the peaceful enjoyment of other tenants, such as you (i.e. your right to use your leased space free from disturbance or disruption) or if you live in subsidized housing and they are, as you write, using drugs on premises, the landlord would have grounds to warn them to cease their behavior (and evict them later if they don't) or else to immediately evict them.

If the above is the case and you have given your landlord notice (e.g. filed complaints) about the situation--which notice should have been sent in writing, sent some way you can prove delivery (such as certified mail with return receipt)--and you gave you landlord a chance to take action, but the landlord has not and is still allowing them to disturb you, then you may be able to terminate your lease. As tenants, you are entitled to quiet enjoyment of your space (your right is called the "covenant of quiet enjoyment") and if you landlord will not maintain your right, that can justify terminating the lease. Because the offenders are fellow tenants over whom the landlord has some authority, he can be held responsible for his failure to act.

The thing to be careful of is that this is a more-or-lease subjective test: there is no objective, hard-and-fast criteria for what disturbs quiet enjoyment or what actions the landlord may take. Therefore, if the landlord disagrees and sues you for breaching the lease (i.e. for the rent you'd owe under it), if it goes to court and a judge doesn't feel the situation justified treating the lease as terminated, you could find yourself liable for the rent.


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